When first going gluten free, or if you’re not gluten free but you want to bake gluten free items, the amount of flour varieties can be quite overwhelming. If you search online, you’ll find all sorts all-purpose mix recipes combining some sort of rice flour, a couple of starches, and sometimes sorghum too. The more daring ones will sometimes have chickpea flour, which to me seems weird. Oh and let’s not forget the gums. Let’s face it though. Even an all-purpose mix can be limiting.
When I first discovered my gluten intolerance, about two years ago, I lived in an apartment with no oven. I did manage to bake some cupcakes in my toaster oven, 6 at a time. It’s important to keep in mind that your gluten free batters should be less runny than their gluten-containing equivalents. Have I ever mentioned that my first two batches of cupcakes came out like pudding?
In this post, I’ll talk about the different kinds of flour I like to use. Some are more important than others. Some I only use for bread, and I realise that not everyone has the patience to make bread.
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Rice Flour – Your basic gluten free flour. To be used in combination with other flours/starches, unless you just need a tablespoon or two to thicken a sauce. This is pretty much a must have in your pantry. I find that it has the most neutral taste out of all the gluten free flours. White rice flour isn’t very different from brown rice in flavour, but the nutrients have been stripped, so I would recommend avoiding it if you can. Look up all purpose gluten free flour mixes to know in which proportions to use for your typical stuff.
Sorghum Flour – Comparable to brown rice flour in taste, though I would say it’s a tad stronger. Its texture is usually a bit grainier, and it’s a bit of a heavier flour than brown rice flour. When in a pinch, unless you’re making something very delicate, you can often use sorghum flour instead of brown rice flour. I like it in breads.
Potato Starch and Tapioca Starch – These starches are usually used in all-purpose flour mixes. They help lighten the mix. Use a combination of the two for best results. You may want to tread lightly when using one of these starches in a recipe that calls for cornstarch because the texture may be off a little.
Almond Meal/Flour – Almond meal, which is coarser than almond flour, is great as a substitute to bread crumbs. It can also be used in baked goods where a fine flour isn’t needed. I wouldn’t use it in cupcakes, but it’s great for brownies or breakfast muffins. Almond flour, on the other hand, makes great cookies and pancakes. A bonus: it has a low glycemic index.
Teff Flour – A dark flour with a nice, nutty flavour. Good for breads. It’s a bit finer than other flours. This is the flour used in Ethiopian ingera. It can also be used in pancakes.
Coconut Flour – Best if used with eggs or as a component in a flour mix. If using it in a recipe that doesn’t call for it, the liquid content needs to be increased by the amount of coconut flour you’re using (ex- if subbing another flour for a 1/2 cup of coconut flour, increase the liquid by a 1/2 cup). Beware of using flax eggs in a coconut flour recipe that calls for eggs. It doesn’t seem to bind as well.
Chickpea Flour – Has a distinct flavour. I only use it for middle eastern and Indian meals (try this pudla recipe). Some sweet recipes call for it, but I can’t seem to enjoy it in sweet recipes. I don’t even like it in breads as part of a blend of flours because of its strong taste.
Millet Flour – An inexpensive flour that can be used in flour blends for a nutty flavour. It’s similar to brown rice flour in chemical properties but tastes stronger.
Chia meal – I’ve been experimenting with replacing gums with chia meal, which is just ground chia seeds. It takes a LOT more chia meal than gum to achieve the same effect (about 6 times as much, from what I’ve noticed so far). The idea is to add water to it to activate its gelatinous texture. It also makes a good egg replacer. Combine 1tbsp chia meal with 3 tbsp water for each egg in a recipe. Let sit 5-10 minutes before adding it to the mix. You can also use ground flax meal in the same proportions, for an egg substitute.