When it comes to traditional baking, flour is an essential and it is no different really when using alternative ingredients. I like to keep it simple with the types of flour I use in my recipes, so I’ve included my three favourites here. When baking with gluten-free flours, there are a few things you need to be aware of, which is why I’ve added some tips and tricks that will hopefully be useful for you.
I’ve lost count of the times I’ve stated my love for oats, but I’m going to do it again! Oats and oat flour go hand-in-hand and often I use both in the same recipe, such as granola cups, porridge muffins and flapjacks. Oat flour is usually my go-to for pastry too, like the base for these tarts. As you might be able to tell, oat flour is super versatile and that’s because it doesn’t have a strong flavour like other gluten-free flours (if anything, it’s kind of sweet). Plus, you can make your own in no time at all. All it involves is blending oats in a food processor, and sieving them afterwards if you want a really fine flour. For convenience, I always keep a bag (or three) of Bob’s Red Mill flour in the cupboard.
There are lots of gluten-free alternatives out there, so it can be tricky to know which to choose. Buckwheat has to be one of my favourites, and I regularly use it when baking. Buckwheat is a heavy flour, which is great when you need a strong ingredient to hold the mixture together. For example, in this simple pancake batter. However, you have to be careful not to create a really dense texture. Another thing to remember about buckwheat flour is that it has a much nuttier flavour that can be quite noticeable when too much is used. So my tip for buckwheat would be not to go overboard with it and to add lots of flavour with spices or powders! If you’re looking for an alternative to buckwheat flour, brown rice flour is a good switch.
Ground almonds are a slightly different flour to the other two, as it’s nut-based rather than grain-based. This means it has a much coarser texture, which I think works really well in a lot of recipes. Making your own almond flour is just a matter of grinding blanched almonds in a food processor for a few minutes. This way, you can choose your desired consistency, textured or smooth, depending on what you’re baking. This often works out cheaper, too. When I make my own, I tend to use blanched almonds, as they make a slightly finer flour with no bits of leftover skin floating around.
Tips and Tricks
- In some recipes, powders can also acts as a flour. In these chocolate cupcakes for example, the cacao powder helps to bind and dry out the wet ingredients, as well as adding the rich, chocolatey flavour.
- The flours I’ve mentioned here are not self-raising. This is important to remember when cooking with gluten-free flour, as no one wants a disappointing, flat scone! Similarly, if you’re making muffins, loafs or cakes, be sure to fill the case up to the top if this is the size you’re after. However, these flours often create a much denser texture, meaning you won’t always need as much.
- Using a combination of different flours in one recipe is usually a good idea. Ground almonds and cacao powder always work well together, but ground almonds paired with oat flour, or buckwheat is really nice, too. As I mentioned, buckwheat has a stronger flavour so it’s usually worth combining it with another flour.
- When they first come out of the oven, recipes containing gluten-free flour and no eggs can seem underdone. This is completely normal, as they will continue to set as they cool. Just be careful that middle isn’t too wobbly! The good thing is that standard way of checking if something is baked can still be used – if a knife comes out clean when inserted into the cake, it’s done!