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Gluten-Free Blogs • Shelley Case Column

About Using Gluten-Free Flours

Q: I love to bake, but since my celiac diagnosis, I’m still learning about substitutes for wheat flour. What are the best alternatives for different types of baking?

A: Learning how to bake with alternatives to wheat flour is both an art and a science. A variety of gluten-free flours and starches can be substituted, but since they don’t contain gluten – the protein in wheat flour that provides structure for baked goods – most recipes will include xanthan gum. This carbohydrate is produced from the fermenting of glucose and adds viscosity, volume and prevents crumbling.

Combine the xanthan gum with dry ingredients, as it does not mix with water. For every cup of gluten-free flour, use 1 teaspoon of the gum for breads and half to three-quarters of a teaspoon for other baked goods.

Each flour and starch has unique properties that affect the texture and flavor. A combination results in a better bakery item than using single flours, and some recipes will specify which ones to use. White rice flour, tapioca starch, cornstarch and potato starch are staples in gluten-free recipes. But look for ways to incorporate more nutritious flours: almond, amaranth, bean, quinoa and teff.

There are many excellent gluten-free cookbooks to help on your journey. If baking is a passion, don’t let celiac keep you from it.

USING GLUTEN-FREE FLOURS:
Flour:

Almond

Qualities:
Made from blanched ground almonds. High in protein, fiber and fat.

Baking:
Adds rich texture and nutty flavor. High fat content aids in browning. Use 25-30 per cent of total flour blend.


Flour:
Bean

Qualities:
Made from dried ground beans such as garbanzo, garbanzo/fava combination, navy and soy. High in fiber, protein, calcium, iron and B vitamins.

Baking:
Combine with other flours to totally or partially replace white rice flour. Works well with sorghum flour in recipes such as chocolate cake or gingerbread.


Flour:
Potato Flour

Qualities:
Made from whole potatoes, resulting in a heavier product and slight potato flavor. Cannot be interchanged with potato starch.

Baking:
Best used in small amounts and combined with other flours. Can add crispness and density to baked product.


Flour:
Potato Starch

Qualities:
Bland flavored, white powder. 

Baking:
Adds moistness and works well when used at approximately 30-40 per cent of the total flour blend.


Flour:
Quinoa Flour

Qualities:
Ground from the quinoa seed. Slight nutty but strong flavor. High in protein, iron and other nutrients.

Baking:
Can overpower, so limit to 25 per cent of total flour blend. Works well in all types of baking, especially highly spiced or flavored recipes. Results in a moist product.


Flour:
Sorghum Flour

Qualities:
From food-grade sorghum grain. Slight nutty, earthy flavor. Source of protein, fiber and B vitamins.

Baking:
Works well in all types of baking, especially bread. Use up to 50 per cent of total flour blend.


Flour:
Tapioca Starch

Qualities:
Made from the cassava root, and also known as tapioca flour. Low in nutrients.

Baking:
Lightens baked goods and creates chewy texture in bread. Use between 25-50 per cent of total flour blend.


Flour:
White Rice Flour

Qualities:
Starchy white flour made from ground white rice. Low in fiber and other nutrients. Bland flavor.

Baking:
Best combined with other starches such as corn, potato or tapioca.


Information is adapted from Gluten-Free Diet by Shelley Case, Expanded Edition, 2006. See www.glutenfreediet.ca. Allergic Living columnist Shelley Case is a dietitian and author. She is on the advisory boards of the Canadian Celiac Association, the Celiac Disease Foundation and the Gluten-Free Intolerance Group.   

Allergic Living acknowledges the assistance of the OMDC Magazine Fund, an initative of the Ontario Media Development Cooperation.