Are you ready to branch out from store bought GF breads, crackers, muffins, cookies, and banana bread? Are you ready to bake from scratch? The good news: there are many gluten-free flours to choose from. The bad news: it can be a bit overwhelming!
PART 1: GF PREBLENDED FLOURS
For me, the safest way to start baking gluten-free was to use a preblended flour. My first attempt to make my own flour-based product was cookies. Why not, right? I knew the sweet taste of sugar and soft mouthfeel of butter would hide any weird taste that might pop up, so I was up for the challenge: peanut butter cookies. I bought an All Purpose Flour mix from the grocery store. Depending on where you live (or from whom you want to order online), you might choose your store brand (such as Harris Teeter), Bob’s Red Mill, King Arthur, or Nuts.com, among others.
I was very pleased with the cookie results, so the next week I made GF lemon poppyseed muffins. This time, I was less pleased. They tasted good but I thought they were dense, compared to the light muffins I preferred. It was frustrating, because my daughter had made amazing GF chocolate chip cookies and my son baked delicious GF scones. Maybe I needed to try a different flour?
I did some research, and realized that preblended gluten-free “All Purpose (AP) flour” comes in a variety of flavors and weights, depending on the ingredients. The one I used was made with garbanzo beans, giving it a beany flavor and texture. Other AP flours have fava beans, cornstarch and tapioca in different amounts, changing the flavor and firmness. It just really depends on the combination of flours. I did not like the AP flour for sweet foods, but found it great for savory foods – it works well for bread, crackers and as a breading for chicken.
By contrast, the other bakers in my family used gluten free “1-to-1 baking flour”. This type of GF flour typically has a base of white and brown rice flours, giving it a neutral flavor and lighter texture. It also contains xanthan gum, an important thickening and stabilizing agent. I tried this the next time I baked muffins and they were so good, they tasted and felt like the regular gluten-full muffins I usually make. I use this lighter blend for other sweet baked goods like quick breads and cookies.
Here is my take-away for using preblended gluten free flours:
PART 2: OTHER GF FLOURS
What about pancakes, waffles, and pizza dough? So far, I have to admit I have used a GF pancake mix and a GF pizza dough mix…. see, this whole going GF journey is hard, and I’ve been focusing on label reading, getting enough fiber, adding variety to my fruits and vegetable intake, etc., just like you.
What about pasta? In my two efforts so far, I have used each blend once: GF all purpose flour for lasagna noodles and GF 1-to-1 baking flour for fettuccini. Both were just okay and I want to do some more experimenting and report back.
I am ready to go beyond preblended flour mixes for these foods, and there is a whole new world of options to explore: oat flour, almond flour, tapioca flour, rice flour, buckwheat flour, and more. They are calling to me from my pantry so stay tuned!
And stay well.
What does a dietitian, nutritionist, and health professional do when she discovers she has to avoid gluten? I mean, avoid it to prevent painful symptoms, not to follow a trend!