Monday, November 12, 2012

Pamela’s Gluten-Free Artisan Flour Blend

It can’t be just me. When I find a new market – especially one that has lots of whole foods that are gluten-free and allergen-free, I get excited. I’m like a kid on a treasure hunt, and I can spend more than an appropriate amount of time scouring the shelves (and reading labels) while my husband rolls his eyes and wanders off in search of a cup of tea.

A couple weeks ago, while at Guido’s Fresh Marketplace in Western Massachusetts sharing samples and signing books, I spied a new product that I just had to try – Pamela’s Artisan Flour Blend. This was the kind of store I could get lost in, but I was busy busy busy talking to customers and sharing tips. So while I was working, my husband bought me a couple packages, proof that a) he was paying attention, and b) that he really does appreciate what I bake!

This new flour blend is unlike any other in many respects. First, the ingredients: brown rice flour, tapioca starch, white rice flour, potato starch, sorghum flour, arrowroot starch, sweet rice flour, and guar gum.

Unlike the typical “white” gluten-free blend, this blend adds sorghum flour and arrowroot starch (two of my favorites when baking). Its nutrition profile is very similar to other gluten-free “white” flours (mostly carbs) with the addition of a bit of fiber.

One very important difference between this and other off-the-shelf flour blends is the use of guar gum rather than xanthan gum. Both products provide a similar effect in gluten-free baked goods (they help hold things together), but this is the first blend I’ve found that uses guar gum. There are some who claim that xanthan gum can cause gastro-intestinal distress, and there are others who claim guar gum does so. If – for whatever reason – you need to avoid xanthan gum, this may be a great choice for you.

However, the single most important difference between this flour and most other off-the-shelf gluten-free flour blends is the weight of the flour. In Learning to Bake Allergen-Free, I discuss in detail the difference the weight of your flour can make. The super-short version is: Most wheat flours weigh less than gluten-free flours, and adjustment is required if you want your baked goods to fluff properly.

Pamela’s Artisan Flour Blend weighs in at 120 grams per cup. Most wheat flours weigh between 120 and 124 grams per cup. This means that you can actually use this flour blend 1-1 (cup for cup) to replace wheat. I use the word "actually" here, because while many gluten-free flour blends claim to be able to do this, I find that most require some adjustment. If you have a favorite recipe you are trying to make gluten-free, no adjustment is required on the weight of the flour when you use this blend.

If you use this blend with any of my recipes here or in Learning to Bake Allergen-Free (which are designed at 128-132 grams per cup), the adjustment is simple: add 1 tablespoon per cup of flour.

Of course, the most important test is how well it performs and how good it tastes. The best way to test is with tried and true recipes. First I made Banana Muffins, using the Banana Bread recipe in Learning to Bake Allergen-Free, and I added chocolate chips (because I’m that kind of girl).

These were absolutely delicious! The flour even browned nicely, and they were perfect for the next few days.

Next I tried a staple: Basic Sandwich Bread from Learning to Bake Allergen-Free.

Because the blend held together so well, I was able to slice this bread very thin, and it tasted absolutely great!

This is a flour blend that I will definitely keep stocked in my pantry and will add to my “recommended” flours list.

Please note:
While the product is not intended to contain dairy, eggs, nuts, or soy, the warning label notes that this product is processed on equipment that also processes tree nuts, soy, eggs, and milk. Please choose this one only if it’s appropriate for your family.

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