Wednesday, 23 July 2014

All-Purpose Flour Mixture {Gluten-free}

Time for another recipe! This one is going to be one of your most versatile and well-used in your arsenal. I understand that at first, the thought of converting a recipe to gluten-free can be overwhelming. I know that feeling all too well! Flours that don't contain gluten behave and look very different and therefore a little research and trial and error is needed. I have tried many different mixes and I've landed on one that I use for pretty much everything and now I want to share it with you!


Why do I choose to make my own mixture rather than just purchasing a ready-made mix from the store? Two reasons:

1. Pretty much any gluten-free mixture you will find in the store contains xanthan gum and my body does not approve of this. Just like gluten, xanthan gum is found in many more packaged foods than I could ever imagine. And it is especially found in gluten-free packaged foods due to the fact that it is a good thickener and binder. My body reacts badly to large quantities of this ingredient. I find that if it is near the end of an ingredient list then I will most likely be able to tolerate it, but that is not guaranteed so I do my best to avoid it all together (no small feat!). 

2. I like to add in some more nutritious flours that you most likely will not find in the ready-made mixes. When I make my own I can combine the proportions of flour I prefer which means: wheat-free oat flour, quinoa flour and more brown rather than white rice flour. It puts me in control to make sure I am not only avoiding wheat, but also getting protein and nutrients that my body needs.

It can seem pretty daunting to have a dinner party or get-together in which you must accommodate someone with an ingredient allergy or intolerance, but asking a few questions or doing a quick Google search can go a long way. I've been to several recent get-togethers (game nights, suppers, baby showers just to name a few) where care has been taken and believe me, it does not go unnoticed! I also find lately that so many people deal with an allergy personally or with a family member so it's on their radar and they ask before they even plan their menu. This goes a long way in making what could be an uncomfortable situation a very enjoyable one and takes the pressure off the person attending the get-together...

As a guest, we often feel like we will offend our host if we don't eat what they have prepared. However, on the flip side, have you ever known someone with a severe nut allergy to say, "Awww, to heck with it, I'll just eat a little bit of that peanut sauce and just deal with the consequences?" No, that doesn't happen. A person who knows how something effects their body (sometimes with a deadly outcome!) will do their best to avoid those things and they will make sure that what they are served is safe for them to consume! I have gotten to the point where I am comfortable asking about ingredients and offering to contribute as much as I can. I have too many responsibilities to be laid up for several days recovering from eating something I shouldn't. It's simply not worth it. 

Of course, if you are serving natural foods that you have prepared yourself it is fairly easy to accommodate any ingredient restriction. Also, if serving a dish requiring noodles, you can simply sub in some white rice, brown rice or quinoa noodles which are all actually quite easy to find these days! Brown rice lasagna noodles are readily available and cook up exactly the same, like in my family favorite lasagna recipe!


But what if you want to convert one of your favorite recipes? Well, that's where this flour mix comes in...it is an easy and fairly full-proof way to make virtually anything gluten-free.

So, to help those of you who might still be a little skeptical, it's time to share my go-to gluten-free flour mixture along with some explanation of the different types of flour that can be used. This mix can be subbed cup for cup for most any recipe that you wish to convert to gluten-free (especially cakes, cookies, sweet breads etc.) This will not be an exhaustive list. There are so many different flours out there so do some research, try a few that you've never heard of and start experimenting to find what you like best! What I am going to share with you is the basic formula of items for a good mixture.


Gluten-Free All-Purpose Flour Mixture
To get a good mixture we need 3 ingredients:
1. "Heavy" Flour
2. Starch
3. Binder

1. Gluten-free flours are very different and will behave differently from flours which contain gluten. They tend to be more dense and won't rise as well. The most popular "heavy" flours are Brown and White Rice, Oat (make sure the oats are from a wheat-free processing facility!), Quinoa, Coconut and Almond.


Almond flour would definitely be the most expensive while rice would be the least, however the white rice is also going to be your least nutritious. Coconut is a fairly nutritious and yet inexpensive choice and one of the most dense so you will only need to use very little in your recipes. Quinoa is going to be the most nutritious, however a little bit goes as long way taste-wise. It tastes and smells quite "beany," although I have found that when used in my baking recipes both the taste and smell are not noticeable.

2. To lighten up the mixture so we don't have baked goods like bricks, we need to add a starch. My favorite options are arrowroot and tapioca, but you can use corn or potato starches as well (make sure it is potato STARCH, not flour...potato flour is very different and would be considered a heavy flour).


3. Finally we add a binder. Sometimes this is not needed at all, but it helps when making something like bread or hamburger buns. The most common ones are Xanthan and Guar Gums. As I mentioned before, xanthan gum is not my friend so I choose to add guar gum in my mix. Guar gum is a much more natural binder and doesn't seem to cause me any problems. Xanthan gum is derived from corn which can also be a big allergen for people.

Ground flax seeds are the most natural and nutritionally beneficial binder that you could use. I add a heaping tablespoon to Kirk's smoothie every morning for an extra boost of protein and fiber and, of course use it in my allergen-free chocolate chip cookies! When needing to eliminate eggs from one's diet, flax and water can be a great substitute in baking. Ok, let's get on to the amounts needed in our mix:

Ingredients:
-6 cups Heavy flour (I've been using 2 c each of Quinoa, Brown Rice & White Rice)
-3 cups Starch (I've been using 2 c of Tapioca and 1 c of Arrowroot)
-2 Tbs Guar Gum (if desired...you can always add depending on your recipe)


Careful when mixing...the starches are very light and can get messy really quickly!
Directions:
-Using a hand-held whisk, mix all ingredients well, but carefully in a very large bowl.
-Transfer using a measuring cup to an airtight container and store for easy use!

Tips:
-Store the remainder of your flours in the refrigerator until you are ready to use them again as this will keep them fresher than at room temperature. And make sure to label them as the starches are very difficult to tell apart.
-When measuring, try to make sure you fill your measuring cups well and level them off. This is very helpful to make sure you get the correct amount.
-Always assume that your batter will be more liquidy than when you use wheat flour. It will still bake up well if you follow your recipe, but don't expect it to look similar to gluten-filled flours.


have used this mixture in so many recipes and they turn out wonderfully every time...you wouldn't even know they're gluten-free! Below you will find a few that I've made several times successfully along with my substitutions.

You can find this cinnamon roll cake recipe over at Six Sisters' Stuff. It is a crowd-pleaser, without a doubt and SO much easier than making individual cinnamon rolls!


 There is really no way to "healthify" this very much, but my substitutions are as follows:
-GF flour mix in place of all-purpose
-Homemade Almond milk in place of regular milk
-Coconut Palm Sugar in place of brown sugar
-Cane Sugar in place of refined sugar (can use birch xylitol for a sugar-free option as well if you can tolerate it...you can even make your own xylitol powdered sugar for the glaze with 1 cup xylitol and 1 tsp-Tbs corn or arrowroot starch in the blender)
Look how fluffy!
Secondly, I happened across this fantastic hamburger bun recipe from Jeanne over at the Art of Gluten Free Baking.  I contacted her after I used her recipe to let her know how wonderfully my buns turned out and that I would be sharing her recipe so others can enjoy them as well! This recipe makes deliciously fluffy buns that aren't dense at all! They are perfect for hamburgers and sandwiches and even heated up like English muffins with some jam for breakfast! I follow this recipe pretty closely except that I use my own flour mixture and the extra guar gum as opposed to the xanthan.


Because of how fluffy these buns turn out I decided to see if I could make some bagels using my doughnut pan and, sure enough, it worked out perfectly! Then I came to find out that Kirk actually prefers less bun to his hamburger so we decided to use them at our Canada Day BBQ and decided that was the way to go. However, I didn't really want a hole in the middle of my hamburger bun so I then proceeded to use 2 giant muffin pans, spreading the same amount of batter to make 12 flatter buns rather than the 6 large ones. Again, turned out perfectly. Yay!!!



And last, but not least, one final link to a recipe that has become a very big hit in our house...Skor Triangles! I have been loving Skor bars lately as a special treat and had grabbed a bag of Skor bits a few months back thinking I was sure I could find SOMETHING to do with it's gluten-free toffee goodness. Well, there's a recipe right on the back so away I went. Sometimes they make it into triangles, sometimes I just break them apart and they become Skor "bark" but no matter how you break it up, they always end up disappearing within days! Again, not healthy in the least except that I use the coconut palm sugar in place of the brown, but these are meant to be a treat consumed in moderation so it's all good. :-)

You may remember last year around this time I shared my Berry Custard Trifle recipe since it was Kirk's birthday and that is his special treat. Well, it's that time again except this time he turned the big 4-0! I think he's feeling a little apprehensive about it, but I am trying to assure him that nothing changes...he is just as wonderful today as he was yesterday. He is still the most amazing husband and father that I could ever imagine for myself and my boys! We were able to celebrate last month with a HUGE surprise that I'll share about in my next post. It was mainly a birthday surprise for him, but we also celebrated 16 years of marriage  with a nice get-away. A VERY big shout out to our dear friends, Randy & Connie Karman and Ryan & Kim McCollum who enthusiastically participated, flew out from California and made it happen! We love you guys so much and can never thank you enough!! Pictures to come!

I would love to hear how you end up using this flour mixture and what flours you decide to incorporate. Comment below and post pictures at NotDeprived on Facebook of your creations!

Treat yourself well!