As you may or may not know, part of my movement toward incorporating more plants into our diets and moving away from animal products was that our doctor wanted to put my husband on low dose of cholesterol medications (statins) because of his high numbers, despite the fact that he is in good shape, active and fit. After finding out he was likely not in immediate danger like our friend was, I pleaded with the doctor to give me six months of trying to control it through diet and exercise. My husband was on board and so was the doctor. I knew there was room for improvement. Earlier this week marked the 6 month mark. We went back and a few days later we got the numbers back. They dropped dramatically into normal ranges, including a cholesterol that dropped over 50 points. Who knew?! Eat plants and whole foods, get healthy. (I kinda knew). Yay!
As part of the plan to incorporate more vegetables we bought a blender and I started making green smoothies. We added more whole grains and slowly replaced processed wheat. I’ve been experimenting by baking with different flours, good alternatives to processed wheat flour. It’s been fun because most of these flours you can grind yourself at home. I’m experimenting with tastes, nutritional value and consistency as well as what holds up and what just crumbles (my cousin has been receiving those pictures). There are so many incredible recipes that call for a gluten-free all-purpose flour mix. However, almost every single one I’ve seen, including the mixes in stores, contains potato starch, which my husband is allergic to. To eat healthy you don’t have to give up baked goods. I headed back to my lab-OR-atory.
It turns out there is a formula. Most of the gluten free blends that have been successful for me are based on a rough ratio of 70% whole grain and 30% white flours/starches. However, if you want a white flour replacement, which may contain slightly fewer nutrients, you can switch that ratio (I haven’t tried this yet). Once you figure out your flours and their different tastes, you mix them together and you’ll have flour for almost any recipe you want to create.
Regular all-purpose flour (wheat flour) is not made up of all gluten protein. It’s part protein and part starches, which is why a mix of whole-grain flours with starches works to mimic the effect of wheat flour. The whole grains are very high in protein and the starches–which don’t have much nutritional value–help make the flour mix hold together and make it look white enough to make familiar-looking baked goods.
An all-purpose gf blend will not be customized for the ideal loaf of sandwich bread or the tender pie crust. These are on the opposite ends of the baked-goods spectrum, as bread generally needs more elasticity and binding whereas pie crusts are meant to remain tender and flaky. So while using an all-purpose gf blend will generally produce good results, you may find that fine tuning your flour mixture for specific types of baked goods – namely bread loaves or pastries – will generate a better outcome.
This general ratio rule has been working though, and has opened up a world of GF baking. I now know I can replace the potato starch in the recipes with anything in the white flour/starch category. So what are the options here? They include, but are not limited to (pardon the legal jargon):
WHOLE GRAIN FLOURS
- brown rice flour
- buckwheat flour
- corn flour
- mesquite flour
- millet flour
- oat flour (when you grind this yourself the ratio is 1c rolled oats = 1c oat flour. Easy peasy)
- quinoa flour
- sorghum flour
- sweet potato flour
- teff flour
- arrowroot flour
- potato flour
- potato starch
- sweet rice flour
- tapioca flour
- white rice flour
I don’t want to neglect nut flours and bean flours that can sometimes fall into the “whole grain” category when mixing up a gluten free mix because they’re very high in protein. These may work slightly differently in terms of consistency. The nut flours are full of good fats, so they will throw off the ratios in your baked goods if you’re not careful. If a recipe calls for 1 cup of all-purpose flour, I’ll sometimes substitute ½ cup gluten-free flour recipe below plus ¼ cup almond meal, and ¼ cup oat flour.
- almond flour
- chestnut flour
- coconut flour
- hazelnut flour
- fava bean flour
- garbanzo bean flour
- kinako (roasted soy bean) flour
The caveat to the mix and match ratio game is that each of the flours absorbs water differently. Some flours have a particularly strong taste like mesquite or quinoa so you want to use them in small doses. I’m still experimenting, but the recipe below is a combination that seems to hold up well in different baking scenarios– waffles, quick breads, etc. Remember this is both an art and a science.
Also, a lot of recipes call for gums of sorts like guar or xanthum, but if you use chia or flax eggs instead of regular eggs, which have a binding effect, it usually renders these gums unnecessary.
Total geek-out session.
In summary, the recipe below is a pretty good standard gluten-free flour mix.
By the way, my crazy race with my brother is coming up next week! I’ve been training so I’m not as worried and I’m actually getting excited. I packed shorts and tank tops and pants and long sleeves. I have a few more practice runs to go and in the process I may have become a running convert. There’s something meditative about it. I sort of understand the cult-like culture of runners now, despite it being a kind of solitary endeavor. I just finished Scott Jurek’s Eat and Run and now I know that there are MUCH crazier races than this. I’ll channel my inner him when I start to freak out in the dark.
Don’t worry though. I’ve got my blinking lights, reflective vest, head lamp, glow sticks, neon socks and my (brother’s fireman) buddies keeping watch in the vans. I’ll report back with possible photos.
GLUTEN FREE FLOUR MIX
- 1 cup brown rice flour
- 1/2 cup sweet sorghum flour
- 1/2 cup corn starch
- 1/4 cup tapioca flour
- 1/4 cup white rice flour
Mix all the flours together and store in a jar.
*It’s very important to remember that when converting a gluten/AP flour recipe into a gluten-free recipe the ratio is NOT 1:1. Substitute 1 1/4 cup of this recipe for every 1 cup of AP flour or use 1/2 of this recipe and sub in 1/4 cup oat (or other whole grain flour) and 1/4 almond (or other nut flour). If you’ve reversed the ratio to mimic white flour then use 5/8 cup of this recipe for 1 cup AP flour.
* you can grind your own flours using a high speed blender.