Gluten free flour is a great tool. Whether you are coeliac, cooking for gluten free friends, or are simply looking to cut back on the amount of gluten that is in your diet, the wide range of gluten free flours available makes creating all of your favourite recipes very simple.
However, before throwing out your regular flour, it’s a good idea to familiarise yourself with the characteristics of gluten free flour and a few tips and tricks for introducing it into your diet.
What is gluten free flour?
To understand what gluten free flour is, you first need to know what ingredients make-up regular flour. Flour contains a mix of grains, roots, beans, nuts, and seeds, all ground to a very fine powder. Typically, these grains contain gluten, which is a type of protein. Gluten can be thought of as the glue that keeps baked goods — from bread to pasta — together.
Unfortunately, not everyone is able to digest this protein. For some individuals, consuming gluten results in an immune reaction that sees the inner lining of the digestive system attack itself. The symptoms of this can be very painful and typically include bloating, constipation, and nausea.
Enter gluten free flour. This product contains all the essential ingredients of regular flour, aside from the gluten grains. Instead, substitute grains, including coconut, rice, buckwheat, and tempura, are typically included to provide more bulk and substance.
Gluten free flour can be used in much the same way as regular flour, with a few alterations here and there depending on the dish you are making.
There are a wide range of gluten free flours available. Some have a very similar consistency to regular flour and some differ quite radically in how dense they are. As a result, those cooking with certain gluten free products may need to make alterations to a recipe to achieve the same end result.
Here is a handy conversion guide to be used when cooking with popular gluten free alternatives:
1 cup of regular flour equates to:
● ½ cup rice flour
● 1 cup almond flour
● ¼ cup coconut flour
● ¾ cup corn flour
● 1 cup buckwheat flour
Gluten free baking
Aside from quantity, there are other considerations that you need to take when baking gluten free products.
As mentioned, gluten is the ingredient that gives baked goods their structure and density. Unfortunately, not all gluten free flour alternatives are able to play this role, meaning that baking with gluten free products can sometimes be a disappointing experience.
Fear not! There are simply ways to circumnavigate this problem. To start with, there are a few extra ingredients that you can add to any gluten free baked dish to ensure it has the appropriate structure. These ingredients are known as gluten substitutes and can be easily purchased at your local supermarket or health food store.
Popular gluten substitutes include xanthum gum, guar gum, and pre-gel starch. For each cup of gluten free flour, be sure to add one tablespoon of your gluten alternative.
It’s important, too, to keep in mind that certain gluten free flours may have a very distinct accompanying taste. Coconut flour, for example, can give your baked product a distinctly coconut-y taste. This is not a problem if you are a fan of coconut or the dish is quite heavily flavoured to begin with. For lighter meals, however, it may be worth doing your research and finding a substitute that matches the existing flavour palette.
Try this tasty dish!
Are you a fan of carrots? Are you a fan of cake? Put them together and you get gluten free carrot cake! Serves 12.
● ½ cup coconut oil
● 3 cups brown rice flour
● 1 ½ tsp salt
● 1 tsp baking powder
● 1 tsp cinnamon
● 1 tsp cardamom
● ½ tsp baking soda
● 5 eggs
● 1 ½ cups brown sugar
● 1 tsp vanilla extract
● 10 carrots: peeled and shredded
● ¾ cup unsweetened coconut
● ¾ cup walnuts
● 1 cup cream cheese
● ½ cup unsalted butter
● 1 cup icing sugar
● ⅓ cup Greek yoghurt
● 1 tsp vanilla extract
1. Preheat oven to 190℃
2. Grease a round cake tin with butter then line with parchment paper.
3. Add salt, baking powder, cardamom, cinnamon, baking soda, and brown rice flour to a bowl. Whisk well.
4. In a separate bowl, combine eggs and brown sugar. Using an electric mixer, beat for several minutes until it has a smooth, ribbon texture.
5. Beat in the vanilla.
6. In a separate bowl, combine carrots, coconut, walnuts, and oil.
7. Set the electric mixer speed to low. Divide the dry ingredients and carrot mixture into thirds. Add mixtures alternatively, beating well after each addition.
8. Pour mixture into tin and cook in the oven for approximately 35 minutes, until brown on top.
9. Meanwhile, combine the cream cheese and unsalted butter using an electric mixture.
10. Once smooth, add the icing sugar, Greek yoghurt, and vanilla extract.
11. Beat the entire mixture for approximately 4 minutes, until glossy and smooth.
12. Once the cake has cooled completely, coat with frosting — enjoy!