A Guide to Gluten Free Flours

Hey everyone!  I’m currently in the middle of my 21 day reset, which eliminates wheat from our diets, and I’ve noticed that a lot of people in our group have been missing breads.  When I decided to start eating a gluten free diet, bread was – hands down! – the number one thing I missed.  Well, okay, it was really more of a toss up between bread, pizza, and baked goods.  Either I was forced to pay twice as much to walk away with half as much (and almost no flavor) or I had to go without.

But then I embarked upon the LONG and sometimes FRUSTRATING journey that is gluten free baking.  The first few things I tried to make failed.  Miserably!  But I kept at it, continued reading and experimenting, and have come a long, long way.  In fact, there are times my family tries to guess whether I have made a gluten free or glutenous (our made up word for items containing gluten) version of a food and they are wrong!  What follows are some of the gluten free flour options that I have used.  This is by no means an exhaustive list, but rather the only ones that I have personal experience with and can categorize and describe a bit.

Potato Starch, Corn Starch, and/or Tapioca Starch I’m lumping these three together because they are the lightest of the flours that I bake with, and I kind of use them interchangeably based on what I have on hand.  I think the corn starch may add a little more of a “crunchiness” to a crust or bread, but other than that, the taste and texture are about the same.  In any recipe, I always make sure that part of my flour blend includes one of these “lighter” and “fluffier” flours.

Oat Flour Basically just ground oats, this is a fun middle of the road flour in terms of heaviness.  I don’t use it often, because I consume oats in my diet in many other ways, but I’ve had good success with it.

Quinoa Flour This one has a strong flavor to it.  If you’ve had any experience with quinoa, you know what I mean.  It’s kind of nutty, kind of heavy.  If I use it, it’s always in a blend with another medium to heavy based flour, and I don’t typically use more than a quarter or a cup to a half cup in a recipe, but it’s got all the same great health benefits that quinoa does, so I try to sneak it in sometimes.

Sorghum Flour Love it!  This is one of my two most used flours, because it bakes most similarly (for me) as a regular wheat flour.  The taste and texture are great and it seems to rise very nicely, meaning that things aren’t nearly as dense when I use it.  It’s also very slightly sweet, I’d say.

Brown (or White) Rice Flour This is the other flour that I use most often, probably because it is sold at my local grocery stores and some of the others I have to order from Amazon.  It’s the main ingredient for the bread I use almost daily, and performs similarly in texture and heaviness to sorghum flour.

Almond Meal or Flour This one is a little trickier to categorize, because it appears very fluffy, but it’s also pretty dense.  It’s nutty (duh!) and provides a good balance when used in moderation with some of the lighter or medium density flours.  It’s also paleo friendly (no grains!) so used in a lot in paleo versions of baked goods.

Coconut Flour Heavy and sweet; that’s how I’d describe this one.  Definitely not a stand alone, but I like to use it in cookies, muffins, and cakes.  I typically only use an eighth of a cup or a quarter of a cup though.  Otherwise the flavor is overpowering (especially if you are baking with coconut oil instead of butter)!

So, there you have it!  A number or gluten free flour options.  Typically, my flour mixes for baking purposes are about 1/4 of one of the starches, 1/2 to 3/4 (or more) of the medium heaviness flours (oat, rice, sorghum), and occasionally up to 1/4 of the heavier flours (almond and coconut).

Oh, and one final note!  I also use xanthem gum as a binding agent when I bake.  Typically 1/2 teaspoon to a full teaspoon per cup of flour.  Some people prefer guar gum as well, and it may be slightly healthier (I haven’t done a lot of research about either one), but I get the best results when I include a bit of xanthem gum and I’m a little afraid to change up what’s working well right now!

I hope that’s helpful.  Gluten free baking can be totally intimidating.  I’ve been doing it for almost three years now, and I still totally mess up a recipe on occasion!  But if your body is one that does well without wheat, learning to work with other options is an absolute must (unless you like overpriced, flavorless store varieties)!  Happy baking!

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