I hate to break it to you: Gluten free flours aren’t like gluten.
Now that we have that out of the way, here’s why they aren’t like gluten:
- Obviously, they don’t contain that “stretchy” quality that gluten can produce in your dough. The most noticeable difference between gf flours and gluten can be seen in bread dough. If you try to make bread the gluten way, you’re going to fail and cry and probably need counseling before you can be happy again. Here’s my post on making gf yeast bread.
- When using gluten free flours, you have to use at least two different flours. When you used to cook with gluten, you could just dump in some of your whole wheat flour and call it good. Gluten free flours are a bit more temperamental. They don’t do well by themselves. I usually use about 1 cup of starch for every two cups of rice flour, but this depends upon the recipe.
- Besides using a few different flours, you’re going to have to use some sort of “gum” or gum substitute to hold everything together. I usually use either xanthan gum or guar gum. The proportions vary, but I tend to use about 1 teaspoon for every 2 cups of flour.
I’ll probably extend on those few notes later, but those are the major differences between gluten-free flour and gluten flour.
Below is a chart on gluten-free flours and their consistencies. These certainly aren’t all of the flours out there, but they are the ones I use most often.
|Rice Flour||Rice flour is the flour I use most in gluten free baking. Rice flour can sometimes have a rather gritty taste, however, so it has to be mixed with starches. I generally use brown rice flour but if you insist on white rice flour I’m not complaining. Brands we use are: Lundberg, Bob’s Red Mill.||Gritty||Can usually be exchanged with sorghum flour and oat flour.|
|Corn flour||I do not use this flour very often, yet it can sometimes substitute for rice flour if I don’t have any at the time. You can also use it in corn breads.||gritty||Can be exchanged with any of the ‘gritty’ flours.|
|Cornmeal||This is not really flour. I use it for corn breads and for the surface pans sometimes (Cornmeal on the surface of the pan will cook into the dough and give it a nice crunchy crust). Gluten-Free cornmeal can usually be found at the local grocery store; just be sure to check the label.||very gritty.||Cannot be exchanged.|
|Oat flour||Oat flour is one of my favorite flours. It has a nice consistency and makes very good baked goods. I have lately been using oat flour quite a lot because it seems to work better than most other gluten-free flours. Since gf oat flour is expensive, I grind oats in a coffee grinder instead. If you use that method, don’t use the oat flour in cakes or other delicate baked goods.
Finely ground oat flour works really well, so if you can get your hands on some of that for a reasonable price, do so.
Some celiacs are sensitive to oats, so this might not be the best flour for you. You can replace rice flour for oat flour in pretty much every one of my recipes though.
|gritty||Can be exchanged with millet flour, rice flour, or sorghum flour.|
|Buckwheat flour||I don’t use this flour very often because of its coloring, yet it has a good taste and could replace rice flour. Again, be careful about the gluten, and be sure to thoroughly check the label.||gritty||Cannot be exchanged|
|Cornstarch||I use cornstarch the most of all the starches, simply because it can be found easily at the local grocery store. Be sure to check the label for gluten-free. Though commonly used as a thickener, cornstarch is a surprisingly good gluten-free flour. It has a nice, fluffy consistency. You do have to use rice flour or some other gritty flour with the cornstarch in order to balance it. Used alone, the results are usually dry and tough and flavorless with an unpleasant mouth feel.||starchy and fluffy.||Can be exchanged with tapioca or potato starch in gluten-free baking unless stated otherwise in the recipe, but it cannot be replaced in sauces and in some pies. Tapioca and potato starch will form gummy lumps, whereas cornstarch will only thicken a sauce.|
|Potato starch||Potato starch can create a rather gummy consistency if it is used alone in a recipe. However, mixed with rice flour or some grainy flour it adds pleasant fluff. Note: Do not confuse potato starch with potato flour. They are very different things, believe me. I never use potato flour because it tastes bad and doesn’t work very well.||Starchy, (difficult to distinguish between cornstarch and tapioca.)||Can be exchanged with cornstarch or tapioca starch except in sauces and sometimes pies.|
|Tapioca starch||Tapioca starch is commonly used with potato starch in my recipes. It, like cornstarch and potato starch, can’t be used alone in a recipe—it needs rice flour, oat flour, or another gritty flour to balance it out.||starchy||Can be exchanged with potato starch or cornstarch except in sauces and sometimes pies.|
|Sorghum flour||Sorghum has a good flavor, and can replace several of the other gritty flours. It tastes good in breads. I wouldn’t use it alone with nothing but starches though. Probably a combo of sorghum with rice, oat, or millet flour.||gritty||Can be replaced with rice flour, oat flour, or millet flour.|
|Millet flour||Has good flavor, and a consistency rather like corn flour. It could replace several of the other gritty flours, especially if you want to produce a more “whole grain” flavor in the baked good.||gritty||Can be replaced with sorghum flour, corn flour, or rice flour.|
|Teff flour||Teff flour should only be used in small quantity because of its color and the fact that too much of it just plain tastes bad. It has a nice taste when used in moderation and gives a multigrain flavor to most breads.||gritty||This flour can be replaced by rice flour. When replaced, rise and consistency of the baked good will not be changed. The taste and color, however, will be slightly changed, though not usually in a bad way.|
|Almond flour/Almond Meal||To avoid confusion right off, the difference between almond meal and almond flour is that in almond flour, the almonds are ground without the skin, whereas almond meal is ground with the skin. This small difference doesn’t seem to affect the baked goods though.
This flour is still in the testing stage for me. It’s used a lot in paleo baked goods, and I’ve used it by itself before. The results are always a little gritty and sometimes a bit too moist (to the point of being heavy and gummy), since almond flour contains a lot of moisture. I have used it in cakes in small quantity with rice flour and starch with good results.
|Gritty but adds moisture to baked goods.||Can’t be exchanged.|
Need more about flours? Here’s a very informative post from Ecosalon.