I’ve been big on baking since childhood, so when I first had to go GF it struck me as a tragedy to no longer be able to bake/knead bread or throw together a batch of cookies. While I am dedicated to recipe-free living, I spent some time in cookbooks and on GF websites to try and figure out the secrets to GF baking. I tried just about every flour blend I could find in the process. Here’s a quick breakdown of what I found:
- Many gluten free flour blends are full of relatively unhealthy things/ starches that help the flour stick together but are unhelpful to digestion and your daily nutrient intake. If you are buying a flour blend and the first few ingredients are potato/corn/tapioca starch, you are not doing your body any favors. The same goes for any gluten free product, i.e. when I buy GF bread I always check to make sure that the first few ingredients are whole food flours such as brown rice, garbanzo, quinoa…
With that said, I reserve the use of starchy GF flour blends for baking something for show/ an event/ a gift. Those starches that make your baked goods less healthy also help your baked goods have a good consistency! From what I’ve experienced, at times they are necessary to create a similar texture and lightness to wheat flour items.
- Gluten Free cookbooks offer ridiculous flour blend solutions. I’ve seen some that have you blending 7 different flours together. Not that I don’t stock a solid arsenal of flours (which I’ll get into next), but I require simpler and more streamlined options! It’s a lot of work to go from using one item (wheat flour) to pre-blending seven items for the same purpose!
- Bob’s Red Mill is everything. Whether you are buying your own arsenal of flours or just going for a GF brownie mix that does all the work for you, this brand is trustworthy and consistently fantastic.
- No single flour blend is perfect for every single need. It’s good to have a number of flours at hand to customize toward flavor and texture. I realize this conflicts with my insistence that GF blending must be simple, so I will break down a simple way of mixing in different flours for specific results.
A picture of cookies to break up the serious flour talk. Now, back to serious flour talk.
NOW REVEALING MY SACRED TRINITY OF FLOURS!
Having been GF for almost ten years now, I have found my way back to recipe-free baking and can throw together pancakes, cookies, or a bundt cake anytime I like with great results and without added complication! My go-to flour blend is healthy and simple. So simple that there is no need to pre-blend it! Here it is: for every cup of “flour”, I use half a cup of brown rice flour and half a cup of almond flour, with two tablespoons of coconut flour added in. That’s a bit convoluted, so allow me to explain so I can continue insisting that it’s simple. First off, I don’t actually measure the coconut flour. I basically take a half-cup measuring cup, fill it about 1/4 way with coconut flour, then fill it the rest of the way with almond flour. This is because I abhor excessive measuring. Here’s what’s awesome about this flour:
- it’s nutrient rich and includes no added starches
- it won’t break the bank, as brown rice flour is basically the cheapest GF flour you can get
- coconut flour absorbs fluids very intensely, so it takes the place of a starch in holding your baked good together. Sure, it doesn’t result in as much of a wheat-flour-like texture as starches can, but it’s better for your digestion and nutrient intake!
The cookies in the image above were baked with that flour blend, and they look pretty straightforward, right? My golden ration of GF flours always results well!
Brownies made with my flour blend
This blend of three flours is my go-to, yet I keep quite a few other flours at hand, such as garbanzo, buckwheat, oat, sorghum, and ground flax seed for now, I haven’t tried quinoa flour yet but will soon. When I want to use one of those flours, I basically just add it into my blend with the same sensibility of replacing a cup of flour. For example, I would use 1/3 cup brown rice flour, 1/3 cup almond flour (with a little coconut flour added to the measuring cup), and 1/3 cup oat flour to replace a cup of flour in a recipe. These different flours offer different textures and flavors to what you are baking.
is a bit sticky when wet, which you can imagine if you consider how oatmeal thickens up! This makes oat flour helpful for recipes where you want a denser consistency. I add it to my blend when I make brownies, and sometimes for pancakes because I like the oat flavor in them but this makes for some pretty thick pancakes.
is high in protein and commonly found in commercial Gf baked goods. Garbanzo flour is nutrient rich and great for baked goods with a crispy consistency, but will add the flavor of garbanzo’s. I’ve found that in baked sweets, you may not taste the garbanzo the first day you’ve made your treat, but the flavor becomes more pronounced the longer it sits on your counter. Because of this (and it’s added crispy consistency), I tend to use it for non-sweet items, such as GF pizza dough, veggie burgers, or to bread something for frying.
provides almost as good a consistency in your flour blend as brown rice flour does, so it’s nice to have on hand for if you run out of brown rice flour! I mainly keep this flour stocked for when I make South Asian food, as you can make roti’s with it.
has a gritty consistency like graham flour, so it is good for a heartier texture. I use it to make focaccia breads or when I try make biscuits (haven’t really gotten them down yet…).
Ground Flax Seed
flax works even better than coconut flour at absorbing fluids and binding your batter together. I use it when I’m making something that needs that extra stickiness, such as when I’m making blueberry muffins, as the stickiness prevents the blueberries from getting weighed down to the bottom of the muffin. Ground flax will change the appearance and texture of your baked good, however, in that it is not a fine flour so it adds a fibrous texture.
Again, when I use one of these flours I just add 1/3 a cup of it to 1/3 a cup brown rice flour and 1/3 a cup of almond flour with a little coconut flour added in. It’s a simple way to customize baking results.
As I experiment with other flours I will be adding to this post and sharing the results, I’d love to hear flour feedback as well!