Gluten Free Flour: One Cook’s Experience

rhubarb strawberry slab pie 2See that little gem up there? That’s hope for all the frustrated cooks who want to prepare gluten free meals, bake gluten free goods, and who don’t want it to be difficult. A gluten free high five to you for the determination to pursue it. Let’s work through the challenge.

When I first learned I (have) to be gluten free, I became like a cranky, hungry three year old. It happened every time we went out to eat:  scan the menu – tummy grumbling-attitude deteriorating – until someone took mercy  and  ordered for me.Thankyou.

I began to plan. Take a baggie of gf crackers to parties, gf bread to my sister’s house for sandwiches… tedious, but a good idea.

A disclaimer before you read further. I am not an expert. I haven’t tried every brand out there. I haven’t measured out all those mixes of different flours. What I know is that it shouldn’t be so difficult to make affordable, delicious products that everyone can enjoy. Even food snobs. And children.  Yep, nothing worse than watching a twenty-something-year-old-child spit a gluten free cookie in disgust! They didn’t actually do it, but it was obvious they wanted to with my first attempts.

If you have another flour you think is incredible, please share.  I’ve heard Cup4Cup is fabulous, but it isn’t readily available and it is quite expensive.

Lesson 1: Cooking gluten free should be affordable 

Perhaps you’ve come across recipes using concoctions of multiple flours. Like 1 cup sorghum, 2 cups millet, 1/2 cup potato starch (not potato flour-what’s the dif?), 1/4 tsp xanthan gum ( that stuff is $$$)….it’s expensive to have to keep so many different kinds of flour on hand. Different flours can result in more specific results, but you want to be able to use gluten free flour interchangably with regular wheat flour. You shouldn’t need to stock all that variety, nor spend all that money. While regular flour is something like .90/lb, gluten free flours seem to start at $4/lb., which means you have to have $$$  or be very choosy about what you make.  Different flours are great, and fun to learn about.  For example, sorghum flour sweetens and adds moisture. It is super added to cookie and cake recipes. But that’s for later.  Oh, and garbanzo bean flour tastes like….garbanzo beans. It’s true. If you want your pie shell to taste better filled with hummus, have at it. For me, I wanted my pie dough to taste, work and feel like the same pie dough my sister makes. My sister, who gets rave reviews for her pie crusts. I still have half a dozen gluten free  flours in my freezer, but I don’t need them. They are for experimential purposes, Mwahhh.angel food cake slice w sauce

Lesson 2: GF flour should work correctly in recipes

Not all gluten free flours are easy to work with.  I remember getting all excited about ******flour, and ordering 10lbs of it, $2.98/lb., which was quite a savings.  Brought it home and made some shortbread cookies. They were gorgeous!! 🙂 So I wrapped them up individually, and took them to my buddies who’d be thankful for a gf cookie, and watched as they opened them up and they crumbled into dust in their hands. 😦 They licked those cookies off their hands in grateful appreciation. The cookies were kind of gritty, too. You know, that feel that reminds you of sand?  It’s a popular flour, and because I’m making nice here I won’t tell you what brand. I’ll never buy it again. By the way, because I was a deer in headlights, I used that flour for nearly two years.  You see, most people come to the conclusion that there isn’t a good gluten free flour. Admittedly it was so frustrating that sometimes I wouldn’t disclose that it was gf when asked. Dear victims, I apologize.

irish soda bread buttered

Lesson 3: It isn’t rocket science, unless you’re baking yeast bread.

If it’s reasonably priced and of a proper texture, there is no reason why you can’t bread the chicken in it, thicken the soup, make the roux for Mac N Cheese, even make perfect angel food cake. There should be no reason to have wheat flour on your shelf at all, unless you know you’re going to knock out dozens of cookies for someone who doesn’t care. You don’t need a gluten free cookbook either. I found that to be a waste of money. Again, if the flour is good you can use it freely to replace wheat flour.  With one exception: yeast breads. You have to enter a whole new world of chemistry to make real breads. There are poundcake like breads anyone can figure out, but not the real deal. I can’t even discuss it, my failure has been so abysmal. But advice to the reader here: let no bread failure be wasted. Seriously. Bad loaves of bread can be make into great crumbs for breading, crabcakes, meatloaf filler. Bad loaves also make great doorstops. They can also be thrown, with great success, at bears raiding your birdfeeder.

My recommendations:

Domata Living Flour: Domata is the workhorse in my kitchen. Nice enough flavor, texture, behaviour and price. The only thing I’m not excited about is that I don’t think it has enough flavor. But hey! That beats tasting like hummus or an ear of corn. Or birdseed (don’t ask). Because it isn’t readily available locally, a group of us order it in bulk. The cost of flour is so high because it weighs a lot. When we order 250lbs of it, they send it on a truck in 25lb bags to a local pick-up area. One person pays for the whole thing, and we all pay that person. Once it arrives, we all go and pick it up. 25lbs sounds like a lot of flour, but it can freeze and sometimes people share a bag. The cost ends up being just a little more than wheat flour when we do it this way. Since I like to bake and enjoy company, 25lbs lasts me about a year. Domata will also, at request, use non-gmo corn. You do have to request that and the whole order must be done that way. This one I know is good because there’s a growing following of serious cooks who want to order it with our group. Once they’ve tasted what it produces, they’re sold.

Jules Gluten Free Flour. Jules is a genious. She’s done the world a great service to create a flour that is superior in many ways to others. Her flour is what I use for special occasions, because it does cost a lot more. When baking with Jules, pastries are flakier, cakes and cookies lighter and more tender. Her flour also has a little more flavor.  You can probably find Jules locally, but if you do have to order it online the price doesn’t change. And sometimes she has a special offer. Nice!bechamel sauce add gluten free flour

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