Are you a fan of gluten free baking? Whether you're following a gluten free diet or looking to make low-carb baked goods, using gluten free flour is an excellent option. Though gluten free flour can be used in several ways, creating baked goods is one of our favorites. When baking gluten free treats, certain flours work better than others. In this article, we'll cover the best gluten free flours for baking so that you know what to look for when walking down the grocery store aisle. Because each flour is unique in its own way, knowing how, when and what to use them for is the key to a successful gluten free baking experience.
What Is Gluten?
If you're wondering what gluten is, you're not alone. Many individuals have trouble digesting gluten and knowing where to find it is an essential part of eliminating it from your diet. Gluten, a protein naturally found in several grains, including wheat, barley and rye, acts as a binding agent in most recipes. It's what gives dough its stretchy nature and prevents it from ripping as you mold, press and bake it. Without gluten, dough rips easily, and baked goods have trouble maintaining their shape.
Luckily, gluten isn't the only binding agent used to create baked treats. Several gluten free binding agents like chia seeds, flaxseeds, eggs and xanthan gum are used in recipes to replicate the taste and texture of gluten free baked goods, sans gluten. Additionally, some gluten free flours are lighter than others, and knowing when to use each will help you achieve the taste and texture you desire.
What Is Gluten Free?
Knowing what foods are gluten free can be a bit challenging. When following a gluten free diet, it's essential to read the labels and ingredient list to determine if they contain gluten. Processed foods that contain wheat, barley and rye contain large amounts of gluten and should be avoided. While the list of gluten-filled foods is long, there are several naturally gluten free foods that you can enjoy in their place.
Natural gluten free foods include:
- Fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds.
- Prepared foods that don't have gluten-containing ingredients
- Food that has not been cross-contaminated with gluten-containing ingredients
When purchasing natural and processed gluten free foods, you must check that they come from a gluten free facility as well. Natural gluten free foods are often processed in the same facility as gluten-filled ones and face cross-contamination during production. This poses a problem, as even a tiny amount of gluten can trigger troubling symptoms for people with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity.
Gluten Free Baking
When baking gluten free goods, we recommend starting with a recipe designed to be gluten free. While traditional flour can be swapped for nut and seed-based ones, the other ingredients in the recipe will likely need to be adjusted to create a satisfying texture. This may prove to be quite confusing for novice gluten free bakers, which is why beginning with a recipe that's already gluten free is the easiest option.
Additionally, many gluten free baked goods will benefit from additional liquids. This extra liquid hydrates the gluten free flour blend and eliminates grittiness to achieve a light and moist texture. However, the extra moisture added should be dried during the baking process. If too much liquid is added, your gluten free baked goods will end up with a gummy texture. The best way to achieve the right amount of moisture is by increasing the baking times. Pull a gluten free treat out of the oven too quickly, and it's bound to end up with a mushy texture.
Gluten Free Baking Tips
Baking gluten free dishes is an adventure, and although it's a fun one, studying up on a few tips and tricks beforehand can make the experience much more enjoyable. At Bob's Red Mill, we've spent our fair share of time making gluten free goods at home, and here's what we've learned.
Choose the Right Gluten Free Flour
When searching for gluten free flour, you'll likely find a lot of options. Unfortunately, when it comes to gluten free flours, no two flours are the same. While one flour may work well when used in a baked good recipe, another may crumble. Choosing a flour-based on the type of bread you're making is crucial to its success. This remains true when working with pre-made gluten free flour blends as well. No two blends contain the same ingredients, so you'll want to ensure that it's intended for the type of recipe you'd like to create.
Use a Food Scale
We mentioned the importance of following the recipe down to the exact measurements—and we meant it. We recommend using a food scale to measure flour as accurately as possible when baking gluten-free goods. One of the biggest hurdles of gluten free baking is the lack of gluten. Though gluten may pose a problem for some, when used in recipes, it helps all of the ingredients bind together, giving breads, muffins, and cakes their signature rise and fluffy texture. When baking without gluten, you'll need to make sure that all of the ingredients in the recipe work with one another, and the best way to do this is with precise measurements.
The Best Gluten Free Flours
Now that you have a better understanding of gluten free baking, it's time to decide which flour you'd like to try out first. As we mentioned, there are several glutenfree flours available on grocery store shelves. However, only a few of them are used to produce superior tasting gluten free goods. Here is a list of our favorite gluten free flours for homemade baked goods.
Almond flour quite literally takes the cake when it comes to gluten free flours. Its great taste and texture have made it a favorite amongst grain-free bakers. And, because it is made from just one ingredient—almonds, it can also be used to accommodate keto and paleo diets. When making gluten free treats with almond flour, there are two ways to do so: use it as a wheat flour substitute, or choose a recipe created for almond flour.
We recommend following the recipes substitution guidelines when using almond flour as a substitute for wheat or all-purpose flour. Rarely substituted at a 1-to-1 ratio, the addition of eggs or xanthan gum is often needed to bind the recipe correctly. Recipes created with almond flour take these adjustments into account to ensure delicious results every time. Take this Orange Almond Cake, for example. Made with a base of almond flour, it combines coconut starch with potato starch to create a fluffy grain-free cake that's overflowing with flavor.
Buckwheat, a confusing-sounding flour, is neither wheat or grain. Instead, it's known as a "pseudo-grain" that is entirely gluten free. Its earthy flavor makes it excellent for sweet and savory recipes, making it an all-star flour among gluten free bakers. Though buckwheat's earthy nature makes it unique, it can be overwhelming if used in large quantities at once.
Because of this, it's often used in combination with another gluten free or GF flour to produce a more mild flavor. Buckwheat flour pairs nicely with sweets like chocolate, baked fruits and caramel for individuals with a sweet tooth. Those who crave something more savory can pair this flour with salty ingredients like cheese, cured meats and sour cream.
For buckwheat first-timers, we recommend starting with something like these Banana Nut Chocolate Chip Muffins. A blend of buckwheat flour, almond flour and brown rice flour is used, creating a sweet and balanced dessert that will have everyone craving seconds.
Brown Rice Flour
Brown rice flour contains one single ingredient—brown rice. And while all brown rice flours are naturally gluten free, it's essential to check that the one you're using was made in a gluten free facility. In recipes, brown rice flour works best in bread, muffins and cookies. When making gluten free baked goods, you have the choice of substituting all of the regular flour in a recipe with brown rice flour or using it to create a gluten free flour blend. Many gluten free recipes rely on this unique flour mix to achieve a taste and texture similar to wheat.
To start your brown rice journey successfully, make these delicious Brown Rice Flour Crepes served with breakfast hummus. It is a recipe that will have everyone in the family running to the dining table and can be made in minutes with just a handful of ingredients.
Ready to bake a delicious batch of gluten free goods? Choose one of the flours above to get started. From brownies to crepes, the list of tasty gluten free foods you can make at home is never-ending. From the Bob's Red Mill family to yours, happy baking!