Going gluten free changes baking completely, not only are you using different flours but they are also yielding different results. I spent many failed attempts trying to recreate a sponge and cupcakes and was always bitterly disappointed.
I have learnt that you can’t just substitute the flour for a gluten- free one and get the same results. I find baked goods need a thicker batter, a lower oven temperature and a longer bake time than non-gluten free baking.
Once you get to know your grains you can make interesting and delicious things. I’m still learning and experimenting but I thought I would share my findings so far.
Buying pre-blended gluten-free flours
All-purpose flour is a good staple to have as it can be used for all baking. It tends to create a softer tenderer baked item. I find Bob Red Mill has the best blend all-purpose gluten-free flour made from garbanzo flour, potato starch, tapioca flour, sorghum flour and fava flour.
Plain flour is better for baking when you want to achieve a crumblier texture.
Self-Raising flour is plain flour with the raising agents and salt already added. As a substitute you can use plain flour instead, but add 1tsps of baking powder per 100g of flour in the recipe.
Bread flour would normally be the highest gluten content flour, as the yeast needs gluten to rise. Dove’s Farm Brown Flour blend uses rice, tapioca, potato, buckwheat and carob, sugar beet fibre and xanthan gum. Dove’s White Flour blend uses rice, potato and tapioca and xanthan gum. Bobs Red Mill’s Gluten-Free Whole Grain Bread Mix uses whole grain buckwheat, garbanzo bean flour, potato starch, cornstarch, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, whole grain sorghum flour, tapioca flour, evaporated cane juice, cocoa powder, fava bean flour, molasses powder, xanthan gum, caraway seeds, active dry yeast, sea salt, whole grain teff, potato flour, onion powder, guar gum and soy lecithin.
Creating your own flour blend
When using a blend of flours it is best to select flours from the medium and heavy flour categories and a starch. As a general guide your combination of medium and heavy flour should form 2/3 of your blend and your starch 1/3.
Heavy flour: These flours can be used interchangeably with each other. They contain more protein and will result in a denser bake, more like whole-wheat.
Buckwheat flour has a strong flavour, therefore it works well with other flours so it does not dominate. You can find two varieties of this flour, one that is much greyer in colour and one that is slightly greyer than regular flour. I much prefer the lighter, which is less dense and has not such a strong taste.
Millet flour is a mild nutty beany flavour.
Quinoa Flour has a strong flavour, therefore it works well with other flours and does not dominate.
Bean flours: Heavier flours, which are high in protein and will result in a denser bake.
Bean flours have a strong flavour, so as a guide do not use more than 30% of the flour blend. I tend to not use more than 20% as I find the strong flavour isn’t suited to more delicate bakes. It does result in a more elastic mixture, making it useful in pastry.
For IBS, beans may be best avoided as they can cause bloating and gas, but because the beans are finely ground in flour form it can be easier to digest. Chickpea (garbanzo bean) flour is a lower FODMAP than fava bean flour.
Nut and coconut flours: High in protein and will result in a denser bake.
Almond flour, chestnut flour, hazelnut flour and coconut flour are a good source of protein, fibre, and high in nutrients like lauric aid, manganese and vitamin C. * I do not bake with nut flours because so many people are intolerant to nuts. When I started thinking and planning this blog I couldn’t eat almonds, I now can tolerate almonds again, but I am keeping my flour blends free from nuts for my recipes. Also nuts like almonds and cashews are high FODMAP foods.
Baking with coconut flour in particular does require a different approach. Coconut flour is super absorbent, therefore you cannot make a direct substitution. Not only will it change the texture it will also change the flavour of the baked item.
As a general guide when you are substituting coconut flour in a recipe you use 1 cup for 1 cup of regular flour – but 1 extra egg than recipe states for every ¼ cup of coconut flour. Therefore, for vegan diets coconut flour can be difficult – it is possible still with ground flax seed and water and additional moisture like cooked, pureed or mashed fruit or vegetables.
I also find the coconut flour itself makes a oiler bake so you may need less oil in your recipe.
Medium flours: These medium flours lead to slightly different results but they can be used interchangeably.
Brown rice flour gives a darker colour to your bake and a slightly nutty flavour. It results in a slightly stickier end bake than other medium flours. White rice flour can be used interchangeably with brown rice in recipes but is lighter and grittier, resulting in an even stickier bake.
Oat flour, make sure it is gluten free as although oats are naturally gluten free they may be processed in a gluten environment. You can buy oat flour or grind/blitz gluten-free oats to make it. Just be aware if you’re following the FODMAP diet that research has shown that a large portion of oats are high FODMAP in Oligos ,so it is suggested to limit your intake to ¼ cup.
Sorghum flour is slightly sweet with a mild flavour.
Teff flour has a nutty flavour and works better when used with other flours so it does not dominate.
Starches: These flours tend to have a slight flavour, which will result in a sticky/ gummier bake. Therefore, they are best used with a medium to heavy flour to help bind the mixture.
I use tapioca and arrowroot starch/flour. You can use interchangeably with cornstarch and potato starch (corn and potatoes starches are different from their flour counterpart) but they are a higher FODMAP and so I do not use them in my recipes. You can use tapioca and arrowroot in the same way; I tend to find tapioca is better for cookies and arrowroot for cakes.