Vary your Flours and some info for the Gluten-Free
Flours come from many sources including grains, legumes, starchy vegetables, nuts and carob, with each having their own baking properties and uses. Our bodies need a variety of nutrients, minerals and active substances so it’s beneficial to vary the “staple” that you use even if you’re not gluten-free. So try some of the other flours available. Don’t get stuck on wheat or rice as a staple.
Wise Tip: Even if you’re gluten-free (GF) eat your food as unprocessed as possible, as natural as possible and as fresh as possible.
Grind Your Own
Gluten-free diets are notoriously dependent on refined flours and foods. If you follow a GF routine I suggest you get yourself a good grain mill (or share one with another family) and buy your grains and legumes whole then mill them fresh yourself. Millet, brown rice and buckwheat are especially recommended. Nuts can be “milled” into flour using a good blender.
Generally in gluten-free breadmaking a flour, a starch and a gum are combined to replace gluten in wheat bread. Starches are Tapioca, Arrowroot, Potato, Corn, and gums are Guar gum(a vegetable gum), Xanthan gum (made from the dried cell coat of the micro-organism called Xanthomonas campestris). Xanthan can give better results, but Guar is cheaper.
Note, if using Tapioca or Arrowroot as a starch know that they are not whole flours as they’ve been highly refined and therefore are not recommended for a healthy diet. Again, always try to eat wholefoods. Other gluten-free thickening agents that you can use and are healthy choices would be Rice, Millet or Buckwheat flour for savoury dishes and Agar Agar for sweet foods. Chickpea flour and Millet flour are quite sweet and good for cakes and breads.1
Almond flour made from blanched, ground almonds or the nut residue left after the sweet almond oil has been extracted from the almond nut. It’s gluten-free and used in cake & biscuit baking. Almond meal is similar, but made from the unblanched almonds; the brown skin is left on. Best to “mill” your own in a high speed blender and retain the oils. I have it on good authority that the following is a great (healthy) Lemon Curd Bar recipe.
Amaranth flour has minute traces of gluten and combines well with other flours to make smooth textured breads, muffins, pancakes and cookies. It is strong flavoured and moist. In breadmaking combine with starch (such as arrowroot) in a 3:1 ratio. Amaranth is an ancient Aztec food with an impressive amount of protein, fibre and minerals.
Barley flour adds a nutty, malty flavour to breads or pancakes. Barley is usually used as a whole grain or in malting, but it is also valuable as a flour because it gives breads a cake-like texture and pleasant sweetness. It can also be used as a thickener.
Brown rice flour is nuttier and richer tasting than white rice flour and also more nutritious. It is useful for making breads, cakes, muffins, or noodles. Brown rice flour is gluten-free.
Buckwheat flour is full-bodied and earthy flavoured, the traditional flour of Russian blini, French Brittany crepes, Japanese soba noodles, and of course, buckwheat pancakes. Gluten-free buckwheat isn’t really a grain, but a member of the rhubarb family. Try the following Buckwheat Galettes (Buckwheat Pancakes) recipe
Chickpea flour is gluten-free and made from dried chickpeas (garbanzo beans). Also known as garbanzo flour, gram flour, channa or besan, chickpea flour is a staple of Indian, Pakistani and Bangladeshi cuisines. Great Zuchinni & Sesame-seed Fritter recipe from the Revive Cafe (or buy the great Revive Cookbook and get it from there).
Cornmeal flour, made from maize it is more finely ground than cornmeal (or polenta), is rich cream-colored, slightly sweet and gluten-free. It is not the same as cornstarch in the US or what we call wheaten cornflour in NZ, which is used as a thickener.
Millet flour, ground from whole millet, adds a nut-like, slightly sweet flavour to wheat breads. It is gluten-free and traditionally used in some African cuisines. Great in combination with corn flour & buckwheat flour.
Oat flour is made by grinding oat groats to a fine consistency. Make your own by grinding rolled oats in a food processor or blender. It has only a small amount of gluten and it’s not the same gluten as in wheat. If you’re not overly sensitive, try it.
Potato starch flour is made from peeled and steamed potatoes that have been dried and ground. It is stark white and very fine. In baking it adds a light airy texture. Used to thicken sauces, it can also be used the same way as brown rice flour. Potato flour is suitable for those on a gluten-free diet.
Rye meal flour produces a loaf with a full-bodied, bitter, slightly sour flavour. It does not contain enough gluten-forming proteins to raise loaves well by itself and the gluten it contains is delicate. Rye loaves should be kneaded gently to avoid breaking the gluten strands.
Soy (soya) flour is richer in calcium and iron than wheat flour, gluten-free and high in protein. Soy flour is ground from raw soybeans; soya flour from lightly toasted soybeans. Both add a slightly sweet, fairly strong but pleasant flavour to bread. Loaves made with soy flour brown quickly.
Spelt flour is from non-hybridized wheat with a long cultivation history. It works well as a bread flour and has an exceptional protein and fibre profile. Spelt gluten is highly water soluble so that it is easy to digest. Spelt flour may be a good wheat substitute for some people who are allergic to wheat.
Keep flours refrigerated or in the freezer to prevent spoilage.
Remember: You don’t need to be fanatical, just wise.