Gluten-free has become the buzz word as of late. More and more people are being diagnosed with gluten sensitivities, allergies, and even celiac disease every day, so what’s a bread-loving, muffin-loving, carboholic to do?
Gluten-free baking can be dry, crumbly, tasteless, and downright bad, but with the proper flour choice and combinations, gluten-free baking can be just as good if not better than the “real” thing.
If you are just starting to experiment with gluten-free cooking and baking, here’s a flour guide to help you along the way.
Almond flour: made from ground, skinless, blanched almonds, almond flour has a gritty texture that adds great flavour and protein to scones, pie crusts, cookies, crackers, and fish breading. Consider adding another egg if just using almond flour, as it can be crumbly.
Amaranth flour: made from finely ground amaranth grains, this flour is best added to crepes, pizza dough, and quiche crusts due to its earthy flavour.
Arrowroot flour: made from arrowroot, a South American root vegetable, this flour is best used as a thickener for soups, rouxs, sauces, and fruit pie fillings. This flour is especially good for those with a corn sensitivity or allergy who cannot use corn starch.
Brown rice flour: made from finely ground rice kernels, brown rice flour is a staple in most gluten-free kitchens. Try it in pies, cookies, muffins, breads, pancakes, pastries, and as a sauce thickener. Be sure to use in a blend as brown rice flour can have a sandy consistency.
Corn flour: the base for authentic corn tortillas, corn flour has been a dietary staple for centuries for many cultures. Use as a thickener or to make your own homemade tortillas or cornbread.
Guar gum: without gluten, baking can be heavy, dense, and without the bounce you expect from a homemade loaf of bread or Bundt cake. Guar gum, from the seeds of the guar plant, can be added to baking in small amounts to mimic the effects of gluten.
Hemp flour: made from protein-rich hemp seeds, hemp flour is a great addition to cookies, muffins, waffles, pancakes, quick breads, and bars. Replace up to 25 percent of flour with hemp flour for best effects.
Millet: made from ground millet grains, this slightly sweet flour with its crumbly texture adds texture and a hint of flavour to bread, muffins, and quick breads.
Potato starch: like most other gluten-free flours, potato starch should be used in a blend when baking with and not as a direct replacement for wheat flour. That said, it is an excellent sauce, gravy, and soup thickener, and is a great alternative for those who are cutting out corn products.
Quinoa flour: made from the ever-popular quinoa seed, quinoa flour mixes well into crepes, cookies, muffins, quick breads, flatbreads, and soups and sauces as a thickener. Quinoa flour is flavourful, so start by using replacing only 25 percent of a recipe’s flour content with quinoa flour.
Sorghum: made from the grain of the sorghum plant, this gluten-free flour has been used in India for generations. It is the closest to traditional wheat flour and can occasionally replace wheat flour without the addition of other gluten-free flours. Try it in pancake batters and bread.
Tapioca flour: made from dried and ground cassava root, tapioca is a really starchy flour that, when combined with other gluten-free flours, is excellent in baked goods.
Teff flour: this tiny, dark brown grain is ground to make a fine-textured flour. When added to baking, teff flour takes on a slightly gelatinous consistency, almost mimicking gluten, and adding buoyancy to waffles and banana breads.
Xanthan gum: made from tiny microorganisms called Xanthomonas campestris, xanthan gum is a godsend for people who can’t consume gluten, as it acts like gluten by creating volume.
Simple baking blend
Try your hand at different flour blends to find the perfect combo for your needs, or try this combination: 1/2 cup (125 mL) brown rice flour with 1 1/2 cups (350 mL) sorghum flour, 1 1/2 cups (350 mL) potato starch or cornstarch, 1 cup (250 mL) tapioca flour, and 1/2 cup (125 mL) of high-protein flour such as quinoa or almond.