Are you a passionate baker with gluten sensitivity or coeliac disease? Or is a friend, colleague or loved one on a gluten free diet and you want to cater for their needs?
Luckily, gluten free flours are becoming more widely available to meet increasing demand in the UK and there are countless innovative ways to combine them to produce delicious baked goods.
Who might need to use gluten free flour?
Those who have coeliac disease, or those who experience gluten intolerance or gluten sensitivity would need to use gluten free flour.
Coeliac disease is an autoimmune disorder when the immune system treats gluten as an invader, attacks gluten in the gut, and in the process, attacks healthy tissues too.
A gluten intolerance or sensitivity is when you experience uncomfortable symptoms whenever you eat gluten. These can include diarrhoea, constipation, and cramps.
What is gluten and why is it usually used in baking?
Gluten is a form of protein found in grains such as wheat and to a lesser extent, barley and rye. Gluten goes sticky when water is added, which creates a gluey substance which, with more mixing, transforms into a stretchy, pillow-y dough.
When combined with yeast and baked under high heat, the gluten in the bake forms tiny gas pockets, which inflate and harden. This is what gives bread, cakes and pie crusts their structure.
What is gluten free flour made of?
Various gluten free plants, vegetables and nuts can be ground or milled to make flour.
In gluten free baking, a blend of more than one type of flour, including a binding agent, is usually preferable than using it alone. This helps to better mimic the desirable structure, texture and bite that gluten provides.
The sticky, binding properties of gluten can be recreated using a high-protein flour such as quinoa flour. Alternately, you could use a small amount of xanthan gum to achieve the sticky gluten-like effect.
Another tip is to use a small amount of tapioca flour in your blend. Tapioca flour is made from the cassava plant root and creates a thick, gluey texture which acts as a binding agent.
Gluten free flour can be made from the following:
- Buckwheat – not technically a wheat, despite the name. Buckwheat brings a wholesome, rustic flavour to muffins and pastry. Try our Banana Coconut Bread, made with buckwheat flour
- Potatoes – made from potato starch. Potato flour can be used in bakes which call for a denser texture, such as pancakes or flatbreads
- White or brown rice – full of fibre, best blended with other gluten free flours to avoid a dense bake. Great for pancakes or muffins. This Pomegranate & Orange Drizzle Cake uses half rice flour, half buckwheat
- Nuts – almond or cashew flour can be added to another gluten free flour blend for use in almond flour cake, cookies, macarons, brownies and biscuits.
- Corn – corn flour is made from the starchy centre of corn kernels. This can be used in cakes and pastry.
- Maize – made from whole corn kernels. Great for tortillas, shortcrust pastry, biscuits and US-style cornbread. Learn to make gluten free pastry
- Coconut – coconut flour is perfect for sweet bakes, imparts a strong coconutty flavour
- Soya – made from toasted, finely crushed soya beans. Works well for thickening sauces and making flatbreads and pizza bases.
- Quinoa – high in protein and fibre, the seeds of the quinoa plant are ground to make a fine flour, which you can substitute for wheat flour in recipes.
For bread, an excellent combination would be rice, potato, tapioca, maize and buckwheat to give an all-purpose blend as an alternative to wheat flour that behaves in a similar way. You can blend your own – or buy ready-blended versions.
If you plan on baking gluten free foods regularly, it’s a good idea to build a store cupboard of different gluten free flours, in order to create personalised blends according to what different recipes require.
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Last updated: 24 April 2020