DeAnna asked last week if I have found a good gluten-free flour for baking. Hmmm…yes and no.
Disclaimer: I’m not a big baker and never have been. Cooking is my preferred activity, and it seems that almost every time I try baking, I swear it off. My baking projects turn out fine. That’s not the problem. I just don’t get the same pleasure and joy out of baking. This means that I am not a great authority on the subject of baking, gluten-free or otherwise.
But since I do have some experience, and since I was asked, I’ll share my opinion anyway.
Standard GF Flours
I think that most gluten-free baking flours are extremely poor nutritional choices. The typical blends include such nutritional nightmares as tapioca starch, potato starch, corn starch, and rice flours (mostly white). These substances contain virtually no fiber and hit your blood sugar in a heart beat. And this is beforeyou add the sugar. Even if you’re not diabetic or hypoglycemic, blood sugar spikes like this can cause problems. Maintaining stable blood sugar is vital for good long-term health. Furthermore, these flours simply can’t compete with the fiber, protein, and mineral content of whole, freshly ground wheat, spelt, or kamut (all of which contain gluten). On a day-to-day basis, then, I don’t think these kinds of gluten-free flours are very good choices at all.
But since we do have special occasions from time to time, it’s nice to have a white flour-mimicking option available. I really like Pamela’s all-purpose mix (the brownie mix is fabulous too, by the way).
(Photo from Amazon.com)
I’ve only used it a few times, but I am very impressed with the taste and texture. For my husband’s birthday in November, I plan to use it for this to-die-for chocolate cake. A friend from church has found great success with this flour blend in muffin recipes. In place of sugar, she uses a special stevia product made by NuNaturals that contains lots of fiber to drop the glycemic index a bit (this stevia also measures one to one with sugar, which is pretty nifty). She shared a blueberry muffin made this way with me one Sunday, and it was great!
Alternative Whole Grain GF Flours
Fortunately, more nutritious gluten-free baking options do exist. Whole millet flour and whole quinoa flourcome immediately to mind. Kimi, The Nourishing Gourmet, has experimented with millet flour to make wholesome gluten-free biscuits and a root vegetable cobbler. I tried the cobbler with chicken and some extra seasoning several months ago, and J and I both enjoyed it. The millet biscuit topping is quite good! Quinoa flour has a more distinctive taste than millet, so some may find it objectionable. For my part, I really liked it in this quinoa applesauce cake. If you would like to experiment with either of these flours, you can grind the whole grains yourself, or you can buy them pre-ground at health food stores or online (here and here).
Buckwheat and amaranth flours are also gluten-free and nutritious, but I have not experimented with them myself. It’s my understanding that they do best when combined with other flours.
Alternative Non-Grain GF “Flours”
This is where my interest lies these days. After realizing that my body does not tolerate any grain well, regardless of preparation or combination (with the possible exception of corn), I have decided to give up all grains as a regular part of my diet for a while. Now what?
I have just begun experimenting with coconut flour, since it is extremely high in fiber, low glycemic, and contains healthy medium chain fatty acids. A friend gave me the inside scoop about a sale on the stuff at Wilderness Family Naturals, so I bought about 10 pounds of it. With all those bags of white powder lying around, my husband joked that we looked like drug lords.
So I closed the blinds.
Thus far, I have used the flour to add fiber to my smoothies, to bind together shredded zucchini for zucchini fritters, and, as of last night, to bake brownies. I used the recipe from The Truth about Beauty. The texture is great, so I will definitely continue moving this direction. Unfortunately, the sweetener I decided to try at the same time, erythritol, is not my cup of tea. If I find coconut flour brownie success in the future, I’ll post the recipe here. (As a side note, I’m now storing the bags away from prying eyes in my freezer.)
Almond flour and other nut flours are also good possibilities. I recently stumbled upon the gluten-free, grain-free blog, Elana’s Pantry, that’s chock-full of recipes based on almond flour. I am intrigued.
A friend from church (the one with the stevia-sweetened muffins) has also recommended www.pecanbread.com, a Specific Carbohydrate Diet website, for nut-based baking recipes.
Although the high protein and low sugar/starch content of the nut flours make them attractive and probably the best option for me, nut allergies and the necessity of using lots of eggs can render them impractical for many people. (When I say lots of eggs, I mean 6 eggs for a tray of brownies.)
I hope this answers your question, DeAnna! For the rest of you, what are you using for nutritious gluten-free baking? Did I miss something?