Saturday, February 23, 2013

My Gluten Free Flour Mix

Let's keep this short and sweet.

I like to bake.  Keeping baked goods in the house that are delicious, appealing and easy to grab for a quick snack has been key to my being able to substantially reduce the gluten in my diet.  For the first several years that I played with reducing gluten, I'm pretty sure I thought the way to do it was to simply remove the breads, pastas, crackers, etc. I ate regularly, but this method crashed and burned; somehow feeling ravenous all the time made the achy joints, asthma and fuzzy brain seem not so bad.  Within a couple of days I'd find myself slathering peanut butter on a fat slice of home-made wheat bread, leading to a desperate dive back into the world of gluten and the health annoyances that came with it.

Learning to bake gluten free was a game changer.

First, I bought Gluten Free Baking Classics, which taught me that successful gluten free baking relies on understanding how different flours function and how they can be combined to mimic the texture of wheat flour.  In other words, substituting a cup of brown rice flour for a cup of wheat flour isn't going to get you the results you want.  It also taught me that beyond its role in providing structure to baked goods, wheat has a strong role in creating the flavor profile of most baked goods.  The author suggests increasing the amount of vanilla in recipes, which is a tip I apply to most of the recipes I convert.

I made a few of the recipes included in that book and they were good (the chocolate chip cookies in particular) but I missed my old recipes and I didn't love the texture of the xantham gum used as a binder in most of the gluten free recipes.

Discovering Gluten Free Girl several years ago convinced me that gluten-free is doable.  I can't say it enough: if you're trying to go gluten-free or you know you need to for health reasons or even if you have a dear friend coming over for dinner who can't do gluten, read Shauna and Danny's site.  They give you real food in real life, and they remind you that eating and sharing food is a gift you can have even if you can't have wheat.

The Aherns teach you to make your own flour mix.  Those expensive tiny bags of pre-mixed gluten free flour that may or may not contain another ingredient your body doesn't like?  Don't bother with them.  Making your own flour mix is ridiculously easy and gives you the opportunity to use flours you like.  Most grocery stores now carry at least a few gluten free flours but if you don't have access to some of these at your local store, Bob's Red Mill is a great source.

After all of that, are you ready for meaty part?

Gluten Free Flour Mix
50% (by weight) starch
50% (by weight) whole grain gluten free flour

Because I like to keep it simple, most often I'll dump in a bag of potato starch (or whatever starch I'm using), which tends to be about 770 grams, hit "tare," then dump in about 770 grams of whole grain flours.  Then I get out my whisk and stir it together until it looks uniform before transferring to a container then to the baking cabinet to be used as needed.  In my mix, I most often use some mixture of potato starch with oat, millet and sorghum flour because they are usually the least expensive flours available, but use what appeals to you.

To Use
150 grams of flour mix per cup of flour called for in a recipe.

So the recipe calls for 2.5 cups of flour?  Use 375 grams of your flour mix.  I'll note here that Gluten Free Girl recommends 140 grams per cup but I've found 150 grams to work better in my recipes; she lives at sea level with high humidity, I live in the high desert.  70% of baking is paying attention to what your batter is telling you so don't be afraid to tweak the amount until you find something that gives you the results you want.

Baking by weight might sound like a pain in the tuchus but it's what allows you to reliably substitute your flour mix into your favorite recipes and once you get the hang of it, it's just as easy as baking by volume.  Please let me know if this works for you!  I'm always so curious to hear others' experiences with gluten free baking.

p.s. The gums?  I don't use them and I don't miss them.  They do help hold gluten free baked goods together but they also lend a gummy texture and are a nightmare to clean up (they turn to sticky slime when wet).  If I'm concerned about my baked goods holding together, I dump in a couple of tablespoons of ground flax, mix the batter for a minute or so to activate the binding of the flax and call it good.  With this kind of slap-dashery, it's a wonder anything turns out for me, but somehow it usually seems to work.  xo

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