Baking wheat-free: grind your own grains

The web is full of gluten-free posts, but for many of us it isn’t the gluten but some other aspect of wheat (and I’m researching this to post later) that cause our problems. For me it isn’t celiac or digestive discomforts that result from eating flour products but a facial rash.  I’ll see the reaction within 24 hours, and it takes days to clear up. But it’s hard to live without wheat when one travels, or dines in restaurants or in people’s homes. The one place I can control it is in my own kitchen. In recent years there are many ready-made products, grains and recipes to help support my desire for baked goods without wheat. But my goal is to convert as many favorites treats as possible to wheat free options.

Varco Inc grinder

Varco Inc grinder

The number one tool I’ve found to improve my flour options is a small appliance: a hand-held coffee grinder, dedicated to flours only. I bought my Varco grinder 25 years ago (for under $10; a little Krups grinder retails today for $20) for spices and it’s still running fine. Now I use it mostly for grinding grains. But you do need to have a dedicated grinder – don’t use the same one for grains and coffee.

Still, there are many acceptable commercial flour blends available, and far more recipes for blending your own GF-AP flour combinations. While you can’t hope to fully replace wheat flours with their predictable gluten levels (consider how difficult it is to find decent GF bread), you can make many wonderful baked goods with a wheat free blend of your own.

 Some commercial blends

  • Bob’s Red Mill GF flour: potatoes, sorghum, tapioca, garbanzo and fava beans.
  • Namaste GF AP flour: Sweet brown rice flour, tapioca flour, arrowroot flour, sorghum flour and xanthan gum.
  • King Arthur GF blend: white rice and whole-grain (brown) rice flours, tapioca starch, and potato starch.

As you can see from their ingredient lists, the nutritional content in these flours is pretty low. You can make your own blends, or just supplement the purchased AP blend by adding your own freshly ground grains. But it’s important to use a blend – each grain/starch provides an important element to creating structure in your baked goods.

 Non-Wheat Grains for Flours

You can also buy many other grains to blend, both whole and already ground. I prefer to buy organic (by USDA definition these should be non-GMO as well, but there’s no guarantee). The most available and useful gluten-free flours for wheat free baking include:

 Whole Grain Flours

Brown Rice Flour
Buckwheat Flour
Corn Flour
Millet Flour
Oat (Oatmeal) Flour
Quinoa Flour
Sorghum Flour

Faro flour
Teff Flour

White Flours/Starches

Arrowroot Flour
Potato Flour
Potato Starch
Sweet Rice Flour
Tapioca Flour
White Rice Flour

Nut Flours (many nuts can be ground to flour but these are the easiest to use)

Almond Flour

Chestnut Flour

Coconut Flour

Hazelnut Flour

Bean Flours

Lentil Flour

fava bean flour
garbanzo bean flour
soybean flour

Consider whether any of these cause you other reactions – especially soy and beans.

Make your own

Plan to play with the blends a little. Try adding one cup of your own ground whole grain to a blend. Cooks Illustrated has a recipe similar to the commercial brands:

Another recipe has xanthan built in

 A couple tips:

Buy some xanthan gum – you need a little bit in any recipe where gluten is really necessary.

Make sure you sift your ground flours together. You can regrind larger particles of millet, quinoa or nuts to minimize waste.

When grinding nuts – as they get finer they release oils that can quickly become paste (or nut butter). To prevent this, you can add a couple tablespoons of sugar (when appropriate) or a few tablespoons of flour. And be careful not to over grind.

Coconut flour absorbs more moisture, so plan to add an extra tablespoon or two of liquid or butter. You have to experiment.

So what do you have in your pantry right now?


About barbaraprice

Artist, Food writer, book editor, gardener
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