Monday, December 17, 2012

A Weighty Topic

Weight matters. The weight of your flour, that is.

Today I am going to share the single most important thing you need to know when baking with gluten-free flours. Even if you are baking without eggs and dairy (as I always do) the amount of flour you use is the one thing you must get right. It doesn’t matter whether you are using a rice-based blend, a multi-grain blend, or some other combination of flours, if you use too much flour (by weight) your baking project will fail.

I frequently get asked about recipes (mine as well as others) and why a particular baking project failed. The symptoms are usually things like:
  • My muffins (bread/cake) fell flat after baking.
  • My baked goods are too heavy.
  • My baked goods are too dry.
Sound familiar? More often than not, the problem is too much flour.

So what’s the secret to success?

Most recipes (including mine) will call for flour measured in terms of cups. When you are baking with wheat, a volume measurement for wheat works just fine; most wheat flours weigh between 120 and 124 grams per cup. There isn’t enough variation between flours to make a difference.

Gluten-free flour blends, on the other hand, vary tremendously in weight. The flour blends I use weigh between 120 and 160 grams per cup. Individual gluten-free flours (single grain) weigh between 110 and upwards of 160 grams per cup.

If you are modifying a recipe that calls for 2 cups of wheat flour and replace it with a rice-based gluten-free flour blend that weighs 160 grams per cup, you will be using 60 grams more flour than the recipe requires. You won’t be happy with the result.

So what’s a baker to do?

The trick is to adjust the amount of flour you use, based on weight. In the example above, instead of 2 cups of flour, you should use 1 ½ cups. Yes, there’s that much difference.

I know what you’re thinking – it doesn’t feel right. Trust me, I’ve done this experiment many times. The answer is simple – measure flour by weight, not by volume.

Yes, it’s math, but you don’t have to be a math whiz to be a great allergen-free baker. You have two choices:

Option 1: First you need to know how much flour the recipe really requires. For example, all of my recipes in Learning to Bake Allergen-Free are measured to 128-130 grams per cup of flour. That’s my preference because I like to use the lighter whole grain gluten-free flours. If you were able to use wheat in one of my recipes, you should add one tablespoon of flour per cup that the recipe calls for. (This is because wheat flour weighs less than 128 grams.) If you choose to use a flour blend such as King Arthur Flour Gluten-Free Multi-Purpose Blend (in the blue and white box), which weighs 160 grams per cup, then you must reduce the amount of flour you use by 3 tablespoons per cup. For a recipe that calls for 2 cups of flour, you will take away 6 tablespoons after measuring 2 cups.

In my book, I include a table that describes how to make these important adjustments for some of my favorite off-the-shelf blends.

Option 2: Use a scale. This is the easy method. Again, you need to know how much flour the recipe calls for (by weight) and then simply measure to it. While you may not want to invest in a scale, I think you’ll find it saves you money in the long run, and I know you’ll be thrilled with the results. For my recipes, if you weigh to between 128 and 130 grams per cup, you’ll be in great shape!

Tip: Always measure your flour first. That way you can easily make adjustments without worrying about other ingredients in the bowl.

Have you had issues with the weight of your flour in your baking? Do you use a scale or adjust by volume?

No comments: