Okay let’s start with the total basics. What is gluten?
Gluten is a protein in the seed of some grains. When it comes into contact with water it swells up and makes your dough elastic in the process of baking. So the higher the amount of gluten in a flour the better the baking features. The most commonly used grain in baked goods is wheat but also spelt, rye and other grains contain gluten. I myself bake everything glutenfree. That means that I do not use grains like wheat, spelt and rye but I mix naturally glutenfree grains into a flur mixture. A lot of industrial glutenfree flour mixes contain glutenfree wheat starch and other additives.
As far as the flavor is concerned you will get a pretty similar result to normal wheat but I find those mixtures critical because they are low in nutrients and very processed and unnatural. Furthermore I feel like it can be a lot of fun to learn about all the different grain types that are naturally glutenfree and experiment with the different textures and flavors of those flours and starches. So your nutrition will be more diverse and interesting when you start your journey through the exploration of glutenfree possibilities.
SO WHAT CAN I USE?
RICE: There are so many different types of rice from long-grain rice o medium grain and basmati and every one of them can be wholemeal or not. Rice flour has a very neutral taste and can be used universally in many many recipes. I use long-grain brownrice and mill it myself so I can adjust how fine I need the flour to be. For me the rule is the finer the better because who likes chunks of rice in their cake? In general you first have to decide between white and brown rice because that choice has an influence on the starch ratio you can add since white rice has a naturally higher starch amount.
MILLET: Millet also comes in a variety of grain sizes and colors. I love golden millet because it adds a nice colour to your baked goods and has a nice slightly nutty and sweet taste.
TEFF: Teff is a dark kind of millet that has a stronger nut flavor and therefore has to be combined with other grains in a flour mix. I like the flavor of teff especially in combination with cocoa because the two flavors amplify each other even more.
BUCKWHEAT: Buckwheat is a wonderful naturally glutenfree grain that is regional in Austria. It technically isn’t even a grain but a fruit and has a very significant taste. Therefore I either use it as a standalone flour to experience the full taste or in very small portions in a mix to not overshadow other flavors of your cake.
OAT: Oat is naturally glutenfree but often is contaminated because it either grows near to glutencontaining grains or is processed in the same mills. There is certified glutenfree oat on the market though and oats make for a wonderful flour that in combination with starch gives you a similar taste to wholemeal wheat. Since not all people that are sensible to gluten can digest oat very well I use it only in some recipes but I sure love the taste.
CHICKPEAS: Every beans can be milled into a flour but the best results are achieved with chickpeas. Beanflour always has a very specific taste but because of the high amount of protein beans contain they make your cake rise like crazy!
CHESTNUTS: grund chestnuts make a nice and nutty flour and bind your cake. The result is a very dense cake so I like to use it with moderation or in salty stuff like bread.
NUTS: every nut can be milled and used as part of your glutenfree flour mix. Ground nuts add nutrients to your mix and also give texture and moisture. You have to be careful thogh and moderate the oil you put in your cake batter because nuts have a naturally high oil content and you don’t want your cake to get too dense and heavy.
POTATOE STARCH: potatoe starch can soak up a lot of moisture and can be used universally i´throughout your recipes.
CORN STARCH: corn starch gives your cakes a nice and soft texture and makes for a nice crust.
TAPIOCA STARCH: Tapioca is a starch that is made out of the manioc root. It gives your baked goods a very nice crunchy crust and binds very well. In Austria you can find it in asian supermarkets. Since it is not a regional product for us though I don’t use it very often but try to make everything with corn and/or potatoe starch.
XANTHAN: Xanthan is a polysaccharide that acts a very strong binding agent.
CAROB GUM: Also a polysaccharide that is a product of the seed of the carob tree. It is a binding and gelling agent.
GUAR GUM: guar gum is produced fromthe seed of the guar bean and can also be used as a binding as well as a gelling agent.
AND HOW DO I MIX MY OWN FLOUR?
So now that we know a variety of grains that we can use in our flour mix it is time to experiment. There are some ground rules though that make experiments easier:
Always use a binding agent: Choose one of the biding agents above and start trying it out by adding about 1 teaspoon to 300g of flourmix. I like to use xanthan gum because I find it to produce the nicest airpockets and it accumulates liquids nicely so your cakes stay moist.
Don’t use more than 40% of starch: Starch makes your cakes soft and fluffy but only up to a certain point. Every glutenfree grain already contains starch so you should not add more than 40% of starch to your entire mix. For me a ratio of 2 parts grain and 1 part starch works pretty well.
Combine different grains: Start experimenting with the different grains and flavours to see what you like. Every cake has another mixture that suits it best. Sometimes you want nutty flovours, sometimes just neutral flour. So it’s really up to you to find your preferred glutenfree grainmix.
A possible mixture is:
100g brown rice flour
100g millet flour
50g potatoe starch
50g corn starch
1 teaspoon xanthan gum
Or with nuts:
70g buckwheat flour
80g millet flour
50g ground hazelnuts/almonds
50g corn starch
50g potatoe starch
1 teaspoon xanthan gum
A FEW MORE SUGGESTIONS:
Get comfortable with your dough: glutenfree dough behaves differently than what you were used to so far. It’s a little stickier and more liquid most of the time but I can assure you with every experiment you will get a better understanding for how it is supposed to look and feel to get the result you desire.
Pre-heat properly: let your oven pre-heat until it really has reached the goal temperature before you put your cake in. That way you will get a more reliable result in most cases.
Don’t open the oven: glutenfree and vegan baking counts on different chemical processes that happen inside the oven to get airpockets and fluffy cake so it’s best if you leave the oven closed for the entire baking time. that way you can be sure not to disturb the processes and your cake doesn’t run the risk of rising and then falling all the way down again when you take it out of the oven.
High quality ingredients: use high quality ingredients for your baked goods. That way your cake won’t taste like a ball of sugar but will be a flavor explosion that makes people smile. Also you bake for yourself or friends so do something good for your body, you deserve it!
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