Once you know the basic formula for how to make your own gluten-free flour mixes, they’re incredibly easy to toss together with whatever flours you have on hand– not to mention much cheaper than store bought mixes. You can tailor your mixes to mix up the nutritional values, use what’s in your cupboard or best suit the type of baking you want to do. It also makes it easy to accommodate additional allergies or special dietary needs.
The basic formula to keep in mind when making your own gluten-free flour mix is this: Use 60% protein flours (such as sorghum, brown or white rice, millet, teff and amaranth flours) with 40% starches (such as potato, tapioca, arrowroot or corn starch) then add 3/4 tsp of xanthan gum or guar gum per one cup of flour. Bean flours and nut flours count as proteins, but use them sparingly so as not to overwhelm your recipe, texture or flavors. Use caution when using coconut flour in flour mixes, too, since it typically requires adding much more liquid to the recipe.
For best results, use a combination of different flours and different starches. This allows you to benefit from a wider variety of vitamins and nutrients from different grains, plus benefit from the properties of multiple grains. The starches typically work better in combination with each other than alone. Each flour or starch also has its own benefits and drawbacks, and this allows you to get the best of each.
It’s helpful to have an idea about how the different grains work in recipes. Sorghum gives excellent results in baking, making it wonderful for baked items like quick breads, for instance. Grains like millet and amaranth are heavier but perform better in recipes like cinnamon rolls where sorghum tends to fall apart.
Here’s a quick summary of how some gluten-free grains perform in cooking, along with their nutrient values and what they work best in.
For the protein portions:
- Almond flour is low carbohydrate, high protein and fiber. It adds a moist, gritty texture and nutty flavor. It can be good in mixes for quick breads and some cookies.
- Millet flour has a neutral slightly nutty and sweet flavor. It is high in vitamins and minerals. It creates a dry crumb that requires other flours to balance. It can be good in mixes for pancakes and tortillas.
- Potato flour (not starch) can be a helpful addition to the protein in bread flour mixes. It has a slight potato flavor, is high carbohydrate and high in vitamins and minerals. It creates a dense, moist crumb but too much makes recipes gummy. It is often used in gluten free bread flour mixes.
- Sorghum flour has neutral, slightly sweet flavor. It is high in protein, fiber and iron. It can have a slightly drier texture that can require extra fats. It is often used in mixes for breads and general baking.
- Quinoa flour has a flavor that some describe as slightly sour (depending on the company and whether you toast and mill your own). You can try toasting the flour to improve its flavor, which also lends itself well to recipes like sourdough breads and english muffins. It is very high in protein, fiber and nutrients. It is best used as part of the protein portion with a milder tasting protein flour. That said, it is very versatile and wonderful in all kinds of gluten free cooking, from pancakes to cookies to breads.
- Garfava bean flour is a mix of milled garbanzo beans and fava beans that is available from companies like Bob’s Red Mill. It is high in protein, nutrients and fiber but will impart a beany flavor if not mixed with other flours. It is best used in baked goods with other strong flavors. Other bean flours, such as chickpea flour, offer similar nutrients and drawbacks.
- Brown rice flour has a mildly sweet nutty flavor. It is high in protein, fiber and carbohydrate. It produces a nice, non-gritty crumb and is commonly used in gluten free mixes for all types of foods.
- White rice flour has a mildly sweet neutral flavor. It is high carbohydrate and does not offer much nutritionally. Superfine versions create a non-gritty crumb, but otherwise it can be gritty. It adds snap to crispy baked goods and is commonly used in all kinds of gluten free cooking. Note that while white rice flour is not high in protein, it has the qualities needed for the protein portion of gluten-free flour mixes and should not be used as a starch.
- Sweet rice flour is milled short grain sticky rice. It has a mild milky flavor and is high carbohydrate. It imparts an excellent non-gritty crumb and a soft chew to baked goods like cookies. It can be great in desserts but be sure to balance it with other flours. Like white rice flour, this is not a high protein flour but it is used in the “protein” portion of a gluten-free flour mix.
- Teff flour has a sweet malty flavor. It is very high protein and nutrients, making it an excellent addition to the protein portion of your mix if you want to increase the nutritional value. It has a neutral crumbly texture and may require extra liquids if much is used. It is commonly used in small amounts in breads and some cookies.
For the starches:
- Tapioca starch (cassava root) is a flavorless starch that is chewier than other starches and is suitable for paleo flour mixes. It is grain-free, so it’s a good choice for mixes for people who do not consume grains. It lightens texture in baked goods like cakes and is commonly used in all kinds of gluten free cooking.
- Corn starch is a flavorless that also lightens texture in baked goods such as cakes. It is commonly used in all kinds of gluten free cooking. Purchase organic corn starch to avoid GMO ingredients.
- Potato starch is also flavorless and lightens texture in baked goods such as cakes. It is commonly used in all kinds of gluten free cooking.
- Arrowroot flour is another grain-free, flavorless starch that can be used for paleo mixes. It makes an excellent substitute for tapioca starch in recipes, though it does not have the slight chewiness that tapioca starch imparts.
Once you understand how gluten free flours and starches work together, it is quite easy to quickly mix up a batch for anything you need. Remember that you will almost always get better results from using multiple flours and multiple starches. This is the best way to most closely replicate the way wheat flour would perform in recipes.
There are even more gluten-free flours that you can use for your all-purpose mix, too. Acorn flour is wonderfully healthy and tasty and can be used for a portion of the protein flours (here’s how to make your own). Other nuts, seeds and grains can be used, as well. For best results, you may want to pair them with lighter, milder protein flours like rice flour.
Another example of a great all-purpose gluten-free flour formula is this one from livingwithout.com:
Here’s a working formula for a healthy all-purpose flour blend: 1½ cups power flour (amaranth, buckwheat, chickpea, millet, quinoa, sorghum) 1 cup neutral flour (white rice, brown rice flour, corn flour) 1 cup starch (tapioca, corn, potato) ½ cup alternate starch (one not used above)
Again, this is making the most of the properties of the lighter starches and the heavier grains. In this case, the rice flour or corn flour (which is different from corn starch) are a neutral medium, and starches and heavier-weight grains are added to them. Note that this recipe also calls for using multiple starches.
Once you have made up your gluten-free flour mix, you can store it in an airtight container. I recommend storing your mix (and gluten-free flours in general) in the refrigerator for better freshness, since some gluten-free grains can develop an off taste. Nut flours are especially prone to going rancid at room temperature because of their high fat content. If you do not cook often, you can store your mix in the freezer. Just bring it to room temperature before using it in recipes.
You can use your gluten-free flour mix as a substitute for all-purpose flour in most baking recipes or you can use it in any gluten-free recipe that calls for a gluten-free flour mix. Keep in mind that some recipes are easier to adapt to gluten free, such as quick breads. For other flour needs, such as thickening gravies, it’s best to use individual flours that are best suited for that need.
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