If you’re new to the gluten-free diet and are trying your hand at gluten-free baking, you might be a bit overwhelmed because there are so many gluten free flours. Unfortunately, you can’t just buy a type of flour and substitute it for wheat flour. Gluten-free flours usually have to be combined to work well in baked goods.
Once you’ve figure that out, there’s a new problem. There are so many gluten-free flour mixes! There are recipes in cookbooks and on web sites for flour mixes, and there are packaged mixes at the health food store. Which one should you use?
To answer that question, you have to ask yourself a few other questions.
- Do I want the convenience of buying a flour mix for all or part of my baking?
- Do I want to save money and make my own?
- Are there other types of flour I need to avoid?
- Is the nutritional content of a mix important to me?
- Do I want to avoid certain tastes, textures, and smells?
- Do you want to achieve certain tastes, textures, and smells?
There are so many flour mixes out there because people have different answers to those questions. If there was one perfect gluten-free flour mix, we would all be using it! Once you have answered those questions, look for flour mixes that meet your requirements for the first four questions. Try them out to see how they match with your answers to the last two questions, and you will find what works for you.
Here are my personal answers to the above questions:
- I don’t buy flour mixes, I make them. I even go as far as milling some of my gluten-free flours.
- I don’t have other allergies or intolerances to restrict me.
- Nutritional content is important to me. I like using brown rice flour and sorghum flour for that reason. My decision, though, depends on what I’m baking. If it’s an occasional treat, I don’t worry so much about the nutritional content. If it’s part of my regular diet, I do.
- I don’t like the smell or taste of bean flours, and I don’t seem to digest them well. Although they add protein and give breads a nice texture, I don’t use them. Soy flour is included in that.
- Who doesn’t want their food to smell, taste, and feel good? Specific preferences depend on the specific food I’m baking and I adjust my flour mix according to that.
When I was first diagnosed with celiac disease, there was not the wealth of information and recipes available that there is now. My greatest help came from cookbooks by Bette Hagman that I found at the library. Bette Hagman was a pioneer in the field of gluten-free baking and cooking. In some ways, we all owe her our gratitude for blazing the trail. One of her many accomplishments was to develop a gluten-free flour mix that works well in many recipes. I don’t use it as much as I used to, but I still keep the mix on hand and find that it works particularly well in dessert recipes.
Bette Hagman’s basic gluten-free flour mix (she did develop other mixes):
- 6 parts rice flour (white or brown)
- 2 parts potato starch
- 1 part tapioca starch
The second cookbook author who has greatly influenced me is Carol Fenster. You can check her out at Savory Palate. She also has several flour mixes, but my favorite is her sorghum flour blend.
Carol Fenster’s Sorghum Blend
- 3 parts sorghum flour
- 3 parts potato starch or corn starch (I use potato)
- 2 parts tapioca starch
- 1 part corn, almond, or bean flour (I use corn)
- 1 1/2 c. sorghum or brown rice flour
- 1 1/2 c. potato starch or corn starch
- 1 c. tapioca flour
You can see that Carol’s mix has more starch than Bette’s which makes it lighter. It does not contain rice, which is a benefit for those who can’t have it or don’t like the texture of rice flour. I also keep this flour mix on hand. Sometimes I will use a combination of the two mixes.
I know there are plenty of other good, nutritional gluten-free flours such as amaranth, millet, and quinoa. Some I have tried, some I haven’t. I occasionally try different things, but I run out of room to store so many flours, and what I have works.
You will find that most of my recipes on this site do not call for a flour mix, but have individual flour amounts listed. I do that so that if you want to duplicate what I have done, you can do so without having to make up a flour mix first. It is also because I am often tweaking a recipe a little. However, you can substitute whatever flour mix you like using for the total amount of flour I have listed, and you should still get good results. Just remember that if your flour mix has xanthan gum in it, omit that from the recipe or adjust it.
The one exception to substituting any flour mix would be when making a loaf of bread. If you’ve tried it, you know that baking gluten-free bread is tricky. Therefore, I recommend following anyone’s bread recipe closely the first time, unless you just like to experiment.
If you have questions about gluten-free flours or mixes, please leave a comment or send me an email.