Friday, December 21, 2012

Flours not Flowers

My daughter has this cute little Pooh Bear book called the Honey Cake Mix-up.  It's from the Disney series Out and About With Pooh.  This series is full of little adventures intertwined with a moral and strong friendship theme.  The Honey Cake Mix-up tells the story of how Pooh and Roo are trying to make a cake for Kanga's birthday.  Since they can't read, they have Rabbit tell them the recipe and mistake flour for flower.  So, off Pooh and Roo go to find the perfect flower for Kanga's cake.  They try several kinds including tiger lilies, buttercups, and thistles, to no avail.  Finally Christopher Robin saves the day when he informs Pooh he needs baking flour, not flowers with petals and stems.  The honey cake for Kanga finally turns out and everyone enjoys Pooh's delightful treat.

Sometimes gluten-free baking can be as challenging and disappointing as Pooh's baking adventure.  It's certainly a science, as no one single flour can successfully (at least in my experience) replace wheat flour.  Add the need to replace butter and eggs and you really have a science experiment!

The gluten-free flours on the market include coconut, rice, corn, quinoa, flax, teff, amaranth, millet, buckwheat, arrowroot, sorghum, potato, tapioca, garfava, bean, oat, and montina.  The flours I am most familiar with and use on a regular basis are rice (specifically brown rice), potato, tapioca, sorghum, oat, buckwheat, and coconut.  I have listed below my two favorite flour blends, the ones I most often refer to in my recipes.  The reason I don't use prepackaged flour blends is simply because I have never found one I like.  While I do love Bob's Red Mill flours, their flour blends include bean flours which really give an off-putting taste, in my opinion.  I'm happy to stick with their products that I like and do the messy work myself.

It is important to remember that a gum is necessary to help bind, thicken, and emulsify your gluten-free goods. I use xanthan gum.  If you use none to too little, your recipe will end up a crumbly mess.  If you use too much, it will leave a heavy, gummy, or even slimy texture in your baked goods.  I tend to stick with about 1/4 teaspoon to one cup of flour in most of my baking, though some breads and doughs will benefit from more.  I never add xanthan gum to my premade flour blends.  I only add it to the recipe as I am ready to bake.  Xanthan gum is quite pricey, but since you are using such small quantities of it, it will last awhile.

Here are the proportions for my favorite flour mixes:

Basic Gluten-Free Flour Blend
4 cups brown rice flour
1 1/3 cups potato starch (note that this is different than potato flour)
2/3 cup tapioca flour (which is also known as tapioca starch)

Multigrain Gluten-Free Flour Blend
1 1/2 cups brown rice flour
1 1/2 cups sorghum flour
1 cup tapioca starch

I have found the basic gluten-free flour blend to work best in cookies.  The multigrain flour blend works really well in breads and cakes.  I mix up large quantities of both and store them in ziplock freezer bags in my fridge.  I typically use Bob's Red Mill flours, and I have found that has the best deals, especially if you use their subscribe and save program.

No comments:

Post a Comment