If you’ve ever attempted gluten-free baking, you may have felt more like you were conjuring some kind of alchemical sorcery than making a batch of muffins. Gluten, it turns out is a mysterious, magical mistress, and imitating its properties takes the work of multiple products. This can all be very confusing—all the starches, gums and bean powders—which ones are right for your recipe? We’ve put together a guide to speed up your baking learning curve and set you on the path to gluten-free greatness!
When you want a wheat-free substitute for all-purpose flour, no single gluten-free flour or starch behaves quite like wheat flour—a blend is a must. A mix of flours prevents things from getting too dense and heavy. You can create your own blends from ingredients in the Wedge’s bulk section, to meet your unique baking needs. A good rule of thumb is a ratio of 2:1 whole grain flours to starches. That means for every 1 cup of medium- or heavy-based flour, use ½ cup of a starch. Experiment with ingredients; play around with dozens of flours and see what combinations work best for you.
QUINOA — This flour is dense with protein, minerals, and vitamins, and is an excellent choice for those looking for a more healthful twist on standard baked goods. It has a distinct, nutty, earthy flavor it imparts to any recipe. Pairs well with fruits, nuts and spices like cinnamon and cardamom.
WHITE RICE — Notorious for yielding a gritty texture, this flour is widely used because it’s light and gives great results for cookies, cakes and pie crusts. Just make sure you get the finest ground rice flour you can find.
GARBANZO — This flour produces excellent rise in baked goods and is packed with protein, fiber, and iron. However, it does have a distinct, funky bean flavor. Try it in crackers, pizza crusts and breads. Pairs best with strong flavors like chocolate, pumpkin and ginger.
SORGHUM — Ground from the kernel of the sorghum plant, this flour is a powerhouse of nutrition. It has a smooth texture that makes it well suited for cakes, cookies, muffins and pancakes. Its flavor is neutral with a slightly sweet note
ALMOND — Perfect for paleo types, this flour provides a nice kick of protein and a buttery flavor. Try it in recipes for macaroons, financiers, pie crusts, cakes, cookies and quick breads. Best if kept refrigerated or frozen.
AMARANTH — Derived from the seeds of the amaranth plant, first cultivated by the Aztecs, this flour is best used in combination with another wheat-free flour. It is a complete protein and high in fiber with a mild, slightly sweet, malt-like flavor. Best in low-rise recipes like shortbread, brownies and crackers.
BROWN RICE — This flour, with its dense nutrition and great structure, is very comparable to whole wheat flour, with a nuttier flavor and darker color. It’s best to find it in its superfine-ground form, to prevent adding grittiness to your baked goods.
BUCKWHEAT — Don’t be fooled by the name, this flour is made from the pyramid-shaped kernels of the buckwheat plant, which is not a wheat at all, but in fact most closely related to sorrel and rhubarb. It has an assertive earthy flavor that is great in both quick and yeast breads. Try it in savory crepe recipes or anything that calls for whole wheat flour.
CORN — Not to be confused with cornmeal, this hearty, dense flour adds a toothsome texture to baked goods. Use it for pancakes, biscuits and breads. Pairs well with savory flavors like rosemary and thyme.
Starches help with the binding, texture and structure that gluten typically provides. Gums help replicate its sticky properties and are used in very small quantities.
ARROWROOT POWDER — This easy-to-digest starch is extracted from the roots of the arrowroot plant, Maranta arundinacea. It is neutral tasting and bakes well in cakes, cookies and biscuits made with milk.
CORN STARCH — Ground from corn, this makes for a great binder and thickening agent. It helps contribute a crumbly, tender texture to cakes and cookies. It also adds a great crust to breads.
POTATO STARCH — Different from potato flour, this starch adds moistness to many baked goods.
TAPIOCA STARCH — Extracted and bleached from the cassava root, this starch brings a certain lightness in texture to baked goods. It has a slightly sweet flavor and adds a pleasant chew. Also known as tapioca flour.
XANTHAM GUM — This plant-based thickening agent helps hold cookies together and enables cakes and breads to hold onto the gas bubbles that form inside them—this allows them to rise and keep their shape. Add a tiny amount (½ tsp. or less) to recipes for cakes, cookies or bread.
Store-bought blends are quick, easy solutions. Here are some that are available at the Wedge:
Bob’s Red Mill All-Purpose Flour
Ingredients: Garbanzo Bean Flour, Potato Starch, Tapioca Flour, White Sorghum Flour, Fava Bean Flour
Best for: pizza dough · brownies · banana bread · spice cakes · other strongly flavored baked goods
Pamela’s All-Purpose Flour
Ingredients: Brown Rice Flour, Tapioca Starch, White Rice Flour, Potato Starch, Sorghum Flour, Arrowroot Starch, Guar Gum, Sweet Rice Flour, Rice Bran
Best for: cookies · cakes · waffles · pancakes
Chebe All-Purpose Bread Mix
Ingredients: Tapioca Flour, Manioc Starch, Cream of Tartar, Sea Salt, Sodium Bicarbonate
Best for: breads · buns · turnovers · calzones
You can use this recipe, created by America’s Test Kitchen as a good general purpose baking flour for gluten-free projects. The milk powder is key to the blend’s success, contributing proteins that help improve structure and sugars to induce the Maillard browning reaction, which leads to a more complex flavor. If you’re a vegan gluten-free baker, you can substitute the ¼ cup milk powder for 1 cup of soy milk, and reduce the water in your recipe by 1 cup.
4 1/2 cups plus 1/3 cup white rice flour
1 2/3 cups brown rice flour
1 1/3cups potato starch
3/4 cup tapioca starch
3 Tbsp. nonfat milk powder
Whisk all ingredients together in large bowl until well combined. Transfer to airtight container and refrigerate for up to 3 months. Use in place of all-purpose flour.
Makes 9 1/3 cups.
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