Flour

What flour and gluten does

Folks don’t normally give flour and gluten much thought, but in reality flour and gluten are an important, dynamic part of our baking and cooking.  In baked goods, flour – and essentially the gluten in flour – is what actually provides the “framework” for the cake, cookie, or bread.  It absorbs the moisture and provides the protein strands necessary to give our baked goods a proper structure and a proper consistency.  So, when you replace gluten flours with gluten free ones, your baked good loses its ability to properly regulate its moisture content and its rising capacity, which is why many gluten free breads are denser and heavier than wheat breads.

You can substitute whole grains for white

For most people, flour and gluten is not actually an issue.  What is at stake is eating the right type of flour, which essentially means ditching the white, all-purpose flour and switching to a100% whole grain flour which has the fiber, protein, vitamins and minerals lacking in its white, all purpose counterpart.  Many people are hesitant to make the switch, though, because they think their food won’t taste as good.

The trick to remember is this:  For baked goods, always lightly spoon your flour into your dry measuring cup and level it off without packing the flour down.  If you do this, you can substitute your whole grain flour in a one to one ratio without fearing for the density of your favorite dessert.  For your cooking, simply use less of the whole grain flour for that roux you’re making or those potato pancakes you’re forming.  Because the whole grain flour is slightly denser, you can use less to get the same consistency.  And for those of you who still are reluctant to attempt a change, you can compromise with the white whole wheat flours which have begun to flood the market.  It’s a white wheat instead of the red wheat and is closer in consistency to the white , all purpose flour, while still retaining many of the same benefits of the red, hard wheat.

If you need to omit gluten altogether

For folks who do need to refrain from eating gluten, though, you can still have your just desserts, as well.  It used to be that you needed to buy an umpteen number of different flours and starches, as well as xanthan gum, to make up your own flour mix in a specific ratio.  Today, however, we are blessed with an abundance of companies just dying to take our money in exchange for saving us time and reducing our stress.  You can get some of these gluten free flour blends at the grocery store… Hannafords, Shaws, Market Basket, Stop and Shop, Price Chopper, Wegmans…. At the grocery stores, Bob’s Red Mill, King Arthur, and Pillsbury blends are the ones you’re more likely to find. You can also go online. Some brands you’ll find online are Authentic Foods, Cup4Cup, Better Batter, Jules, Namastes….

How to use the gluten free mixes

The benefits of the flour blends are that everything is mixed in the proper ratio for you already, and you can easily substitute them into your favorite recipes.  Read the information on the packaging carefully because some are one to one replacements and others are not. Always remember to whisk the flour in a bowl after measuring, though, before you add the other ingredients.  This helps to lessen the density of the flour by breaking it up and incorporating some air into the flour.

If you want to make your own gluten free mix

Every day, however, there are new flour mixes coming on the market, so folks should experiment and see what you prefer.  If you decide you do want to make your own mix, however, there are sites such as http://www.allergicliving.com/gfblend where you can find some great “recipes” for flour blends. As a general rule to make a gluten free flour blend requires mixing a couple of types of gluten free flours with a couple of types of starches to get the same consistency of wheat flours. Some combinations I make are below.

All Purpose Recipe (Makes 4 1/2 cups):

1 1/4 cup brown rice flour or sorghum flour

1 1/4 cup millet flour or gluten free oat flour

1 cup sweet rice flour or potato flour

1 cup tapioca starch or potato starch

2 tsp xanthan gum

Pie Crust Recipe (Makes 3 cups):

1 cup brown rice flour or sorghum flour

3/4 cup garbanzo bean or fava bean or chickpea flour

3/4 cup potato starch or cornstarch or arrowroot starch

1/2 cup 1/2 cup tapioca starch

High Fiber and Protein Recipe (Makes 3 cups):

1 cup brown rice or sorghum flour

1/2 cup gluten free oat flour

1/2 cup millet flour

2/3 cup tapioca or arrowroot starch

1/3 cup potato starch or cornstarch

 

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