Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Three Myths About Gluten-Free Flours

I have been baking gluten-free for more than a decade. During that time I have tried just about every off-the-shelf gluten-free flour blend out there and experimented with dozens of variations of my own flour blends, and I am here to tell you that it’s not only possible to bake gluten-free, but the results can be fabulous!

If you think baking with gluten-free flours is hard and the results are always poor, think again. I am about to debunk the top three myths about gluten-free flours.

1. Gluten-free flours taste bad – False!

Unlike traditional bakers who use only wheat flour, gluten-free bakers have dozens of flours they can choose to use. (Yes, flour made from seeds, beans, and gluten-free grains is still called flour.) Wheat flour tastes like wheat. Flours made from buckwheat, millet, sorghum, etc., taste like buckwheat, millet, sorghum, etc. You get the idea – the taste of the flour profile changes based on the individual flours used to make a blend. A standard rice and starch blend will have a neutral taste, but if that’s all you’ve ever tried, you are missing out!

2. Gluten-free flours are hard to use – False!

Wheat recipes (especially those for bread) often have extra steps to allow the gluten in the wheat to develop. Since you are baking without gluten there is no need for those steps. Likewise, there is no need for a long rise cycle. Instead of using active dry yeast (which requires a longer proofing time), fast-acting (or rapid rise) yeast can be used for making gluten-free breads. This means less steps and less time to bake!

Another reason some bakers think gluten-free baking is hard is because they try to replace flours cup for cup… which brings me to the next myth.

3. You can replace wheat flour in a recipe with a gluten-free flour blend, cup for cup – False (or nearly always false)!

This is a question of volume versus weight, and the correct answer is to measure flour by weight. Why? Wheat flours weigh between 120 and 124 grams per cup, whereas gluten-free flour blends usually weigh much more. A typical gluten-free blend might weigh 160 grams per cup – that’s 33% more than wheat flour. Inspect the nutrition labels of gluten-free flour blends and you will see that they often list a serving size as 1/3 cup rather than the 1/2 cup serving sizes you typically see on wheat flour. Is the idea starting to gel?

The most common mistake I see with failed gluten-free baking projects is that too much flour was used. Some bakers will say, “It worked, I just needed to add more liquid.” Sound familiar? The better answer would be to use less flour; if a recipe calls for 1 cup of wheat flour, measure 124 grams of whatever gluten-free flour blend you are using.

In the rare case that your gluten-free flour blend measures between 120 and 124 grams per cup, go ahead and use it cup for cup. Otherwise, I recommend measuring by weight, regardless of what the package says!

Note that if you are using flours made from coconut or nuts, they will behave differently than gluten-free flours made from grains and seeds and are best used with a recipe that was designed for those flours.

What’s your experience with gluten-free flour blends?


karlsdad said...

Nice article, Orgran makes some flours that are cup for cup substitutions, Orgran also makes a gluten replacer that makes it easier to bake than xanthan or guar gums.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for sharing!

Unknown said...

Most of what I've made has been just ok. I struggle with the aftertaste and consistency. I once made a really good carrot bread but could not recreate it. Coconut flour confuses me.

Colette said...

Zahra, coconut flour is definitely confusing as it behaves differently than grains.