Before jumping in to gluten free flours and recipes, it’s helpful to know what gluten really does in baking. The strange thing is, fresh milled wheat flour does not contain gluten. That’s right – there is no gluten in the flour itself. What creates the gluten is when two proteins, glutenin and gliadin, come into contact with a liquid.
When those two proteins are combined with water or any liquid, gluten molecules begin developing. They will multiply, resulting in dough with that “doughy” texture. The more liquid is added, the more elasticity the dough will have.
Think of gluten as the “glue” for dough.
For people who cannot tolerate gluten or those suffering from celiac disease, an alternative to this process must be used in bread baking.
The answer is to make your own gluten free bread flour mix. It’s not difficult. And with this recipe, it’s actually very economical too.
As with any recipe, there are any number of substitutions you can make to tailor it to your tastes. For instance, you can use rice flour, sorghum flour or a combination of both. It’s really a matter of personal preference.
But regardless of what you substitute, there are a few things to keep in mind:
- Adding some protein when you’re using gluten free flours is a good idea. Gluten is a protein, so with gluten-free baking, you aren’t getting that extra protein. Substituting in some egg white for ½ cup of the water will give you a much needed protein boost. Or use one of the high protein flours mentioned below.
- Make sure you add in the gums to your recipes. Xanthan gum and guar gum give your bread that sticky effect that closely resembles breads with gluten. Just a small amount is all you need. Fortunately, most gluten free bread flour recipes will also include gum.
- Different flour recipes work for different uses. We’ll include two flour recipes here because gluten free baking is different from wheat baking. A general all-purpose baking mix may work great for cookies, but not great as a coating mix for food. So, having two or three different flour mixes is not uncommon.
- Gluten free flours must be stored in the refrigerator. This is a big one. The first time you encounter rancid flour will be all the convincing you need to always make space in your refrigerator for your flours. You may also freeze them, but make sure to bring them to room temperature before using. This may take a few hours.
- And, if you are in a household with some members being gluten free and not others, then always keep the baking, cooking and preparation items thoroughly cleaned between uses. An even better idea would be to use two completely separate sets to avoid any contamination at all.
And now that you know all about gluten free flours and what makes them so different from regular wheat flours, here are two gluten free bread flour recipes for general baking. Remember, you may want to substitute different flours for different uses.
BASIC GLUTEN-FREE FLOUR MIX
Combine the following and store it in an airtight container in the refrigerator or freezer:
- 2 cups rice flour (or 1 cup rice and 1 cup sorghum flour)
- 2/3 cup cornstarch (or potato starch)
- 1/3 cup tapioca starch (*or almond meal or buckwheat or quinoa flour for more protein)
- 1 teaspoon xanthan gum (or guar gum)
Note: Subbing denser flours such as almond, buckwheat or quinoa will result in a heavier, denser product. Experiment and find the formula and texture you like best.
SELF-RISING FLOUR MIX
Combine and store in an airtight container in the refrigerator or freezer:
- 1 cup gluten-free flour mix
- 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
The following flours are gluten free and can safely be used in gluten free recipes…
Sorghum flour – gluten free baking staple; adds protein with a mild taste
White rice flour/brown rice flour – either one is great in a gluten free baking mix recipe
Sweet rice flour – great for breads and pizzas
Tapioca starch/flour – a thickener; also works well in combination with other flours
Potato starch – a thickener for gravy; adds moisture to baked goods
Arrowroot starch – one of the most neutral thickeners for gravy
Teff flour – great for desserts, has a slightly sweet flavor
Buckwheat flour – great for waffles and pancakes
Quinoa flour – a great source of protein in your baked goods; nice nutty taste
Certified oat flour – make sure it is certified gluten-free; good in breads
Coconut flour – great for desserts; coconut pairs well with anything sweet
Almond meal – great for desserts, makes delicious crusts for pies
Hazelnut meal – great for special desserts
Beware of the following flours…
Self-rising flour (packaged)
Please note that these lists are by no means complete. There may be other flours to add to either list. However, these will give you some great combinations to try for your gluten free bread baking.
One last note: If one combination does not work and/or doesn’t taste well, try another. Gluten free baking is more of a trial and error process and not every flour works well for every taste.