Whether baking or cooking, it seems like flour is used for just about everything. Actually flour is such a staple that when a food or recipe says “flourless”, it immediately draws attention. But just because flour, and in particular wheat based flour, is the default flour used in the majority of recipes doesn’t mean that gluten free goodness is out of reach. In fact, gluten free flours are more common now than they ever have been.
And some of them are better suited for certain recipes than even a wheat based flour.
If you’ve been curious about the different types of flours and not sure which one to try out, here is a list of some of the top gluten free flours and their defining characteristics.
The basics: Almond flour is made from blanched almonds and is a nutrient rich powerhouse. Just a ½ cup of it adds 12% of your daily calcium requirement. Almond flour is also high in vitamin E. It’s a great source for monounsaturated fats, which help to reduce cholesterol levels. Plus it’s high in protein and low in carbohydrates.
How to use it: Almond flour is very moist and wonderful in baked goods like cookies, sweet breads and biscotti.
The basics: Arrowroot flour is very low in calories. It’s a good source of fiber and has a bit of calcium. Not a whole lot of other pluses as far as nutritional value. Arrowroot flour is ground from the root of the arrowroot plant.
How to use it: It is very useful for thickening recipes. It is tasteless, and the fine powder becomes clear when it is cooked, which makes it ideal for thickening clear sauces. Arrowroot flour is more dry and so it performs beautifully in cakes and cookies.
Brown Rice Four
The basics: Brown rice flour is heavier than its relative, white rice flour. It is milled from unpolished brown rice so it has a higher nutritional value than white rice flour. It’s also high in fiber, protein, and also calories. There may also be a noticeable texture, a bit grainy.
How to use it: Brown rice flour does have a slight nutty taste, which will sometimes come out in recipes depending on the other ingredients. The texture will also contribute to a heavier product than recipes made with white rice flour. It is not often used completely on its own because of its heavier nature.
Store your brown rice flour in the refrigerator and if you are going to buy it in bulk, make sure to freeze it.
Hemp Seed Flour
The basics: Hemp seed flour is made from ground hemp seeds. It boasts twice as much protein (about 20 grams) in just ½ cup of flour. And there is three times more cholesterol-busting fiber than whole-wheat flour. Hemp seed flour contains all essential amino acids, making it a good source of protein for vegetarians. Compared to other flours, hempseed contains more alpha-linolenic acid, an omega-3 fatty acid that may reduce the risk of heart attack, according to a 2009 study published in the Journal of Oleo Science.
How to use it: Hemp flour has a mild, nutty flavor and tastes delicious in breads, muffins, cookies and pastries. Even pancakes and waffles are wonderful with hemp seed flour. One word of caution though – don’t use all hemp seed flour in your recipe – try replacing a little at a time in your gluten free baked goods.
The basics: Sorghum flour is one of the most commonly used flours in gluten free baking. It comes from ground sorghum grain, which is similar to millet. Sorghum flour is a great source of fiber and protein. It is about average on calories and also packs a nice punch of iron.
How to use it: Sorghum flour was traditionally used in cereals and pancakes. However, it is becoming more and more common to use it in a variety of baked goods and breads. The mild, almost bland flavor is very beneficial in making delicate breads and rolls. When recipes call for sorghum flour, it is almost a given that it will also contain more oil or fat as it has the tendency to be a dry flour.
Baking with gluten free flours
Gluten free flours are tasty, nutritious alternatives to baking with white or wheat flours. But because gluten free flours are missing gluten, they do not get the structure and texture that gluten gives breads and other baked goods. The solution to your gluten free baking endeavors is to experiment with these flours and with the binding agents to get that just right, perfectly textured bread.
Additionally, here are a couple flour combinations that you can use to start your gluten free baking:
Flour mix for quick breads - makes 3 cups
2 cups rice flour
⅔ cup potato starch
⅓ cup tapioca starch/flour
For use in light, tender breads, try this one out:
Makes 3 cups
1 cup rice flour
1 cup cornstarch
1 cup tapioca starch/flour
1 Tbsp. potato flour
Either of these recipes can be doubled or even tripled, just multiple the ingredients accordingly. And of course, feel free to substitute your favorite flour.