My apologies for the long delay in posting Part 2 of my flour series. The truth is I’ve been writing this post for weeks and it just kept getting longer. Then there’s that whole summer’s over, school’s starting thing. Which starts tomorrow, by the way. Yeeks! My girl is going to pre-K full-time and I think I’m way more anxious than she is.
This is what she looked like on her first day of school last year. Notice the smile, the sweet innocent happy look on her face.
Then the reality hit that we were dropping her off (despite weeks of preparation). Let’s just say it didn’t go well. There were buckets of tears (mine and hers) for months until she FINALLY felt comfortable in March. Yes, that’s right. It only took seven months. Hoping for an easier time this year. Fingers crossed.
Moving on. To flour. You’ve been so patient. Thank you for waiting.
Part 1 was a little dramatic. I left you hanging with a (mental) image of colon cleanser, aka psyllium husks. Here’s what it actually looks like:
Don’t ask me what it looks like out of the container because I haven’t opened it yet. I imagine it’s powder because that’s what it sounds like when I shake it, or when Little Guy shakes it, and then tries to eat it. That’s about as much action as it’s gotten. I’m a little nervous about actually using it.
What? Oh yes, flour. I’m getting to that. You think I’m procrastinating?
Well. Maybe that’s a little true. You’re on to me. I should have known I couldn’t get anything by you.
Here’s the problem with writing anything definitive about GF flour – there is no ONE answer. That’s repetitive, I know. But it’s true.
My answer may not be your answer. So all I can do is present some information, the handfuls of wisdom I’ve gathered in a year plus of GF baking, and let you pick and choose what makes sense to you and your family.
I’m splitting my advice into 2 parts. The first one is self-explanatory:
Keep it Simple
It’s easy to get bogged down with questions early on, especially when you open the can of worms called the Internet. Which pre-made flour mix is best? Should you use healthier whole grain flours like teff or millet, or white rice ones? Should your mix include Xanthan gum? What about non-grain flours such as almond and coconut?
Truly, it’s enough to make your head spin. (Feel free to check out my GF Flours page for specific flour descriptions, but if it’s overwhelming just come right back!)
In order to begin your own personal flour adventure, please answer the following question:
Do you want to bake, but feel nervous/anxious/uninterested in making your own flour (at least at this point)? It’s okay, you can be honest. There’s no judgment here.
If yes, then my Keep it Simple advice is for you. If not, skip to the next section, So, You Think You Can Bake.
Keep it Simple, let’s start with letting you off the hook with my first bullet point.
- Do NOT feel pressure to make your own blend. I couldn’t wrap my brain around making my own until my daughter was GF for a year. Also, it’s not necessarily cost effective, especially if you buy superfine flours. But more on that later.
- Invest in a 5 pound (or more) bag of All Purpose GF flour. One of the So-and So’s. Order online. It’s almost always cheaper to buy in bulk rather than something smaller at your local grocery store. And don’t second-guess yourself. The other blends will still be there if you want to try something different later.
* I did a quickie cost analysis of flour blends and here’s what I came up with:
The winner is Better Batter – a 5 pound bag is $19.95 + $5 shipping. Carol Kicinski’s blend (Simply Gluten-Free), is the same price but $10.75 shipping. Jules AP blend is also the same, but $12 shipping. Annalise Roberts sells a 3 pound bag of her blend for $11.50 with a whopping $14.78 for shipping. Cup 4 Cup’s 3 pound bag is available at Williams-Sonoma for $19.95 and shipping is $6.50 (if you just buy the flour).
[Keep in mind, I used my NYC mailing address when I calculated shipping, so it could be different for you. The exception is Williams-Sonoma whose standard shipping rate fluctuates on the cost of your order.]
- Pick up Xanthan gum if your blend doesn’t contain it. Yes, it costs a ridiculous amount, but a little goes a long way. I’m still using my first package from over a year ago!
- Baking soda, baking powder and even 100% vanilla extract should be naturally GF – of course always check ingredients/labels. At first I bought GF soda and powder from Bob’s, but it’s not necessary.
- Try simple recipes like cookies, cakes, brownies and quick breads over anything fancy or complicated. You want your first attempts to be successful to boost your confidence. No use attempting yeast bread or puff pastry early on unless you’re an accomplished baker or have a thick skin, in which case you probably don’t need to read the Keep it Simple section.
- There’s also no shame in using boxed mixes. Really, no kidding! Betty Crocker makes a really good chocolate cake mix. Great in a pinch. They also have yellow cake and brownies. There are many other mixes to choose from. Use them solo or invest in the GF cake doctor book to help fancy them up.
So, You Think You Can Bake
You baked yourself silly before GF and you’re ready and willing to dive headfirst into the sometimes complicated, always interesting world of GF baking. Great! But you still need to get started, so here are some ideas:
- Do your research first. There are tons of resources online and off about GF baking. Don’t start stocking up your pantry with pricey flours before figuring out what you actually need.
- Go to my GF Flour page to see a list of helpful articles and blog posts about the many faces of GF flour. If you start to freak out a bit, no worries, just go back to Keep it Simple. I won’t tell.
- Experiment and fear not inevitable failure. Try baking with gums, try without, try recommended ratios of flour and starch, try making up your own ratios. You don’t need to be a serious chef to do this, just a GF baker with a dream.
- No one flour blend fits all here. Different flour combos work better for different kinds of recipes. Flour for pizza crust, for example, will be quite different than what you’d mix up for cookies. So do your recipe research.
- Even the experts need a helping hand sometimes. Why not try one (or more) of these blend combos? Here are some pros who are giving away their secrets, for free!
You can also try a rice blend by Annalise Roberts, author of Gluten Free Baking Classics, but it’s pricey because of high shipping fees from her recommended vendor, Authentic Foods. If you can find the superfine rice flours in a local grocery that might cut the cost.
The truth is, making your own flour blend is NOT always less expensive, as Nicole Hunn from Gluten-Free on a Shoestring explains in her post about making a mock Better Batter. (Part of the reason for this particular blend is also because of superfine flours.) But it does give you full control of your ingredients, including whether or not you add xanthan gum.
My rather brief final thoughts
The possibilities are endless. Bottom line: never let anyone tell you that GF baking can’t be as good as G baking.
Sometimes it can be better.
What is your favorite commercial flour blend? Or, do you make your own? Let me know. I’d love to hear what has worked for you.