Several years ago, I discovered I had an intolerance to gluten – I’d had what we thought was chronic, painful arthritis all through my 30’s and finally, in my early 40’s when I stopped eating gluten? It disappeared. This was alternately amazing and crappy - I love to bake, and when I first started baking gluten-free, I was completely lost. At first, I would just replace the regular flour with a gluten-free flour I found at the store – usually brown rice – and give it a whirl. The results sucked and I soon swore off all baking. It made me sad.
As the years have gone on, I’ve decided to teach myself how to bake gluten-free. It’s an art: you need the right blend of flours, the right proportion of liquids, the right binders, the right leaveners . . . or else you end up with dough that’s unworkable – it’s gloppy, or crumbly, or tough and often? It’s flavorless. Through trial and error (and I’m still learning!) I’ve come up with some go-to flours. Today I’m going to share my top three favs with you.
1. King Arthur Gluten-Free Flour
After trying many competitors, this has risen to the top (like that?) as my preference. Whether I’m making muffins, cookies or a cake, I reach for this stuff. I have never been disappointed with the results, and most times, I’m delighted by the way things turn out. It’s the closest I’ve found to “real” wheat flour, for sure. A lil’ trick if you’re using this as a sub for conventional flour: Adding some xanthan gum works really well. Xanthan will help simulate the stretch you get from gluten – think of being able to roll out a pie crust, stretch a pizza dough. This gum will also help your basic cookie recipe be less crumbly too . . .The amount of xanthan will depend on the amount of flour you have, generally, I use about ¼ teaspoon for each cup of flour.
2. Almond Flour
This was my first alt-flour love. I love the rich taste of this stuff – it’s got a high fat content and you can taste it. If you buy true almond “flour,” it’s milled into a very fine grain and it bakes up into a lovely tender crumb because of all that fat . . . I’ve made some cakes with it that are AMAZING, but you have to tweak your recipes. There is no option to sub this 1:1 for conventional wheat flours! The rule is, increase your eggs, decrease your fat. The eggs provide more structure and moisture, while the flour makes up for some of the missing fat. You can try adding it in small amounts – like replacing ¼ cup of the flour that the recipe calls for and also removing1 tablespoon of the oil. The almond flour helps to keep my recipes moist and tender. Try using this as a substitute when breading chicken or fish!
3. Coconut Flour
I love this stuff . . . mostly because I’m a HUGE coconut fan. But this flour is completely different from wheat flour and also from lots of the other GF flours out there! It’s super absorbent, but doesn’t have a lot of binding power. Great fiber content, though! You’ll need to use eggs with this stuff - recipes using coconut flour tend to use a lot of eggs and very little flour. The eggs provide moisture, act as a binder, and also give the baked good some structure. If you’re building a coconut flour recipe from scratch, a good rule of thumb is that for every ¼ cup of coconut flour in a recipe, you need two eggs. If you’re mixing in other dry ingredients, like cocoa powder, your egg ratio will need to go up even higher. Does it taste coconutty? Well, sorta. I love the flavor; and so, in something plain like pancakes, I don’t mind that you can taste it a little. But if you have other strong flavors in your recipe, like chocolate or pumpkin, then you really can’t tell it’s coconut. Which pleases my husband because he hates the stuff!