Baking Tips for Gluten-Free Flours
Gluten contributes important qualities such as structure and rise to baked and cooked foods, so simply replacing white or wheat flour cup for cup with a gluten-free alternative is not recommended. To avoid frustration, “start with recipes designed for gluten-free cooking until you get the feel for how they work,” says Marlisa Brown, RD, author of Gluten-Free, Hassle Free (Demos Health, 2009). When you become familiar with gluten-free flours’ characteristics, take the next step and experiment with a store-bought gluten-free flour blend, such as Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free All Purpose Baking Flour. You can also make your own blend by following Brown’s simple recipe: Combine 1/2 cup brown-rice flour with 1 1/2 cups sorghum flour, 1 1/2 cups potato starch or cornstarch, 1 cup tapioca flour, and 1/2 cup high-protein flour, like quinoa, hempseed, or almond. Use the blends, cup for cup, in any recipe that calls for traditional flour.
How to Buy and Store Specialty Flours
1. Buy in bulk bags to limit cross-contamination with gluten flours. Visit busy natural foods stores where there’s plenty of foot traffic to ensure frequent product turnover.
2. To preserve freshness, don’t mix newly purchased flour with old flour. The average shelf life for unrefrigerated flour is six months.
3. Store flour you can’t use immediately in a tightly sealed container in your refrigerator or freezer, where it can keep for one year. Refrigeration is especially important for flours made from ground whole grains, nuts, or seeds–they have a greater tendency to go rancid because their oils and proteins aren’t stripped away by processing. For everyday access, store small amounts of flour in mason-style jars in a cool, dark place.
4. Placing a bay leaf in flour canisters will help protect against infestation from pantry insects such as weevils. (The bay leaf will not affect flour’s flavor.)
5. When using flour that has been refrigerated or frozen, be sure to bring it back to room temperature before measuring. Cold flour can thwart rising, resulting in a heavier, denser baked item.