The Culinary Artist’s All Purpose Gluten Free Flour

by Donna Hann on 06/30/2012

 Flour Blend on Scale

After I realized that consuming gluten was the cause of my fibromyalgia, it became fairly obvious, at least intellectually, that I should remove it from my diet.  Of course I had untold cravings for crusty artisan bread (slathered in butter), thin crust pizza (bubbling with cheese),  everything bagels (schmeared with cream cheese), and brownies, and cookies, and pie, and cobbler, and …

Suffice it to say, as a chef, I spend my fair share of time in the kitchen, both at home and at work.  I love it.  It’s part of who I am.  Sure, we all have to eat dinner, but baking, that’s my thing.  I resolve internal conflicts measuring, find inner peace whisking, express my love sharing, feel happiness noshing and then do it all over again.

Before my dietary revolution, my kids would inquire nightly, “what’s for dessert?”.  It was expected that there would be something sweet and delicious (laden with gluten and dairy) awaiting us after dinner.  Having eliminated both gluten and dairy from our pantry, I had to find the ingredient that took wheat flour’s place in my cupboard and dairy in my fridge, so I wouldn’t miss a step.  Truth be told, I missed more than a few steps and it took more than a few ingredients to find the missing link.  But I’ve done the research (and continue to do so) so you won’t have any missteps in your home.

There are a few products on the super market shelves labeled as “gluten free all purpose flour” and even more online.  I tried many of them, but they just didn’t meet my expectations.  Yes, that’s right, my expectations are high.  Some have ingredients that I don’t care for in an all purpose flour blend.  One blend contains garbanzo bean flour.  Albeit healthy, in recipes like pancakes where you don’t want a particular flavor profile to come through (like chick peas) it is just a tad too beany for me.  Another new product on the market, C4C, created by Lena Kwak of Thomas Keller’s The French Laundry, has received praise for its workability, but contains milk, so it’s off limits for my family.  Although there are many more, one thing is certain, this is a burgeoning field with much room for experimentation and discoveries.  With so many gluten free grains, seeds, roots, beans, vegetables and nuts being milled into flour, the options for flour blends are literally endless.

So, always looking for a challenge in the kitchen, I set out to make my own blend.  A blend that I would have total control over.  I knew from researching gluten free baking, that I would need a combination of gluten free flours and starches to mimic the properties of wheat flour.  No single gluten free flour (except maybe almond or coconut in some instances) works very well alone.  I  also found that most commercial blends contain either xanthan gum or guar gum.  Used as a stabilizer, thickener, emulsifier, and/or a binder, it is an essential ingredient in gluten free baking.

In my online research years ago I came upon Karen Robertson’s blog, Cooking Gluten-Free.   In Karen’s book by the same name, she references a flour blend she uses which she credits to Wendy Wark, Living Healthy with Celiac Disease.  The “Wendy Wark Blend” was my inspiration and jumping off point.  Interestingly, since the publication of Karen’s book, Wendy Wark won’t take credit for the recipe as she found it somewhere herself.

You can purchase a facsimile of the Wendy Wark Gluten Free Flour Mix, called Multi-Blend Flour from Authentic Foods.  It’s a nice product to start with until you decide you are ready to mix up your own batch.

Authentic Foods Multi-Blend Flour includes cornstarch, which I opted to leave out of my own blend, as many folks have intolerances to corn.  I replaced it with more of some of the other starches it already included.  I have also included pectin in my recipe as pectin promotes moisture retention and acts as a binder.  If you’ve ever made your own jam or jelly, you know how pectin helps to gel the fruit.  Why wouldn’t the same properties be effective in binding ingredients in baking, much the same way that gluten would?

Although I included xanthan gum in the recipe here, I have since removed it from my flour blend, adding it instead, in correct proportions, to each recipe on the site.  I don’t believe there is a one size fits all when it comes to the amount of xanthan or guar gum necessary in a recipe.  Some recipes like cake or pizza dough require more gum than a cookie, for instance.  So, why not add exactly the amount of gum necessary to everything you make instead of there being too much for one recipe and not enough in another?  You’ll find the recipe without the xanthan gum in this post.

Use this flour blend as a 1:1 replacement for wheat flour in most recipes.

The Culinary Artist’s Gluten Free Flour
 
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. In a large bowl, dump all of the ingredients. Stir with a wire whisk until well incorporated. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

If you bake as often as I do, it’s handy to have flour by the bucketful, rather than just a few cups at a time.  Here you’ll find a quadrupled recipe for my gluten free flour blend in weight (grams).  Measuring ingredients by weight is more reliable than the dip and scoop method that many of us grew up with.  When you dip your measuring cup into the flour and then level it off with a butter knife, you can likely get up to an ounce or more per cup of flour by packing it in in this way.  If you don’t own a kitchen scale, I encourage you to purchase one.  It’s not the end of the world if you don’t.  It just means you won’t know if your measurements will be exactly the same as mine.  Here is another important reason why baking by weight is helpful.  Perhaps you are intolerant to nightshades and do not want to use potato starch in your mix.  You could substitute the same weight of another starch, like tapioca, or  sweet rice flour (a starch, really), or arrowroot starch with pretty good results.  This is the scale I use.  This one is also reliable.

The Culinary Artist’s Gluten Free Flour Blend - The Big Batch
 
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. In a large bowl, dump all of the ingredients. Stir with a wire whisk until well incorporated. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

 You’ll notice that I specified Authentic Foods brown and white rice flours.  This is critical to the success of my recipes.  Authentic Foods has the finest grind of any brown or white rice flour I have used to date.  I encourage you to do a side by side comparison of Authentic Foods rice flours and any other rice flour on the market.  If you start with a gritty flour, you’ll likely end up with a gritty product, a common complaint of so many gluten free foods.  It’s a simple equation really: invest in good ingredients and you’ll get a good product.  You’ll need my recipes, of course.  So follow along!

  • Cindy Rinna

    hey donna,
    great blog. i have celiac and am moving toward going milk-free as well. i have twins with autism and learning so much about what we eat has really changed things for us. i’m looking forward to seeing your recipes and reading more.

    • Cindy,
      Glad you are enjoying my blog and appreciate you dropping by to share a comment. We continue to be amazed at the healing power of foods (well, the right foods, anyway) and try to listen to our bodies as they tell us, sometimes subtly, what they need. I wish you the best with your twin darlings. Donna

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