Gluten-free flour alternatives were created to avoid digestive health issues so that people don’t have to give up on the foods they love.
Gluten formation is critical to the volume, texture, and appearance of a product. Removing gluten from a recipe can present interesting taste and texture challenges, however, there are various gluten-free flours on the market today!
Many gluten-free products are a combination of various flours along with a stabilizer (starches or gums) to achieve similar textures to wheat flour in baked products. People who have life-threatening gluten diseases, allergies or sensitivities still want the option to enjoy pastries, pasta, and other baked goods, however, they still expect alternatives to taste equally as delicious.
Gluten-Free Flour Alternatives:
The Gluten-Free Flour Formula
Beth Hilson, founder, and CEO of The Gluten-free Pantry provides valuable design insight on how to formulate gluten-free flours:
- Use a blend of two to three gluten-free flours and starches (at least 30% starch like corn, potato or tapioca)
- The protein and elasticity of gluten can be replaced with gums like xanthan, guar or locust bean gum (typically 1 teaspoon per cup for pastries, and 3 teaspoons per cup for bread flour)
- The addition of eggs can provide increased protein in the mixture
- To produce more moisture in the product, a small amount of high protein flour like amaranth, soy or other bean flours can be used
(Source: On Baking: A Textbook of Culinary Fundamentals)
If you’re creating your own flour blend, it may take multiple test batches to get the results. If you want to take out the guesswork and rely on the professionals, there are some great gluten-free flour blends available.
I really wanted to experiment with Cup 4 Cup, a new flour blend designed by Chef Lena Kwak and Chef Thomas Keller of the famous The French Laundry in Yountville, CA. The Cup 4 Cup flour blend is a combination of all-natural gluten-free ingredients; Cornstarch, white rice flour, brown rice flour, milk powder, tapioca flour, potato starch, xanthan gum. I purchased a bag at Whole Foods Market, however, Williams-Sonoma also carries it.
Gluten-Free Flour vs. Wheat Flour Test
When testing the differences between wheat flour and gluten-free flour performance, I wanted to select a simple protein-based matrix, so I could easily compare the main sensory differences (if there were any) in a baked good. I decided to use a shortcake recipe I found on the Cup 4 Cup website to test; a basic biscuit quick bread dough, made with flour, baking powder, butter, sugar, eggs, and cream. This would give me a simple crumb structure that I could easily compare.
When deciding if a recipe preparation and baking methods are correct, in culinary school I was taught by Chef Sandy Kim to cut open the item and look at the internal crumb structure; it tells the final story of how the baker performed up until baking affected the final product. What I found after replacing the wheat flour with equal amounts of the gluten-free flour was a pleasant surprise.
The texture of the gluten-free shortcake was more delicate and lacked grittiness, whereas I could detect a courser texture from the wheat flour shortcakes. The gluten-free shortcake also gave a more vibrant golden brown color and had a much smoother surface. I preferred the flavor of the wheat flour cakes, however overall the gluten-free cake had a better visual appearance and finer texture. Be your own judge and try my strawberry shortcake recipe for yourself.