Gluten Free Flours

A while back one lady asked about making up your own gluten free flour mixes.  I had to confess this was not something I did, as I just find it a pain.  Many of the books on gluten free cooking do go this route and I don't really understand why as there are some pretty good already made up mixes.  Doves Farm is one and I am sure there are others.  But it did start me thinking about the other gluten free flours and what properties they have which could be called in to add an extra pizzaz  to baked goods.  I am starting with the ones I know of and use and there is a list of those which I'd like to try but can't get a hold of.  If anyone out there can point me in the right direction, please do!

Rice flour- used in many commercial mixes and throughout Asia.  It can be milled to different grades, from very fine to coarse.  It is good for thickening but does have quite a pronounced flavour.  I use it in moderation as I find it leaves a sandy, gritty texture.  I've got some rice flour I bought at an Asian Delicatessen, which I have been planning to use to see what it's like.  I haven't got around to it yet, but will let you know when I do.

Tapioca flour - also known as Cassava and comes from a root vegetable used widely in South America.  There is a hell of a lot of starch in Casava, which I assume also comes through in the flour, so it must be used sparingly as it can be quite heavy and unpleasant.  It is used in many commercial mixutres, I suspect because it is sturdy and helps hold baked goods together.

Potato flour is also widely used in commercial blends.  It is also used in Jewish cooking, especially during Passover to make cakes and biscuits.  Potato flour is quite neutral in taste and it is also very fine and starchy, pretty similar to cornflour and I am guessing you could interchange these without too much difference in the outcome. 

Cornflour is very fine and powdery and needs to used in conjunction with another flour to be successful in baking breads and cakes.  It just hasn't got sufficient body (and has no taste at all)  to give cakes enough lift.  It is however really good for coating fish or chicken pre cooking.  Cornflour is used extensively in Chinese cooking and the process is known as velveting.  This means to coat skinless chicken or fish in seasoned cornflour before frying it.  The cornflour protects the delicate meat and keeps it juicy and moist even if you are using a high heat.  Cornflour is also very good for thickening sauces (think cheese sauce or a velute)  and also for thickening gravies. It is used in puddings and custards to stabilse a mixture containing egg, but used too heavy handedly it can leave an unpleasant uncooked flour feel in your mouth.

Maize flour- also known in South America as Masa Harina is stoned ground flour made from maize which is corn.  It has a light buttermilk colour and quite a strong flavour.  Throughout Central America it is used to make tortillas, the staple bread of the region and also tamales and other Central American delicacies. I've not tried it in baked goods as I suspect the taste may be too strong, but as I am writing this, I've noticed that it is included in Doves Farm's recipe, so I guess it does have a role to play.  Certainly I would have a go at using it in gluten free breads as the colour and flavour will be a definate bonus.  Richard's Tortilla Wraps in the recipe section use maize flour and they are delicious.

Polenta- this is also in the corn category and is used widely in Northern Italy to make a savoury porridge and also in cakes and biscuits.   It is also  fabulous ingredient to use for cornbread and for coating fish.  There are many varieties which range from the superfine almost white powder to a very coarse vivid canary yellow and lots of variations in between.  You need to read the label carefully as there is also quick cook polenta, which will cook in under a minute, and also the standard variety which is what the Italian Mama's use, which requires constant stirring for 45 minutes or more! 

Buckwheat flour- this is the one that most people assume contains "wheat".  Well technically it doesn't.  It is gluten free, although recently there have been rumours about cross contamination with other flours.  If you are going to use this, it's probably best to double check the label to ensure it doesn't state:  may contain traces of  gluten....In any case, buckwheat is a staple in Eastern Europe and used widely in cakes, blinis, breads, biscuits etc.  It has a very strong flavour and is quite robust, so you must use it sparingly or else it can overpower your other ingredients.  I've used it in Shrimpy's Chocolate Cake and I love the musky earthy tones it imparts, but this may not be everyone's cup of tea.  Certainly use it in pancakes and of course a close cousin to the pancake, blinis.

I'm not a great fan of either millet or quinoa, although I know they are nutritionally superior to probably all of the flours I've mentioned.  Personally, I can't stand the taste of either.  I tried to give my youngest daughter millet porridge and she was pretty clear about what she thought about it.  She flung the bowl clear across the room!  I then decided to try it myself so took some off the wall where it had sploged beautifully and agreed it was disgusting.  Similar effect with quinoa, although this time I managed to remove the bowl before she tried to fling it at me.  I also seem to have an unexplained fear of Soya flour and I'm not really sure why.  It seems pretty harmless, but it does have a kind of milky gone off sort of smell.  Maybe I had a rancid batch, so let me know if you've used it and think it's great. 

Also on the list, which I have yet to experiment with are:  teff, sorghum, carob, chestnut and gram.   Gram or chick pea flour is readily available in supermarkets and is used to make bhajis and other Indian delicacies.  The other three are difficult to get a hold of and I don't know that they are available in the UK.  Certainly Teff is used extensively in the US and I gather can be excellent for baking.  So if you can get your hands on a bag, please do have a try and let me know of the results.  The same is true of sorghum.  Chestnut flour is used in one of Phil Vickery's recipes but sadly he has not given a reference as to where it is available to buy in the UK.  I'm guessing you can buy it in Italy and France.

And that last bit about Chestnut flour reminds me that there are lots of nut flours or sometimes called "meals" as in Almond meal...god the spelling looks a bit weird which are great to use in baking.  I often use half gluten free flour and half ground almonds in recipes and this works really well.  Equally you could use different nuts like hazelnuts or pecans ground really fine.  These impart flavour, texture and extra vitamins and minerals to baked goods.

If you are reading this and think I have got it all wrong, please write in and let me know of your flour experiences.  I'd love to hear from you. 






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adriana's picture
adriana wrote 14 years 23 weeks ago

Teff Flour

I have managed to find two suppliers in the UK who stock Teff flour.  I am awaiting my shipment with great anticipation and can't wait to start experimenting.  If you want to order Teff flour, see the useful links sections.  For those of you in the UK, Teff flour is available on prescription and you will find the reference details on the supplier websites. first batch of teff flour arrived this morning.  For the full monty on the incredible teff grain, read my latest blog "Teff Flour " .  Fingers crossed I shall have something to post on the recipe board soon.