GF Flour, The Weighty Chart & Win a Scale

If you still are on the fence about weighing your GF flours, take a look at Allison’s (Eat Love Drink) post about these AP flours.  Just the difference alone between whole wheat and white flours is astounding and as she says, can certainly explain the trouble with equal interchanging when baking.  Thank you Allison – that was a great post.

From there I began to think more about GF flours.  In the Canteen blog I’ve mentioned that I have over 17 flours and starches hanging around the kitchen.  I often combine many of them (as you know from the recipes) depending upon whether the baked item is more savory, bread-like or sweet.  I like that kind of baking freedom.

I knew from experience that the flours were all different from one another, not just in taste or feel, but in weight.  And the trick to successful baking and reliable results (I am convinced) has more to do with total dry weight and the balance to the fats and liquids (hello, ratio) than anything else.  It is chemistry.

I was one of those kids who skipped out on Chemistry in high school by taking art classes, so it boggles my brain when I think about it that way – and had I known back then what I know now, I would have taken the course with pleasure.

It is not how many cups a recipe calls for that is the answer, but how much weight (flour) it calls for that matters.  Dry weight measuring in baking gives you absolute freedom to tailor a recipe to be able to use any of the flours that make you happy.

In Alice Medrich’s new cookie book, the recipes are all written out using weights as well as cup volumes.  Her Snickerdoodle recipe calls for 13.5 ounces of AP flour or 3 cups.  It is not a GF recipe – I was converting it.  Using 13.5 ounces of  GF flours, I got a volume measure of 3.5 cups.  If I’d relied on just replacing 3 cups of AP flour with 3 cups of GF flour, my cookies would be very goopy and I’d end up tossing the mess.  I really appreciate when bakers, like Alice, publish recipes using weights.

Many of you ask about substituting different GF flours in a recipe for a variety of reasons.  Often the question is asked about how to replace the flour, cup to cup.  And that actually is the wrong question and anyone giving you an answer is just guessing.  You can sub in any flour you like as long as the total dry weight is the same in the end.  You cannot say the same for cup to cup substitutions as you can see from the chart below and the example above.


To get the results for the chart I did a couple of things to keep it pretty controlled (since it is an experiment of sorts).  I used the same volume one-cup measure for everything.  I used the same method for dipping and the same method for spooning for every single starch and flour.  I’ve also identify the source of the flour.  And all of the flours are stored in Cambro containers so there isn’t much variability in that regard.

The chart indicates the results in both grams and ounces for each type of measure (dipped or spooned).  Dipped, of course, is using the cup measure to dig in the container and scoop out the flour.  Spooned is more like gently plopping the flour into the cup measure, spoon by spoon until it is just full – the light touch.

By the time I was done, the kitchen, the dogs (who thought I was baking) and my clothes were covered in flour dust.  Starches and potato flour are like dust storms.   But as you can see, they are not at all created equal.

I heartily recommend that you invest in that scale so you are:

  • accurately measuring in the dry weight
  • don’t waste money on tossing out stuff that didn’t work (flour is expensive)
  • can have the freedom to use whatever flours you want

To that end, the GF Canteen is giving away another scale – this time the Oxo with the pull out display.  In the comments section below mention why you want a scale and which flours you mostly use in GF baking.  A big bonus to the person who dishes about their baking wreck created by using those cup measures.

Once again, try to amuse Cap’t Awesome – it really is easy.  He gets to pick the winner and he won’t review the comments until the end.  You have until May 14, 2011 to add your comment to win the scale.

And while you are at it, stop by the Gluten Free Canteen Facebook page.  You can comment there as well.

ONE VOLUME CUP

DIPPED SPOONED
Almond Flour (Bob’s Red Mill) 114 grams and 4 ounces 93 grams and 3 1/4 ounces
Coconut Flour (Bob’s Red Mill) 135 grams and 4 3/4 ounces 106 grams and 4  1/4 ounces
Corn Starch, GF (Bob’s Red Mill) 139 grams and 4 7/8 ounces 123 grams and 4 1/4 ounces
Millet flour (Bob’s Red Mill) 140 grams and 5 ounces 133 grams and 4 3/4 ounces
Oat flour, GF (Bob’s Red Mill) 120 grams and 4 1/4 ounces 98 grams and 3 1/2 ounces
Peanut Flour (Southern Grace Farms) 132 grams and 4 5/8 ounces 105 grams and 3 3/4 ounces
Potato Flour (Bob’s Red Mill) 199 grams and 7 ounces 176 grams and 6 1/4 ounces
Potato starch (Bob’s Red Mill) 168 grams and 5 7/8 ounces 153 grams and 5 3/8 ounces
Sorghum flour (Bob’s Red Mill) 135 grams and 4 3/4 ounces 115 grams and 4 1/8 ounces
Superfine brown rice flour (Authentic Brand) 143 grams and 5 ounces 125 grams and 4 3/8 ounces
Superfine white rice flour (Authentic Brand) 171 grams and 6 ounces 138 grams and 4 7/8 ounces
Sweet Rice flour (Authentic Brand) 163 grams and 5 3/4 ounces 140 grams and 4 7/8 ounces
Tapioca Starch (Bob’s Red Mill) 136 grams and 4 3/4 ounces 123 grams and 4 1/4 ounces
Teff Flour (Bob’s Red Mill) 167 grams and 6 ounces 150 grams and 5 1/4 ounces

Comments

  1. I’m not writing to ask for the scale since I got one for my birthday, but to encourage those of you who don’t have one to enter! It is so much easier than filling all those measuring cups and your baked goods will be consistent every time!

  2. Whoa! Glad you liked my post…and even more glad took it a big step further. Great info!

  3. I haven’t had any huge GF baking disasters but that could be due to the fact I’ve been rather chicken about attempting it. Mostly I’ve been using packages. I used to bake a lot.

    • Gluten Free Canteen says:

      Sounds like you miss it. You’ll get there – if you baked a lot before you’ll get back to it. Really.

  4. I’d love a scale so my gluten free dinner rolls would stop looking like UFO’s.

  5. Anita Johnson says:

    It’s funny I was just thinking yesterday that weighing would make more sense when converting recipes, regular all purpose white flour is heavier then the GF mixes I’ve been using the last few months. I never had baking failures with wheat flour(well maybe one or 2…) but since I was diagnosed with Celiac disease failures happen more frequently. Too wet is usually the problem. I made biscuits about a month ago that would make good hockey pucks. I’d love a scale to assist when baking.

    • Gluten Free Canteen says:

      sounds so familiar. been there! got the scale and way fewer baking wrecks (although I still have my share – they are even have their own category in the blog…

  6. jeanelane says:

    I, too, don’t need a scale. I am not a baker, much. But I already have one strike against me – I live (and bake) at high altitude. If I can make gf baking easier by weighing, then that is the way I will go. It will be easier to tweak recipies for altitude if the weights are always the same.

    My big question is: When using a recipe that calls for cups and not weights, how do I convert to weight? Should I spoon into a cup and then weigh that? I ask because there is a gf bread recipe that I think is fantastic. But when I bake it, it turns out only about 1.5 inches high as it deflates. I have tried adjusting but got so frustrated. I think I need to try again, but maybe by weight and really manipulate the yeast and liquid. I am not an adventurous cook! I want to just giterdone so I can eat!

    • Gluten Free Canteen says:

      Interesting question. GF bread is a challenge at any altitude, let alone way up high (I’m envious!). A couple of things that might help. First, yes, weights is the way to go when converting. Ruhlman’s Ratio is useful for dry measures for breads, but won’t much help for your altitude issue.

      The common range for an AP flour volume cup is about 5-7 oz in weight. The way to try it (tinkering again) is to estimate the weight they might be using based on the amount of volume (cups) required for the recipe. So, for example, – if I was converting a cookie recipe and it called for 3 cups of flour, I would say I probably needed to start with about 15-21 ounces of GF flours (total). From there, I’d adjust after figuring out if the result was too dry or too goopy.

      But then again, you have to adjust for altitude baking.

      The other thing is that bread requires a ton of foaming agents (yeast, proteins, etc) to get it to rise. GF flours are not yeast friendly like regular flour. You’ve probably noticed that there are holes in the dough as it rises – you want as few of those as possible. Try adding dry egg whites, or egg white in the liquids, along with dry milk powder. And lots of starch. Hope that helps.

  7. This is incredibly helpful. Half the time when I sub GF flours I think it’s just the blend I chose, but more often it is probably the measurements. I have been pining for a scale…now is the time!

  8. mamamegf says:

    This is great – thanks for taking the time to do this! I’m passing it on to my readers! :)

  9. In the time that my wife has been GF, I’ve attempted to cook many things for her such that they at least resemble the regular gluten flour versions. Cookies, especially, are most difficult. More often than not, I end up with chocolate chip spots among “cookie” that’s as thin as the parchment paper I tried to use to keep it from sticking.

    • Gluten Free Canteen says:

      Sounds like you had some great baking wrecks (I have an entire section devoted to my own baking wrecks which I manage to make on a regular basis). No worries though – all a part of the process of learning to bake GF. You might find some of the Canteen cookie recipes useful.

      Not sure why the cookies spread so much – too much butter? What was the dough like? I promise to post a good choc chip recipe soon.

  10. I’m trying very hard to be clever.
    But when I succeed may be never!
    My biscuits are crumbly & my breads never rise…
    Maybe a scale could make my baked goods taste better?

    Well– probably good that I’ve never claimed “amusing” as a particular skill of mine. In all seriousness–I am in desperate need of a scale. Since I have to alter every single GF recipe because I have so many restrictions (including no xanthan or guar gum), attempting any gf baking is at best a lesson in persevering after failure. Well, that and a lesson at keeping my cat from tracking flour-y paw prints all over the house!

    • Gluten Free Canteen says:

      great poem! we don’t tolerate gums either – so I get that. if you get a chance take a look at the biscuit post and this coming Wednesday GF Ratio Rally post (scones). There is a great trick to binding the GF flours without gums. And my dogs track flour all over, too.

      • I love the very concept of the GF Ratio Rally & your biscuits look particularly tasty too. Sadly my list of restrictions includes eggs. And dairy. And everyone’s “egg-less” fav: ener-g egg replacer. And about 87 other things. Alas!

        But I’ll happily add your super-secret to my running list for the day when (hopefully) I can start adding at least a few things back in my diet!

      • Gluten Free Canteen says:

        I wish I could think of way to do them eggless and dairy free – if anyone knows, leave a comment! Thanks, Amber!

  11. A scale!
    I would LOVE a scale. A real baking scale. I have one now, but it’s not digital. It’s actually one of the sketchiest scales ever. Plus, it only goes up by units of 5. I switched to baking by weights a few months ago when it became popular on the internet. It’s been FANTASTIC in theory, but in reality it requires a lot of math. “If the bowl I use to measure out the flour is aboooout 25 ounces and then I need 176 ounces of brown rice flour, then the needle need to hit 201? Okay good… well the needle is just a tiny bit past the 200 ounces mark… that’s about right, I think! I hope…”
    It’s working for the time being what with my skill level and such, but I’m saving up or holding out for my birthday (or a fabulous give away!) to really get down to business.
    Oh baking wrecks. Like The Gluten Free Life said above, I, too have had my share of big flat cookies. I’ve found that refrigerating the dough for a few hours before baking does absolute wonders (especially since I cook without gums). I think it was Julia Child who once said that anytime something doesn’t come out perfect, she just calls it rustic. My mom told me about that one when I once tried to make oatmeal craisin cookies and they came out flat and I sat down in the kitchen and cried. She just scraped them off the pan and made crumble top with the crumbs. (Full disclosure: it wasn’t absolutely delicious, but it also wasn’t a waste!)

  12. I don’t have any food restrictions, but my boss and one co-worker are both gluten sensitive. I have been playing with recipes and try to suprise them once a month with a GF goodie. I currently have a GF sourdough starter bubbling away and am going to attempt English muffins first (I think will be easier than LOAF bread) and se where I get. A scale would be great! I measure my horses’ feed & supplements, why shouldn’t I measure my other friends????

    • Gluten Free Canteen says:

      Your boss and coworker are lucky to have you! Btw, if you look in the index there is a GF Eng muffin recipe. Not sourdough tho. Love to know how those come out – they sound yummy!

  13. I have a teeny, tiny scale that I got at Walmart for like $10, which is decidedly not electronic. :) I would love to have one. Recently I have been enamored of my bags of teff, brown rice and potato starch. Though I am a huge fan of coconut and sorghum as well.

    As for disasters, I am thinking of going back and re-doing this recipe now that I know about ratios. I can’t believe how green I was even just 6 months ago. sigh.
    http://bellwookie.blogspot.com/2010/09/sos-kitchen-challenge-apples.html

  14. Meredith says:

    My mom has always said that weighing makes a difference. Now I believe it!

  15. Bethany says:

    I would love to win the scale! Mine just died. Ok, actually, it didn’t die. It was killed–it got left on top of the toaster oven and it melted! I absolutely adore your oatmeal cookie recipe and have made it twice. I want to make the English muffins too, but want to wait until I have a scale. :) Thanks for the post above–very helpful.

  16. Hi Lisa! What a lovely blog–I just discovered it (I posted a GF challah recipe on my own blog the other day, and then got curious about other recipes and went a’Googling).

    I find this post fascinating–I’ve been baking GF for over a decade now. I often substitute flour cup for cup when converting recipes, and I’ve always had very, very good results that way. But when I’m converting a recipe, I use one of two flour mixes as my all-purposes mixes: either Bette Hagman’s Featherlight Rice Flour Mix, or my own variation on it, which simply substitutes sorghum flour for the rice. Now you have me really curious–Hagman does specify that her mix can be used cup for cup when converting (most) recipes, and now I’m wondering if it’s because it weighs the same amount as all-purpose wheat flour–she doesn’t actually say that, but I bet it does! And I bet that my own sorghum variation on it is pretty darn close to the same weight, if not exactly the same. And yes, if this is true, then it does offer way more freedom in flour selection.

    I’m curious if it’s *only* weight that matters? In other words, if I wanted to use, say, only sorghum flour in a recipe, I can’t imagine I would get stunning results from just the single flour, whether or not the weight is identical to all-purpose flour. I would think for optimal texture, etc. it would still be necessary to balance the flour with some amount of starch, no? And if that’s the case, then how do you balance the ratio of whole grain flours to pure starches (not to mention the balance of particular starches with different qualities–i.e., tapioca vs. potato starch)?

    Huh. Having typed all that out, I’m really hoping it made sense. :-) Anyway, thanks again for such good information and lovely recipes. And l’shanah tovah!

    • GlutenFreeCanteen says:

      Hi Amy – love your question(s). There are people out there far smarter than I am about this stuff – but I can answer your questions with what I know. The very short answer is this: GF flours should be blended to get a great baked good. How they are blended can vary. Weighing flours (AP or any other kind) is the best way to achieve repeatable results from one baker to the next because volumes introduces degrees of variability which can make the result inconsistent.

      I am familiar with the Featherlight (I get my superfine brown and white rice from Authentic). I used to use the classic blend and then featherlight. But then I began experimenting with combining GF grains/flours and starches for each kind of baking thingy (that would be a technical term…) like cookies v. pastry v. bread v. bars v. crusts. And yes, grains need to be combined along with some starch (which varies) to get the best result. And certain grains/GF flours work best for some things and not others. And yes – absolutely – weight is only one thing that matters. The type of grain matters, too, how much of it as well as the texture of the grain (not all brown rice flour, for example, is created equally – some are very fine while others are coarse and sandy in texture). Weighing the flours to achieve a total flour weight for any given recipe allows you the freedom to use whatever you want – but if you review our recipes we always use a combination and never one single flour.

      On weighing:
      - even AP flour weights vary from batch to batch or day to day. Milling makes a difference in weight. Shipping processes make a difference. Humidity and storage make a difference. And then GF flours – same only different. All the AP issues also apply to GF flours.
      - GF flours all have different qualities and will always change the result of the baked item. A bean flour will not have the same outcome in, say a cookie, as will a more neutral flour like brown rice. Coconut flour sucks up moisture so it will dry out a baked good – sweet white rice will make a baked good soft while white rice flour will give it snap.
      - While many GF and regular AP flour makers will say their blends can be used cup for cup (think marketing) weighing is the only method to achieve the same exact result time after time – and we are about the only country left that uses volume measures. To make a recipe usable in most of the rest of the world, weight measurements (in grams preferably) are the way to go.
      - starches are almost always necessary for a GF baking mix, but over time you’ll find that they can be a very small part of the mix rather than a larger part (and starches are all different weights as well). Most GF people need to have a variety of starches available to them because they may not tolerate one or another. Lots of people have trouble with corn or potato, so they need to be able to know how much to use for tapioca or arrowroot, for example, and a volume measure will never be the same since they are all different. A weight will always be the same.
      - I also bake by ratios a lot of the time (see Ratio by Michael Ruhlman) and weights are important because the ratios are weights.
      - And I really like Alice’s post about baking by weight -she says it way more eloquently than I do, so if you have a minute go read her post here http://alicemedrich.blogspot.com/2010/09/weighty-matters.html

      Hope that helps answer your questions!

  17. I am trying to learn to cook gluten free as my wife has Celtic and it has really changed what we can eat. I have used a couple of different baking mixes and the work well for some recipes but I am finding I desire more flexibility and from my reading better accuracy in my selections. I have never baked by weight and it seems so intimidating but you make is sound so easy that I would like to try and give my wife more variety in her diet. Thanks so much for your informative help.

  18. Virginia Ellen Perkins says:

    I am a newcomer to gluten free. I am also an orthodox Jew. Therefore I must meet kosher requirements. I used to bake for my family. Now I am trying to convert some of those recipes to what I can have. When invited to people’s homes I remind them that I am now gluten free. I find it helps if I can contribute something that everyone can enjoy also.
    A scale would be invaluable.

  19. nice post! i find baking so much easier now that i weigh ingredients. i’d be lost without my digital scale

  20. Rose Delloye says:

    A scale would be awesome…but even without getting the scale I am going to have to try these cookie’s, I am so starved for good GF cookies…..I have been reading your blog posts and am getting geared up to try some of the recipes…..can’t wait

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