Gluten-free baking can be easy and delicious — but the key to success is in your flour blends. This is Janice, co-founder of 5 Minutes for Mom, here to help you master making your own gluten-free flour blends.
Around my house, belly pain and upset bowels are the norm. Both my kids and I struggle with issues and I am in a constant quest for solutions.
Last year, I had all three of us tested for lactose intolerance, fructose intolerance, and celiac disease. All of our tests came back normal except for my seven year old daughter’s celiac test, which came back above “borderline” for celiac disease.
We retested her a month later with the same result. The doctor referred us to Children’s Hospital to see a GI, but the appointment was more than six months away.
So, after her lifetime of pain and diarrhea, I took her completely off gluten to hopefully bring her some relief as we waited for the appointment at Children’s Hospital.
And I began my relationship with gluten-free baking.
While it was a bit of a rocky beginning as I learned the tricks of baking without gluten, I soon fell in love with gluten-free flours and I now love experimenting with different flours, blends, and recipes.
Olivia’s belly responded well too. As the weeks turned into months, she had far less tummy pains and diarrhea.
A couple weeks ago, we finally had our appointment at Children’s Hospital and the doctor has instructed us to reintroduce gluten in her diet and retest in three months. So, Olivia is back on gluten – and back to diarrhea – at the moment.
However, I now prefer gluten-free baking and so even though Livvie is taking some gluten for the next couple months, I am still baking and eating mostly gluten-free.
Even though I did not test positive myself for celiac disease, I seem to do much better with less gluten in my diet.
Which brings me back to making food taste fabulous without gluten…
Getting Started with Gluten-Free Flour Blends
When you first start to dabble in gluten-free baking, you will probably be confused about what flours or flour blends you should use. As I did, you might stand in the flour aisle of your grocery store, staring at the different options, and want to cry a little.
You might decide to “start” with an all purpose gluten free flour made by a big name flour company, using the logic of, “Well, I use this company for my wheat flours, why don’t I try this…” Or you might buy a bag of rice flour and think you are all set.
And then, after you get home and whip up a batch of pancakes or some cookies, you might really want to cry.
Because if there ever were a time when you want to shop with the specialty brands, now is the time.
You see, all gluten-free flours and flour blends are not equal.
In fact, they are all so different it can be overwhelming.
The Deciding Factors in a Great Gluten-Free Flour Blend
There are TWO BIG FACTORS in a great gluten-free flour blend:
1. If the flour is ground super fine
The finer ground the flour, especially with rice flour, the less grit and the better your baking will taste. Less expensive blends may have rice flour that is not ground fine enough and gritty rice flour destroys your baking.
2. If the blend is a good balance of whole grain flour and starches
You want a flour blend that is a good a mixture of whole grain flours, such as brown rice or sorghum, and starches, such as potato starch or tapioca starch.
You need a significant amount of starch to help bind the flour and give it texture. That is why you will have very poor results if you try to use only rice flour in a recipe calling for wheat flour or gluten-free flour.
I prefer to make my own flour blends because then I have control of how much whole grain I have in my blend and what types and what quality flours and starches I use.
Understanding Gluten-Free Flours
Baking with wheat flour is pretty straight forward. All you have to do is grab the bag with the right name – all purpose, pastry, whole wheat, etc.
But, when you try to bake without gluten, you need some science on your side to make sure that your baked goods don’t turn into sticky, soggy, gritty, disappointments.
The great news is that once you understand the kinds of gluten-free flours and how they work with each other, you will be well on your way to creating your own gluten-free flour blends that produce fantastic results.
It took me some research and experimentation to discover my favorite flours and blends, but once I understood the basic structure and science behind the flours, I began creating delicious gluten-free recipes.
If you don’t want to try to master blending your own flours yet and you want to buy a ready made gluten free flour blend, no worries. There are some wonderful gluten free flour blends available.
I haven’t tested them all out yet myself, as I prefer to mix my own blends, but I do highly recommend Better Batter Gluten Free Flour. I have had wonderful results with it.
As I said earlier, the key to a great gluten free flour blend is to mix whole grain flour, (such as brown rice flour, sorghum flour, oat flour, etc.,) with white flour/starches, (such as tapioca flour/starch, potato starch, sweet rice flour, etc.)
Playing with the proportions and the flours you choose is where things can get really exciting and you can create your own distinct blends.
I have found that as long as I have a couple of my favorite go-to starches, such as potato starch or tapioca flour/starch, as a substantial percentage of my blend, and as long as my rice flours are ground super fine, it works out.
I really enjoy playing around with blends and I don’t stress if I am out of one kind of flour, I just substitute with a flour or starch that has similar qualities.
Also – it is important to note that I do not add xanthan gum to my flour blends.
I add xanthan gum later, when I am making my recipe or prepping my recipe mixes. I like to add xanthan gum later so that I can add the appropriate amount for the kind of recipe I am making.
(I use Bob’s Red Mill Xanthan Gum and use the ratios of Xanthan gum per flour for different kinds of baking that is listed on the back of their package.)
A couple of my favorite flour ratios for my blends are:
Brown Rice and Sorghum GF Free Blend
- 3 cups brown rice flour
- 2 cups sorghum flour
- 2 cups sweet rice flour
- 2 cups tapioca flour
- 2 cups potato starch
Brown Rice and Almond Flour GF Free Blend
- 2 cups brown rice flour
- 2 cups almond flour
- 2 cups white rice flour
- 2 cups tapioca flour
- 2 cups potato starch
Different Bloggers, Different Blends
In my reading, it is interesting to see the different percentages people use for their gluten-free flour blends.
Gluten-Free on a Shoestring breaks down gluten-free flour blends and provides recipes to create “mock” flour blends of some of the most popular blends on the market, like Better Batter and Cup 4 Cup. She has made easy to understand drawings showing the ratios of the different flours and starches in her blends.
Cara at Fork and Beans has a super useful, easy to understand, breakdown of gluten-free flours and blend combination suggestions. In her beautiful post, she describes the most popular gluten free flours and their unique characteristics. I just wish I had found her sooner.
Cara explains gluten-free flours and how to use them together by putting them into three categories:
- Light: The light flours are the starches – potato starch, tapioca flour/starch, corn starch, arrowroot starch, sweet rice flour
- Medium: The medium flours – such as millet, sorghum, oat, fava or garbanzo bean, and white rice – are lighter than the heavy flours and Cara says they are more stable and can be used alone paired with a starch
- Heavy: Heavy flours – such as almond, buckwheat, coconut, brown rice, and teff – are more dense and nutritious and Cara recommends using in tandem with a medium-based flour
Some Final Gluten Free Flour Tips
Over the past few months, I have mixed up many different versions of my own gluten-free blends.
I love the lightness and tenderness that sweet rice flour adds to my blend, but I have also had good results with blends when I was all out of sweet rice flour and had to depend on my tapioca flour and my potato starch to do the job.
I also love the texture of sorghum flour and find it adds a familiar “wheat-like” taste to my recipes.
Almond flour is another favorite flour of mine and I often use it in cookies and quick breads to add a nutty, rich taste and texture.
Coconut flour adds nutrients and flavor to recipes, but also soaks up moisture in baking. So I use a light touch with coconut flour and I don’t always add it when I am making a large flour blend. I will often just add it in separately to a recipe as I go.
I have not used bean flours as I try to avoid beans and legumes and follow a more FODMAP approach to my irritable bowel. I have a big unopened bag of Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free All Purpose Baking Flour that I bought on my first trip to the gluten free aisle. I didn’t realize until I got home that it contained bean flour.
As for brands, my favorite rice flours are Authentic Foods super fine rice flours. Bob’s Red Mill is my other go-to brand for all the varieties of flours I buy.
When it comes to storing flour, you should refrigerate your flours, especially once you have opened the sealed packages and made your blends. Whole grain flours, especially fatty nut flour like almond flour, can go rancid quite quickly.
And, finally, while I am used to using dry-measuring cups when working with flour, it is best to use a scale to weigh gluten free flour as weight and volume can vary between types of flours.
Now that you are ready with your gluten free flour blend, have a delicious time baking up a storm. And if you need a bit more inspiration, try my Scrumptious Gluten Free Pumpkin Bread. The pumpkin makes for a moist and incredible quick bread.
Written and photographed by Janice Croze, co-founder of 5 Minutes for Mom. We first published this post on May 14, 2015.
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