Monday, August 16, 2010

Lessons From the CIA – Gluten-Free Flours

It’s time for another gluten-free baking lesson, drawing on what I learned from a baking class at the Culinary Institute of America (CIA) a couple of months ago. Today I am sharing what I learned about flours and replacing gluten.

I think most of us who bake gluten-free and allergen-free have figured out that our baking projects work best when we combine flours. And one flour blend doesn’t work for everything.

Some flour blends have a high protein content – these include blends with beans (garbanzo, fava, or garfava (a mix of the two beans) and soy (for those not allergic to soy). These blends are considered stronger, and work well with breads.

Other flours have a high carbohydrate content – these include rice flours, potato starch, and tapioca starch, and are considered weaker. These blends are best for sweeter treats, such as cakes, cookies, and brownies.

For things like pancakes, muffins, and pie crusts, somewhere in the middle is considered the best choice.

If you’re blending your own flour, don’t just throw one flour on top of the other as you bake (yeah, we all do it). It’s important to thoroughly mix and sift the flours together; this will ensure a better consistency in the finished product.

Are you confused about tapioca and potato flours? Tapioca starch and tapioca flour are exactly the same thing. Potato starch and potato flour are not the same. Potato flour contains the whole potato, and will sit very heavy in your baked goods, while potato starch is made without the skins. Potato starch is the one you want to use for baking.

Keep in mind that gluten provides stabilization. (Incidentally, eggs also stabilize, which is why baking without gluten and eggs can be very tricky!) This is one of the reasons why higher protein flours work better for breads.

One big advantage to gluten-free doughs is that you can store them and reuse them; they can be refrigerated or even frozen. They won’t break down like gluten-based doughs do. And, as you are working with them, you can re-mold and reshape as much as you want. If a piece of a pie crust breaks off, you can just stick it back on, and noone will be able to tell!

A good resource for baking gluten-free is Chef Coppedge’s book, Gluten-Free Baking with the Culinary Institute of America.
Check out prior lessons from the CIA here.

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