Maybe you've gone gluten-free for health reasons, or you're wondering if you'd feel better if you ate less gluten. Whatever the reason, many people are trying to avoid or cut down on gluten — a protein composite found in wheat, barley and rye.
Gluten-free living can be a challenge, but baking and cooking your favorite foods from scratch can make it easier to avoid gluten. Plus, homemade gluten-free breads, cookies and other baked goods are much cheaper — and tastier — than store-bought versions.
Gluten-free baking may seem complicated at first, since gluten-free flours have different tastes and textures. For the best results, it's a good idea to mix three or four gluten-free flours together to substitute for basic all-purpose flour. Feel free to experiment with a variety of combinations to find the flavor and consistency you like best.
A glossary of gluten-free flours
You might be surprised to learn how many different types of flour there are besides wheat. You can find many of these gluten-free flours in supermarkets. If these products aren't available at your local grocery store, look for them online or at a health foods store.
- Amaranth flour has a nutty, slightly sweet, toasted flavor. Try it in baked goods that are dark in color, such as brownies or spiced treats.
- Arrowroot flour is a good substitute for cornstarch. It can be used for breading for fish or meats, as a thickener for fruit sauces, or blended with other gluten-free flours to make baked goods.
- Bean flour is made from various ground, dried beans — such as navy, pinto, black, cranberry, fava, chickpea (garbanzo), soy and white beans. Bean flours pair well with sorghum flour in recipes with intense flavors, such as gingerbread and chocolate cake.
- Corn flour, which is milled from ground corn kernels, has a light texture and gives baked goods a slightly nutty flavor. It's not as coarse as cornmeal.
- Mesquite flour has a slightly sweet, chocolate, molasses-like flavor. Use it in pancakes, breads, muffins, cookies and cakes.
- Millet flour has a slightly sweet, corn-like, nutty flavor. It's best used as approximately one-fourth of a flour blend.
- Nut flours are made from ground almonds, chestnuts or hazelnuts. These flours add a rich texture and nutty flavor to baked goods.
- Potato flour has a heavy texture and definite potato flavor. Use it as a thickener for soups, gravies and sauces. Small amounts can be used in baked goods to add moistness, but avoid using it as the main flour. Potato flour is not the same as potato starch, and the two can't be interchanged.
- Potato starch is a very fine powder, similar to cornstarch. It has no potato flavor, so it works well in most recipes and lends a light, fluffy texture to baked goods. It is also a great thickener for gravies, sauces and puddings.
- Quinoa flour has a slightly nutty but strong flavor. Limit it to one-fourth of your blend. Try it in highly spiced or flavored foods.
- Rice flour (brown) is made from whole-grain brown rice and adds a nutty flavor to baked goods. Combine it with other flours and starches — otherwise, it tends to be gritty, crumbly and dry.
- Rice flour (sweet) is made from sticky short-grain white rice that has more starch than white rice or brown rice. It's an excellent thickening agent for sauces, gravies and puddings.
- Rice flour (white) is made from ground white rice. This flour has a bland flavor and is best when combined with other gluten-free flours.
- Sorghum flour is made from ground sorghum (milo). It has an earthy flavor and works well with bean flours.
- Soy flour is made from whole soybeans. It has a strong flavor and is best when mixed with other flours and in foods containing nuts, chocolate or spices.
- Tapioca flour can make up about one-fourth to one-half of your flour blend. It can create a chewy texture in breads. Use it to thicken soups, gravies, stir-fries and sauces, and as a breading for a crispy coating.
- Teff flour, made from a grass native to Ethiopia, is a nutty, molasses-like brown flour. It can make up one-fourth to one-half of a flour blend and is especially good for dark baked breads, muffins, cookies and cakes. Some teff flour is combined with wheat flour, so buy only 100 percent teff flour.