Flour Power

The usual suspects for the GF Canteen flour mix.

Does the subject of gluten-free flour make your head spin? Does trying to find one that has decent texture and flavor seem as crazy as finding the perfect bathing suit?  Do you have more than one mix on your shelf in search of “the one” that replaces the flour of pre-gluten-free days? Do you feel frustrated every time you get to the check-out and realize you might have to take out a mortgage just to buy gluten-free flour? 

You aren’t alone.

When the Canteen kitchen first began baking gluten-free it was literally the dark ages. One little bag of pricey craptastic rice flour was available at the Whole Paycheck store and it was quite similar in texture to kitty litter.  It was a single flour, white rice, and ground in a fashion similar to what my food processor can handle. I didn’t know any better and tried to bake with it and most stuff dissolved into sand dunes after one bite. Never mind that the texture was awful and the flavor was like eating kitty litter baked into a cookie.

But since there was no turning back, it became like a treasure hunt to find decent products. I bought every book on gluten-free I could find in real bookstores (baby Amazon was not yet useful). All three were by the same author and I owe Betty Hagman a debt of gratitude for getting us started. However, the flour blends were not what I was looking for.

My very early recipes are a work of comedy. Lots of notes with unmentionable words scribbled into the margins – crossed out flours, and exclamation points that don’t mean yay (think code for more swear words).  It was humbling and depressing.

But then along came Anna Roberts and her article in Gourmet (2005) about baking gluten-free. She introduced us to Authentic Foods flours and for that alone, I will always be in her debt. Superfine flours were unlike anything I’d ever met. They were silky smooth with zero grit and had a quality that was not dissimilar to regular AP flour. At first I made her mix from scratch and then Authentic packaged it (Classical Blend ) which is still available today.

But over time and testing I came to the conclusion that Occam’s Razor principle of economy has a purpose in baking. Think simple. Make it simple. No need to be a chemist or crazy mad scientist. It’s flour. It should make a baked good taste just like we want or it isn’t worthy of being used. It isn’t ok if it tastes good for gluten-free or if it’s meh-ok. It has to be plain old delicious. And that it happens to be gluten-free is secondary.

Here’s my two-cent philosophy about gluten-free flours. If you primarily eat baked goods or foods that contain flour, then you’d best boost your vitamins and mineral intake by eating as many whole grain flours as possible. But if you are like most of us and eat cake, cookies, pies, muffins, and bread once in a while then use the best, and the simplest flour mix possible. The mix that makes your baked goods taste like a really good treat and evokes great food memories is what everyone deserves.

The flours that make up the Canteen Mix.

In the Canteen kitchen we’ve developed a simple mix that can be replicated with whatever brands of flours you can locate or that you like. Though our preference is Authentic Foods Superfine flours, it isn’t something you must have in order to make our recipes. But our flour mix is what you should use for the best results for lots of recipes, including all of ours.

Why?

Because other mixes that contain too many extraneous ingredients will always (really) change the chemistry of the recipe and the result will be something different from what you see in our photos. Sometimes it works out just fine and other times not so much. I’ve had readers write and ask why a recipe (ours or others) didn’t work and when we explore it in detail it is usually an issue with a commercial flour mix.

Rant Alert – Truth time. Blunt alert. Those gluten-free AP commercial flour mixes that are sold in the grocery and online and advertise that they work for everything are fibbing big time. Gluten-free AP flours are not good for every purpose.  Some work better as a general mix for bread or muffins while some others do well with pastry or pie crust. But not one of them suffices for all-purpose anything. In addition, they all have too much starch, too many additives, and way too much crappy gritty flour, sourced who-knows-where.

There’s no need for additives in your flour. Bread might benefit from a wee bit of xanthan-gum (and not always) but pancakes or cookies, even cakes do not. Also, no one needs to eat a baked good that’s primarily starch. And who decided that we should enjoy all that corn starch or potato starch? Some of us have sensitivities to corn (GMO corn in particular) and potatoes are a night-shade vegetable that are well known to aggravate arthritic conditions.

And my personal pet peeve is anyone sticking bean flours in a mix and saying it’s an AP flour you can use to make say, a chocolate chip cookies or a dainty tea cookie. I always love having a side of humus or baked bean with my tea cookie. No. Thank you.

Keep it simple. Eat baked goods in moderation. Make sure your gluten-free daily diet includes a well-rounded course of foods that give you all the nutrition required for healthy bones blah blah blah. Rant over.

Flour Power! Ready? It’s easy.

Mixing the Canteen Flours.

The Canteen Flour mix, measured by weight –  is 2 parts Authentic Foods superfine Brown Rice Flour to 1 part each, Authentic Superfine White Rice Flour and Tapioca Flour (starch).

Flour Mixing Made Easy: Stuff

  • A reliable and inexpensive kitchen scale – weigh your ingredients so you save money and never add too much or too little.
  • A really big metal bowl and balloon whisk – both keep the flour from flying all over and blends it more thoroughly than mixing with a spoon (and aerates it somewhat).
  • To make the Canteen mix you’ll need one 3-pound bag of Superfine Brown Rice Flour, one 3-pound bag Superfine White Rice Flour and one 2.5-pound bag Tapioca Flour – buy superfine and you’ll find your baked goods are never gritty though you can use any brand of brown, white or tapioca flour to make the mix.
  • A large storage container like a 6-quart Cambro with a scoop of some kind – I use a Tupperware Scoops but even an old measuring cup will work.

Canteen Flour Mix in a Cambro Container.

Making the Canteen Super Simple Flour Mix

  • Place that big bowl on your kitchen scale (you really want one). Pour the whole bag of brown rice flour into the bowl. It should read in the range of 1360 grams (about 10 1/2 cups).
  • Add 680 grams of superfine white rice flour to the bowl. That’s about 5 1/4 cups.
  • Add 680 grams Tapioca Flour (starch) to the bowl. That’s about 5 1/4 cups.
  • Use that big whisk and thoroughly blend the flours together. Place the flour in an airtight container (about 6 quarts).
  • Makes almost 21 cups of flour – enough for plenty of goodies and remember, we measure 130 grams/per cup.

This is also the flour mix that we used for every recipe in our book, Nosh on This (Published by The Experiment, September 2013). Make up the mix now and you’ll be ready to bake as soon as the book is released.

 

 

Comments

  1. Stephanie says:

    So then do you use this mix on a 1:1 ratio to convert recipes to GF?

    • GlutenFreeCanteen says:

      Hi Stephanie – great question. The answer is sometimes, but rarely. I start out close to a 1:1, but I often take apart the recipe to examine the baking ratio and then work it back up from there. Converting a recipe to GF might mean starting with the slightly less flour (preferably measured by weight) but the end result will be based on the liquids, eggs and fats used in the recipe. It’ll be in the range, but probably never exactly a 1:1. I might begin with slightly less GF flour – about 80-90% of the original and then work from there. If it’s a recipe that makes dough (like cookies, pastry etc.) I would also probably let the dough rest in the refrigerator for quite some time, maybe even overnight – so that all the liquids get absorbed, which can make a difference in the texture and flavor. Hope that helps.

  2. Love, love, love this. I’ve been baking gluten free for about ten years now and I’ve been trying to tell people the same thing about “Gluten Free all-purpose flour blends.” So glad to see this post! I love this site and I love how much detail and thought goes into each recipe. Thank you.

    • GlutenFreeCanteen says:

      Thank you, Beth. Really nice to hear that and to know that others feel the same way.

  3. ok, so my daughter is on super strict remineralizing diet and can have tapioca and white rice flour but NOT brown rice flour (cant have ANY whole grains either).

    Can i sub in the white rice flour for 2 to 1 ratio and get the same results?
    Thanks for the help!

    • GlutenFreeCanteen says:

      No, sorry. White rice has different properties than brown and without brown rice flour, the recipes will come out differently and probably not in a good way. If she can’t have any whole grains then you might want to try something paleo? Just a thought. There is a school of thought out there that you can swap out flours for any other by weight and everything will be fine, but it’s a myth. Each flour has a different weight per volume cup and different attributes with regard to absorption of liquids and fats and while weight is weight – it will still make the recipe come out differently, and often, not in a good way. Best bet is to find a recipe that includes just the flours you can use – or even some flourless recipes – there are some nut butter and chocolate cookie recipes that are flour free, as well as many macaroons. Hope that helps.

  4. Laurie Smith says:

    WhaT can I Use instead of tapioca flour? I have an intolerance to it?

    • GlutenFreeCanteen says:

      Hi, Laurie. I have not tested recipes using any other starch so keep that in mind. Corn or potato starch would be the first choices as subs in that order- same amount. Not arrowroot – it will behave differently. Hope that helps.