Thursday, 26 September 2013

Substitutions: Gluten-Free Flour

It's amazing how mass-production of Christmas cakes scuppers any other baking endeavour! I've been so busy making the same thing over and over, and had a few experimental failures. However, while I'm going through this bakery journey of learning, I'm going to write a few little theory lessons.

As I said in previous posts, I have a few friends who have even more strict diets than I do, such as one of my friends who can't eat gluten, eggs, yeast or dairy which are all very important in baking. As such, in the last two months or so, I've been experimenting extensively and researching furiously to find out how to substitute what for what; and now I'm going to share my knowledge with you all.

Let's start with flour.

Why wheat flour works: Baked goods, over hundreds of years of development, have only ended up as marvelous as they are because of wheat-flour. The same way that risottos are only the way they are because they're made of rice, and polenta is the way it is because of maize, cakes, bread, biscuits and other flour-based products are only the way they are because of the properties of wheat. Wheat flour provides baked goods with three key components that make them all work: substance, starch, and gluten.

  • When the grain is ground into meal, the meal provides the body of the baked product. It provides the bricks to make the baked good with, the substance of the cakes or biscuits or whatever.
  • Inside the grain, there is starch. Starch is a complex carbohydrate that when cooked becomes sticky. The starch provides the cement or mortar between the bricks.
  • Then finally gluten. Gluten is a protein, that forms long strands that hold everything together. Moving away from the builder's yard analogies, gluten is like a stretchy net that holds onto the substance, the starch, and all the other ingredients in the baked good, like sugar, butter, eggs etc. When gluten is worked and stretched, it becomes elastic and is able to hold onto more things, which is the key principle of kneading bread to allow it to rise (hold onto gas built inside the dough).

All these things must be kept in mind when replacing wheat-flour, which is the key ingredient of all baked goods.

How to replace wheat-flour: To replace it, you need to add substance, starch and protein, or something equally gummy. So! This is how you do it:
  • You make your quantity of flour using two-thirds any of the below substance flours, that is whole grain flour.
  • The remaining third any of the starchy flours.
  • Then add 1 teaspoon (5 millilitres) xanthan gum for every 8 ounces (225 grammes).

So, here are the lists.

Substance Flour
brown rice flour
corn meal
sorghum flour
sweet potato flour

mesquite flour
millet flour
oat flour
quinoa flour

buckwheat flour

Starchy Flour

potato starch
tapioca flour
white rice flour

arrowroot flour
potato flour

Example: you need 8 ounces (225 grammes) of flour for your recipe, so you add 5½ ounces (155 grammes) brown rice flour, 2½ ounces (70 grammes) cornflour, and a teaspoon (5 millilitres) xanthan gum. Done and done!

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