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sandsurfgirl

Why So Many Flours?

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I'm new to this, just 10 days into the diet. I haven't started baking yet but when I'm looking at recipes I'm confused as to why there are so many flours in recipes.

I have made wheat free pancakes just using brown rice flour, etc. Is there a reason why so many flours? I'm feeling overwhelmed about baking.

Also does everything have to have xanthan gum in it? It kind of weirds me out.

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I'm new to this, just 10 days into the diet. I haven't started baking yet but when I'm looking at recipes I'm confused as to why there are so many flours in recipes.

I have made wheat free pancakes just using brown rice flour, etc. Is there a reason why so many flours? I'm feeling overwhelmed about baking.

Also does everything have to have xanthan gum in it? It kind of weirds me out.

You will find as you start baking that gluten free flours and doughs have a completely different texture and consistency than gluten flours. It is possible to bake an item with just one flour, but the flours tend to work best in combination, using at least one of the starches (tapioca, potato, corn, arrowroot), either brown or white rice flour, and one or more of the heavier grains for added nutrition and texture (the starches being mostly empty calories). The nutrition comes from flours like buckwheat, sorghum, amaranth, millet, garbanzo bean, etc.) Each cookbook author has his/her own favourite combination(s), flours that they have worked with often, that they like the taste of (many alternative flours have a strong taste to some) and they understand the way they behave.

But by themselves the gluten free flours tend to be crumbly because they don't have the elasticity of the gluten to hold them together. That is why we use xanthan gum, and the less expensive guar gum which some find objectionable in flavour. It takes the place of the gluten in helping to hold the baked goods together. Eggs also act as a binder, and apple sauce and flaxseed meal is sometimes used in place of eggs. I have finally completed my inventory of flours because I can't use any of the premixed flours here (they all contain potato starch) and it seemed like every time I found a recipe without potato starch it called for something I didn't have. I have substituted a bit but wasn't always happy with the result. Some bakers on the forum seem to substitute freely without too much of a problem, but you need to substitute a starch for a starch, a heavier flour for another heavier flour, etc., if you want it to turn out well.

RiceGuy sometime ago did a primer on the various flours which you can find here: http://www.celiac.com/gluten-free/index.php?showtopic=57120&st=0&p=525021&fromsearch=1&#entry525021

This should tell you practically everything you want to know about gluten free flours :D

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Here is the best overview I've seen of gluten-free flours:

http://glutenfreegirl.blogspot.com/2007/10/guide-to-working-with-gluten-free.html

Many people just choose to use a prepackaged gluten free mix, so that you don't have to work with various flours/xanthan gum (and yes, you generally need it or guar gum). Pamela's, Bob's Red Mill, Jules Nearly Normal, Better Batter, gluten-free Pantry, etc are just some of the many premixed flour combos that people seem to like. Makes life a lot easier and then you can use them "one for one" in recipes.

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With different types of flours, the more kinds you use in one recipe for gluten free bread, the better it tastes. (and if you are going to try a pre made gluten free flour mix, I would recommend Pamela's to start off with, so you can see what I mean. )

Also, the more likely you will be able to get use out of the proteins in it, as combining different types of grains or other seeds or plants gives you a better balance of the different amino acids. This is why vegetarians combine rice and lentils, or beans and corn tortillas, and horse owners will combine corn with oats or alfalfa.

What you can do, if and when you experiment and find a gluten-free flour combination that you like, is to take a same sized bag of each separate kind, such as you get from Bob's Red Mill, and just dump them all into a heavy duty zip lock bag, shake and mix it up, write the contents/date on the label, and keep it in the refrigerator. Then it's there. This is the easiest way to deal with this. You can make up more than one bag if you want.

When I bake, if I'm tinkering, I take a big glass measuring cup and just add in layers of what I want until I have the total amount I need, instead of measuring everything exactly. I keep a blender ready to grind nutmeals because I use a lot of almonds.

You don't HAVE to use xanthan gum for everything, depending on what else you use. For small gluten-free breads, done in cast iron skillets, I don't bother, but this is because I use almond and amaranth, both which tend to be stickier, and the egg is enough. Amaranth is very interesting, high protein, sticky, and mold resistant. Some people use flax meal or boiled chia seed, gelatin, or there's guar gum that can be used to give stickiness. There is this stuff called Chebe bread which is South American in origin, and that's tapioca, egg, and cheese, and the tapioca can be very rubbery. I think a little apple cider vinegar makes gluten-free dough behave a little better. But xanthan gum is easy, after all, you have to always add a bit of salt, too, and baking powder or soda, this is just one more thing, and a bag lasts a very long time because you only need a very small amount.

You do need something because otherwise it crumbles.

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Amaranth is very interesting, high protein, sticky, and mold resistant.

Huh? I stopped buying amaranth because it would spoil before I could use it up. Each time, it smelled of mold too. Perhaps it's due to the humid climate. I find it doesn't last more than about a month, so the next time I do buy it, I'll keep most of it in the freezer. I also found it took relatively little to make the bread gummy/soggy. But I can accept that the sogginess might have been due to the overall recipe. My recipes weren't as well refined at that time as they are now. However, it does have a nice aroma (when it's fresh).

Maybe next time I'll buy the whole grain, and grind it as needed.

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Re Riceguy and your experience with amaranth:

That's interesting. I don't leave ANYTHING out. Unopened packages get stored in the refrigerator, as do open ones. If the gluten free grain/seed/nuts is one that is susceptible to bugs, after we bring it home it gets plunked into the freezer first to kill anything, then it either stays there or gets transfered to the storage refrigerator. (we have a small refrigerator we keep in the unheated garage, we bought a few years back when our newer, large regular one died and we couldn't get a repair person for over a week- UGH. We ended up keeping it to store gluten free flours and extra fruit/vegetables in.)

I try not to ever dip into bags, but to pour out the amount I need, then seal it back up.

Once I bake something, as soon as it's cooled, it goes into the ziplock and into the refrigerator if it's not eaten right away.

We live in this climate of extremes, for about 6 months of the year, it's bone dry, for about 2, normal, and for the other 4 months, extremely humid.

I had noticed than when I baked with it (and I don't use that much in each batch, it would be about half freshly ground almond meal and half a blend of amaranth, sorghum, and something else) that the resulting item didn't mold in the refrigerator, even after a week. I jokingly call the stuff Elven Waybread because it would dry out a bit, but seemed to be indestructable. Maybe it is because it didn't have dairy or yeast in it.

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Re Riceguy and your experience with amaranth:

That's interesting. I don't leave ANYTHING out. Unopened packages get stored in the refrigerator, as do open ones. If the gluten free grain/seed/nuts is one that is susceptible to bugs, after we bring it home it gets plunked into the freezer first to kill anything, then it either stays there or gets transfered to the storage refrigerator. (we have a small refrigerator we keep in the unheated garage, we bought a few years back when our newer, large regular one died and we couldn't get a repair person for over a week- UGH. We ended up keeping it to store gluten free flours and extra fruit/vegetables in.)

I try not to ever dip into bags, but to pour out the amount I need, then seal it back up.

Once I bake something, as soon as it's cooled, it goes into the ziplock and into the refrigerator if it's not eaten right away.

We live in this climate of extremes, for about 6 months of the year, it's bone dry, for about 2, normal, and for the other 4 months, extremely humid.

I had noticed than when I baked with it (and I don't use that much in each batch, it would be about half freshly ground almond meal and half a blend of amaranth, sorghum, and something else) that the resulting item didn't mold in the refrigerator, even after a week. I jokingly call the stuff Elven Waybread because it would dry out a bit, but seemed to be indestructable. Maybe it is because it didn't have dairy or yeast in it.

I generally keep out only what I will use within 30 days. The rest stays in the freezer. When removing things from the fridge/freezer, I NEVER open the bag/container until it has reached room temp. Otherwise condensation will occur and thus spoilage will soon follow. I also avoid contaminating containers with scoops and such, so we're on the same page there too.

What I found spoiled quickly was the flour itself, not what I'd make with it. That would be eaten right away. I seldom bake more than I will eat in about 24 hours. Mostly it's just a single serving sized item. On the rare occasion when I bake a whole loaf, I freeze most of it. Storing in the fridge seems to ruin the texture of breads (though this varies with the recipe). If an item is dry enough, like crackers or crispy type cookies, storing at room temp in a sealed container for two days or so has worked out fine. I never use dairy, but again, it's not the finished product that spoils.

It sounds like the humidity gets worse here than where you are. But all the flours I keep at room temperature are in air-tight containers. I don't trust open bags to seal properly. The only one to spoil so far is the amaranth, every time I've had it, and it's only been one pound.

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I'm new to this, just 10 days into the diet. I haven't started baking yet but when I'm looking at recipes I'm confused as to why there are so many flours in recipes.

I have made wheat free pancakes just using brown rice flour, etc. Is there a reason why so many flours? I'm feeling overwhelmed about baking.

Also does everything have to have xanthan gum in it? It kind of weirds me out.

The first cookbook I got (been gluten free almost 2 months now) was terrifying and intimidating. Every recipe called for like 5 obscure flours, half of which I couldn't even find in my town. I still haven't made anything out of that book because none of it is like...normal haha. I mean none of it was the things my mom made us growing up, familiar foods.

At some point I found one called You Won't Believe It's Gluten-Free! by Roben Ryberg and it made me feel so much better. All the recipes use only one flour (that I've noticed) and it gives you choices, like it will have a rice based, a corn based, and a potato based recipe for each item. Its made me feel alot better that I can bake something just like I would have before going gluten free.

The stuff in the book is easy, and the weirdest ingredient I've come across is apple cider vinegar. The corn based banana bread is really, really yummy.

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At some point I found one called You Won't Believe It's Gluten-Free! by Roben Ryberg and it made me feel so much better. All the recipes use only one flour (that I've noticed) and it gives you choices, like it will have a rice based, a corn based, and a potato based recipe for each item. Its made me feel alot better that I can bake something just like I would have before going gluten free.

The stuff in the book is easy, and the weirdest ingredient I've come across is apple cider vinegar. The corn based banana bread is really, really yummy.

Love, love, love this cookbook! Just made the Sweet Muffins (potato starch-based) tonight for hubby & mixed in fresh blueberries, shredded coconut, and cinnamon for variety. I bake using recipes from this cookbook 3-4 times a month.

The single flour recipes really helped us navigate around other food intolerances.

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If you choose to start baking with a mix of flours, my favorite so far for cookies, brownies, and breads is Tom Sawyer blend, cut 1:1 with sorghum flour (Bob's red mill). I add a tiny pinch of gum (TS blend already has it in, but sorghum does not) and it tastes like regular flour. I've had a very good experience with it, and highly recommend it.

Good luck, and don't be afraid. Follow the directions from trusted sources very closely if you didn't bake much beforehand, and in no time, you'll be an old hand!

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I'm new to this, just 10 days into the diet. I haven't started baking yet but when I'm looking at recipes I'm confused as to why there are so many flours in recipes.

I have made wheat free pancakes just using brown rice flour, etc. Is there a reason why so many flours? I'm feeling overwhelmed about baking.

Also does everything have to have xanthan gum in it? It kind of weirds me out.

When I went gluten free I tried all the million flours and starches and xanthan gum and all that and I had gotten pretty good at it. And then I switched to almond flour and haven't looked back. It is sooooo much better tasting in baked goods than all the other flours that I had been using and way easier, it's just ONE flour. I've tried some recipes from this website that are pretty good and a few from Laura Dolson at About.com. All are good, the almond flour (when bought in bulk online) is not that much more expensive than all the other gluten-free flours I used to buy and it's healthier and higher in protein.

SO, if you don't want to bother with all the flours, starches and xanthan gum, take a good long look at almond flour. I highly recommend it.

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