I recently did a video on my IGTV channel on this, but I thought I would also do a blog post so it’s all in once place.
When I went off gluten six years ago, there was not a lot of gluten free products or flours on the market. The produce that was available was super expensive and it was hard to come by. Being a baker I began to experiment with the different flours. I tried numerous recipes I found on the web and read myself into a coma about every single thing I could find regarding gluten free, intolerance, diet, recipes, flours and so on.
There are many comprehensive blog posts out there on Flours, blends and so on, this is my take on it according to my experience. The flours I have not worked with or know little about will not be spoken about, this is purely from what I know and I work with today.
Types of gluten free flours
Basic everyday flours
- Brown and white rice flour (grain flours)
- Coconut flour
- Potato flour (not the same as Potato starch)
- Tapioca flour/starch (the same thing, used interchangeably)
I would begin with a base of at least one of the above everyday flours. A lot of gluten free flour blends begin with white rice flour. It has a neutral taste and gives baked goods a lightness. Tapioca flour is another popular one to add to your blend, it gives a crispy edge to bakes adds a lovely texture. If you are have a problems with grains, you might want to avoid the rice flours. The rice flours are one of the most cost effective flours when it comes to gluten free baking. Tapioca flour is also very versatile and cost effective as well as coconut flour. These are a good base on which to build your blend.
- Almond flour
- Macadamia flour
- (And any nut can be ground to make a flour: hazelnut, pistachio,cashew flour, chestnut flour, walnut flour, pecan flour) Here is an excellent Article on Nut Flours.
Nut Flours are some of the most expensive gluten free flours you will get. They are also some of the nicest. If you do not have a nut allergy, I would recommend investing in at least one nut flour. Almond flour is normally the most widely used in recipes. Almond and macadamia flour are a great addition to muffins, breads and cakes.
I won’t speak much about these three flours as I don’t use them. I went off all gluten free grains a few years ago to heal my leaky gut and I find the only grain I can tolerate in a flour and in small amounts is white rice flour, otherwise I avoid all grains and pseudo-cereals.
- Potato starch
- Corn starch
- Tapioca starch/flour
- cassava flour
You definitely need at least one starch in your gluten free blend. Starches help bind, while creating lift and lightness to baked goods. Starch is also a thickening agent and used in sauces. For example Corn starch is used to create a bechamel sauce (white sauce). If you run out of corn starch, potato or tapioca starch will do the trick do (although they lend a gummy texture). I use a combination of potato and tapioca starches in my flour blend.
- Soyabean flour
- black bean flour
- chickpea flour
- mungbean flour
I cannot speak on these flours as I cannot eat legumes personally and so avoid baking with these flours altogether. Grains and legumes have always been a problem with me and since I went off gluten, this has not changed. If you are experiencing reactions to grains or legumes and have gone off gluten or been off it for a while, you may be experiencing what happens when you have leaky gut. There are certain other foods that mimic gluten and for a time you will find that these things (like corn, nightshades, legumes, grains, pseudo-cereals etc) cause a similar reaction to gluten. This article makes for an interesting read if you find this could be a problem for you.
Just a side note: I have tasted chickpea flour and for me it has a “dog food” taste, but a lot of people like it and it is relatively inexpensive.
- Tigernut (from a root , not a nut)
The only flours in this section that I have tried is millet flour. Although you do get gluten free oat flour, I still react the same way to gluten free oats as I do to gluten. Oats contain avenin, which is a protein similar to gluten. Sometimes the body attacks proteins that are similar to gluten. This article is a very good read if you are interested in reading more about why some people who are gluten intolerant cannot even tolerate gluten free oats. Another great article is this one, explaining the connection between gluten and avenin.
A good article is this one of the gluten free glossary of flours which also tells you more details about each flour.
The importance of using a scale
In my video I demonstrate that not all flours are equal when it comes to weight. Therefore you cannot take a standard cup measurement and weigh out almond flour and white rice flour for example. They will not be the same. 1 cup of White rice flour is about 130g whereas a cup of almond flour is about 120g. 10 grams in baking can make a huge difference since baking is very much scientific. So do yourself a favor and buy a digital scale and weigh everything. This will ensure you have consistent results each time.
Why make your own flour blend?
Making your own flour blend has many advantages. Since we are all different, we have our own preferences when it comes to tastes and textures. I might like coconut flour, you may not. I am not be able to eat chickpeas yet you can.
Another reason is that there are different flour blends for different bakes. A bread flour blend will be very different to a pancake flour blend or a cake flour blend. A shortbread cookie mixture will require more of a starchy flour blend. Learning how to create your own flour blends will give you a lot more control over your gluten free baking.
And the last reason is that it is more affordable. Buying the premixes are convenient but not cheap. Often they add other things to the pre-mixes too that I am not sure are altogether healthy. Making your own from scratch is healthier and fresher.
The best places to buy in bulk
Since I need to buy in bulk for my bakery, I purchase from different places according to what I have determined is the best quality and the most cost effective. To help you with this, here are a few places I purchase from:
You can buy online and they deliver normally in 2 days. A lot of their products are really much cheaper than places like Cab foods, Dischem, Wellness Warehouse and your local supermarket. They sell organic produce too.
Cab foods are also very good for everyday supplies like sugar, icing sugar, castor sugar, corn starch, baking powder. All baking equipment, catering supplies, cake making etc. They also sell things like cream cheese, cream, butter, cheese, buttermilk etc and often have awesome specials much cheaper than the supermarket.
Dischem is always handy if I am in a pinch and cannot wait for a delivery. They have just about everything and their prices are really good, especially if you don’t want to buy in bulk. You can also find a lot of organic seeds, nuts, flours with them.
And then I like to source organic where possible and support small businesses for things like honey etc. It always helps too when you come across a good contact or someone puts you in touch with a contact who can supply what you need at a much cheaper price.
links to sites for gF flour blends
I’m going to leave you with a few good websites that are really good with gluten free flour blends and what they are used for and they give you recipes.
- Gluten Free on a shoestring (this post)and her whole blog was the very first blog I found when I went off gluten. I highly recommend her blog, her experience and knowledge and recipes are amazing.
- The Minimilist Baker (this post) another gluten free go-to for me.
- Gluten Free Palate (this post) and blog in general, excellent resource for anyone new to GF baking.