OK In Health - Gluten Free Goodness

Demystifying Gluten Free Flours - March 2022

How to choose the right combination of gluten free flours

By Cathy Lauer

gulten free flour

You have just been diagnosed with celiac disease or gluten intolerance. You go to the health food store to look for flour to replace your all purpose wheat flour and are amazed by the selection of alternative flours but don’t know what to choose. There are also many brands of gluten free flour mixes but which one is best. To help you navigate the gluten free flour aisle I will give you my experience with different flours and their bake-ability.

There are two important things to remember. Firstly, being on a gluten free diet you need to have fibre. If you have been used to oat bran, wheat bran or whole grain wheat products as your fibre you will need to find a GF (gluten free) way to replace it. Bean flours, buckwheat flour, lentil flour and coconut flour are all high in fibre as well as protein so they make a good addition to your GF baking. Psyllium husks, ground flax seed, and rice bran are also high in fibre and are a great addition to muffins and breads. Secondly, and equally important, is ensuring that the flour you buy is in fact gluten free. Always read the label!

I prefer not to buy out of bulk food bins, especially if the bin you are scooping out of is in a section with wheat flours. The possibility for cross contamination is very high in bulk food sections. Talk to the staff or manager of the store to find out how they are handling the GF bulk flours and ensuring that they are safe for celiacs. I prefer to buy my flour in original packaging and read the fine print at the back to see if it has the “may contain” or “processed in a facility” label for possible contaminants.

How do you decide what flours to buy and what combinations of flours to use? Since most GF flours can be grainy in texture, a combination of flours and starches is best. The smoother your flour blend the better your finished product and the more versatile your mix will be. Many of the pre mixed brands available are very starchy and offer little or no fibre, nutrition, or protein. If you want to use the prepackaged starchy mixes as a base I would suggest also purchasing 2 – 3 other individual flours such as brown rice, sorghum, bean, or lentil flour that are high in fibre and protein and adding 1 cup of each to your starchy mix. This will improve the nutritional value as well as make a more “wheat like” finished product.

Recently a friend of mine has started baking exclusively with coconut and almond flour. The amount of coconut flour needed for a cake or muffins is very small so it is actually quite economical in that way. But for those who have trouble with eggs, it could be a challenge. The taste of coconut flour is very pleasing. My friend has baked many yummy desserts which I have had the pleasure of eating. For me it is very eggy, 9-12 eggs in one cake, but one piece a couple times a month is OK. I could not eat a muffin every day with 3 eggs in 6 muffins. I also know a number of people who cannot have eggs at all and therefore coconut flour might be unsuitable on its own. I like to use it as an additive to my baking. Try it for yourself and see.

To help make the process of choosing the right flour a little easier for you I’ve compiled a list of some of the flours available at health food stores and some of their attributes.

 

Flour Name

Fibre

Protein

Vitamins

Carbs

Tapioca

none

none

none

moderate

Cornstarch

none

none

none

moderate

Potato starch

none

none

none

moderate

Arrowroot

none

none

none

moderate

White rice

none

none

none

moderate

Sweet rice

none

some

none

moderate

Brown rice

some

yes

iron

low

Sorghum

yes

yes

iron

low

Chickpea/Garbanzo

yes

yes

iron

low

Fava

yes

yes

some

low

Buckwheat

yes

yes

iron

low

Teff

yes

yes

Iron/calcium

low

Quinoa

yes

yes

iron

low

Millet

yes

yes

iron

low

Urad/urid

yes

yes

iron

low

Bajri

yes

yes

iron

low

Amaranth

yes

yes

Iron/calcium

low

Soy

some

yes

Iron/calcium

low

Bean

yes

yes

Iron/calcium

low

Almond

some

yes

yes

Very low

coconut

yes

yes

iron

Very low

 

Now that you have a list of flours to choose from which ones do you choose? That depends a lot on personal taste. Some flours have very distinctive flavours. If these are flavours you really like, then add them to your mix. Just remember that everything you bake will have that flavour. My recommendation would be to make a neutral yet nutritious flour mix and then use the stronger flavoured flours as accents to muffins, breads, pancakes or waffles. Usually ¼c of flours such as buckwheat, quinoa, bean, coconut, or almond is enough to add extra nutrition as well as flavour and texture to your baking without being overpowering.

Another thing to keep in mind is “what do I want my finished product to turn out like”. Do I want it to look and taste like something so “healthy” that no one will eat it or do I want it to look and taste like it came from a bakery, but with lots of hidden nutrition. Most people would make the latter choice. Once you get a mix you like, stick with it. Make it in large batches and keep it in a clearly marked, covered container. If you don’t bake often, keep a small amount in the cupboard and put the rest in an airtight container in the freezer. Never put your flour container away empty! This will deter you from baking and may lead you to cheat and eat something you should not.

Now that you have a flour blend that you are happy with how will you use it? Many gluten free cookbooks list several different flours in their ingredients list. Just add up the amount of all the individual flours and replace it with your flour blend. You may have to make small adjustments depending on your flour blend. When you adjust or make changes to a recipe write down the changes directly in the cookbook with a pencil or on a sticky note. Make note of how the finished product turned out and if you liked it. The next time you bake you will know exactly what to do.

Now that you are less fearful and more knowledgeable about GF flours you can cruise the GF flour aisle with confidence. You can now confidently purchase individual flours to make your own unique mix or assuredly purchase a premade mix. Happy Baking!

 




Cathy LauerCathy's Bio: Cathy Lauer has been cooking/baking gluten/dairy free for 17 years. She has written 3 all baking cookbooks and has a gluten free baking blog/store. In her spare time she loves to garden in a big way with fruit, vegetable and flower gardens. She is a classically trained singer and loves to read and collect recipe books. She homeschools her youngest son (11) and has 3 grown children and is grandmother of 2. Cathy's Gluten Free Creations Ltd. Gourmet Gluten Free Baking. Cookbooks and Baking Mixes. 250-758-5232 - Cathy Lauer Website - Email


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