Gluten free flours: a basic beginner’s guide

Forget what you know about conventional baking. Okay, don’t forget it all because, yes, it is still a fairly methodical process and yes, you still need to put things in the oven and keep an eye on them, but when it comes to gluten free baking, consider a new perspective. In your mind, do a quick arm sweep of your kitchen counter, watch your recipe books, eggs and flour fall to the floor with a puffy white clatter and let’s start afresh.

Basic guide to gluten free baking

Don’t expect the same results

Gluten is the broader term for the proteins found in wheat flours, giving bread its stretchiness and cake its crumb. When you remove the glue that gluten contributes from the baking equation, the balance shifts. Gluten free bread often doesn’t have the same chewiness as wheat flour bread – the loaf is more likely to have less rise and a heavier consistency. In the same vein, gluten free cake generally has a denser texture than wheat flour cakes.

A bunch of flours for you

Fear not, there are some really great gluten free flours available that give beautiful flavour and texture to baked goods and can be blended together for more complex, tasty results. Be prepared to experiment, that’s how we learn what works and what doesn’t.

  • Gluten free flour blends are usually developed with similar functional properties to wheat flour to ensure easy substituting in most recipes. These mixes are made up of a variety of flours (like tapioca, rice, chickpea and potato) as well as a binding agent such as xanthan gum.
  • Coconut flour has a delicious, nutty flavour and is perfect when paired with coconut oil and eggs as it is naturally quite dry. If you are replacing wheat flour in a recipe, you’ll need to use a lot less and you may also need to add extra eggs, oil or yoghurt to restore the moisture balance.
  • Chickpea flour can be swapped out with wheat flour at a slightly lower ratio but will have a different consistency. It has a nutty bean-like flavour, so it’s well suited to savoury recipes but can also be blended with sweeter flours like coconut flour to make sweet treats.

GFFs (gluten free flours) forever

There isn’t a one-size-fits-all substitution ratio for converting standard recipes. To simply switch things out one for one will most likely leave you with rock hard results, a hefty dentist’s bill and baker’s rage (it’s a real thing).

Although there is no set guideline, the general rule is this: use less flour and make sure there is enough moisture in the mix. Take the leap and trust your instincts, you could be on the road to gluten free baking success soon.

When it comes to tweaking baking recipes into gluten free alternatives, what are your best tips for substituting wheat flours and how do you maintain the moisture balance?