Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Homemade Baking Mixes wheat-free and gluten-free

Combinations of a few or several flours/starches tend to work most satisfactorally when baking gluten-free. Yet baking with, say, five different flour products to replace wheat flour can be a bit more time-consuming and space-consuming. It used to be that every time I wanted to bake something, I'd go to the freezer where I keep gluten-free things, and often have to grab half a dozen different bags. Sometimes I would leave them all on the counter to bring them to room temperature before baking, which looks messy and takes up space on the countertop. When it came time to bake, I would need to measure out amounts from each bag. Sometimes it's more simple than that. Sometimes I only use brown rice flour and oat flour, and then a little xanthan gum, and maybe some tapioca starch. But that's about as simple as it goes for my baking. Until I implemented an idea from a book I read- why not measure out my flour mixtures in large amounts, and bag them up into gallon-size freezer bags?

I have a few different flour combinations that I readily use. I'll provide them on this post. It works well to bag up flour mixtures ahead of time in large quantities- then when it comes to bake, you only have one bag to remove from the freezer! You can also go about using baking mixtures in a different way- when you make a particular recipe, measure out dry ingredients for the recipe in one bowl, and then triple or quadruple the amount of flour /starches/ xanthan gum/baking powder called for in the recipe- all dry ingredients(except yeast, if using), and place in a large ziploc bag, label and date with the particular recipe title. This mix then is more than just a gluten-free flour mix; it's a complete mix of all the dry ingredients that belong to a particular recipe. If you prefer, you can measure the amounts of the dry ingredients for the recipe in individual quart-sized bags, so you have just the measurement of one single-batch in each bag.

Please note that the mixtures I provide do not contain xanthan gum. Back to the flour combinations that I recommend, in all of these ratios, I do not include xanthan gum in the mix. I usually add xanthan gum to the recipe when I bake, but want to allow flexibility for whether or not I add it and how much. Xanthan gum helps tremendously in preventing crumbling in gluten-free goods. Here are some common guidelines for using xanthan gum:

● Add ½ teaspoon xanthan or guar gum per cup of flour blend to make cakes, cookies, bars,
muffins and other quick breads.
● Add 1 teaspoon per cup of flour blend to make yeast bread, pizza dough or other baked
items that call for yeast.

Now for the combinations I presently use. I am still experimenting between different combinations, so there are quite a few here. The amounts given are large; you may want to make a smaller proportion of a mixture first, and try it out in a recipe. Depends how much you bake and how much space you have. Gluten-free flours keep longer and retain nutrients better in the fridge or freezer. I can keep two or three large mixes in my freezer at a time. If you're going to be baking gluten-free, egg-free, dairy-free, it may pay off to have an extra freezer- it's sure been nice for our family. I can bake large batches and have allergy-free food convenient and nutritious. I can have several bags of gluten-free flours in the freezer. I buy fresh produce at really good sale prices and stock my freezer with blanced vegetables(broccoli and cauliflower), with diced/sliced fruit, and with vegetable and fruit purees, which can be used to replace egg or milk in baking, fruit purees to use on top of waffles(peach, pear, plum...) instead of syrup, and to add nutrition to stews(squash, sweet potato, broccoli).

Cheapest nutritious blend for me and yet satisfactory in drop cookies, quick breads, muffins:

50% Brown rice and 50% oat flour, + 2 T. tapioca starch or cornstarch per 2 cups flour.*

This I do not bother to mix ahead of time; I do have oat flour and rice flour ground at home ahead of time, and stored in gallon-size bags or containers in the freezer.

*Note: You can omit the starch if you don't mind a little more dense product than a regular wheat white flour recipe. The starch in theory is meant to lighten the product and hold it together. Without starch, the brown rice and oat product is about the density, I'd say, as a wholesome whole-wheat product, probably not quite as dense, really. Rice flour and oat flour complement each other very well; rice flour by itself tends to yield a dry and gritty product; oat flour alone produces a gummy, heavy product. Together the properties off-set each other for a good product. This mixture is the cheapest I can make because I buy brown rice and oats in bulk and then grind them at home! Talk about cheap compared to buying specialty bags in the store! I just bought brown rice at under .50/lb and oats at .30/lb! For those who need gluten-free oats, you can order them bulk to save money from the small package price. Bob's Mill, last I checked, had 25 lbs for about $2 a pound.

The mix I currently use the most, for muffins, quick breads, and drop cookies:

33% Brown rice flour; 33% oat flour, and 33% bean/starch mixture(1/3 of that is bean, 2/3 is starch)*
ie: 3 cups brown rice flour + 3 cups oat flour + 1 cup GarFava or Garbanzo + 1 cup potato starch + 1 cup cornstarch or tapioca starch
*bean/starch mixture I often go with 1/2 of that bean, 1/2 of that starch-
ie: 1 1/2 c. lentil flour and 1 1/2 c. cornstarch for 3 c. brown rice and 3 c. oat flour

notes: I have tried this mixture for banana bread, waffles, and muffins. It yields an excellent texture and a great balance of flavor. It is more tender and a lighter-weight product than if you were to just use oat and rice flour. I do notice that without xanthan gum, the tender crumb is messy to eat, and there is a bit of starchiness in the product. I use xanthan gum when I have it available(as I presently do with all my flour combinations). I do think with how well rice and oat flour complement each other, you could decrease the amounts of bean flour and starch by half. This would yield not as light of a product; so this could be a matter of preference.
Oat and wheat free/ gluten free:

50% Brown Rice flour ; 25% millet flour; 25% starch combination(lately half of this is cornstarch and half is potato starch; but tapioca starch + potato starch is another very good option)
ie: 4 cups brown rice+ 2 cups millet + 1 cup cornstarch+ 1 cup potato starch(not potato flour)
Notes: have tried drop cookies(zucchini) and muffins- excellent texture for both, and good flavor. I did notice a slight bitter taste which was remedied by putting just a little drizzle of molasses in the recipe. Could also try using brown sugar for half the sugar called for.

4 1/2 c. brown rice flour + 1 1/2 cup bean flour + 1 cup millet flour + 1 cup cornstarch or tapioca starch + 1 cup potato starch
notes: have tried in zucchini bread; great taste and great texture. Crisp, slightly springy crust and moist inside.

50% brown rice flour; 25% bean flour(ie GarFava or Garbanzo); 25% starch combination
notes: This I actually haven't experimented with- but in theory should work well-although I wonder if you may want less bean flour- in books it says up to 25% flour can be bean.

From the Living Without magazine, a couple mixes I've experimented with just a bit:
Find this magazine online at

All-Purpose Flour Blend
1/2 cup rice flour
1/4 cup tapioca starch/flour
1/4 cup cornstarch or potato starch

notes: I 've hardly used this mix because 1) nutrition is not nearly as good as what I use and not as wholesome as I prefer 2) this is more expensive for me then some of the other mixes. Where I might use this is for a nice white, yellow, or lemon cake. Something I want to be lightweight and delicate. Of course, use to your preference. This is meant to be interchange for white wheat-flour in any recipe.

Nutrition analysis as provided by Living Without magazine, based on data by the U.S. department of Agriculture and food companies:each cup: 436 calories, 1g total fat, 0g saturated fat, 0g trans fat, 0mg cholesterol, 99g carbohydrate, 3mg sodium, 2g fiber, 5g protein

High-Fiber Flour Blend

1 cup brown rice flour or sorghum flour
1/2 cup teff flour (preferably light)
1/2 cup millet flour or Montina® flour
2⁄3 cup tapioca starch/flour
1⁄3 cup cornstarch or potato starch

Notes: now this has potential for me. I did try it for my zucchini-oat cookies, and was disappointed that the flavor was a little too strong, a little bitter. But then it's recommended to use light teff flour, and mine was regular or dark. I'm interested in experimenting more with this flour combination. I did notice that some molasses in the recipe(ie 1 tsp or less) helped cut the bitter flavor. I think adding cinnamon might help, too. Living Without magazine does note that this mixture is not for delicate-tasting products. It is intended for breads, pancakes, snack bars, drop cookies that use warm spices, raisins, or chocolate.
Nutrition analysis as provided by living without, based on data by the U.S. department of Agriculture and food companies:
Each cup : 426 calories, 2g total fat, 0gsaturated fat, 0g trans fat, 0mg cholesterol, 94gcarbohydrate, 9mg sodium, 6g fiber, 7g protein

High-Protein Flour Blend

1 1/4 cups bean flour (your choice), chickpea flour(garbanzo) or soy flour
1 cup arrowroot starch, cornstarch or potato starch
1 cup tapioca starch/flour
1 cup white or brown rice flour

Notes: I actually haven't experimented with this blend at this point. But I include it it here because of it's good protein content, and because living without states that it works well for products that require elasticity, such as wraps and pie crusts. This combination reminds me of another I have used a bit:
Nutrition analysis as provided by living without, based on data by the U.S. department of Agriculture and food companies:
Each cup : 88 calories, 3g total fat, 0g saturated fat, 0g trans fat, 0mg cholesterol, 128g carbohydrate, 24mg sodium, 6g fiber, 11g protein

Bette Hagman has an all-purpose gluten-free flour blend that compares to Living Without's, but would have a little more nutrition and be cheaper(provided that your rice flour is cheaper than the starch you buy):
2 cups white rice flour + 2/3 cup potato starch + 1/3 cup tapioca starch.
I would use brown rice flour instead of white, to boost nutrition, unless you're making something you want to be as fluffy/lightweight as possible(like yellow or white cake). Brown rice has flavor than white rice, has a slight nutty taste. So for any baked good other than a lightweight cake, i'd prefer the all-purpose mix to use brown rice flour.
For more gluten-free baking mixes, search your local library or online for books by Bette Hagman or Carol Fenster. Bette Hagman has a book "Gluten-Free Gourmet Bakes Bread," in which she utilizes sorghum and bean flours, really boosting nutrition from the traditional all-purpose gluten-free mixes. My favorite gluten-free yeast bread recipe so far comes from this book. I think it's called "Four Flour Bean Bread." I haven't made any yeast breads for probably a year or more. Have tried maybe three or four total. But this bean flour bread I'd give a check or check plus.
Carol Fenster is a gluten-free baking expert and also has books for baking without any of the eight major food allergens.


Anonymous said...

Your blog is awesome! Thanks for letting me know about it, I'm definitely going to be trying some of these recipes! ☺

homebaker said...

I'm glad it helps, Megan!