FAQs: Do I really need all those different flours to bake gluten-free?
First, for those of us following the low-FODMAP regimen, remember that it might not be wheat’s gluten that we have to avoid, but its fructans. More about fructans another day.
But we do bake wheat-free, which amounts to gluten-free. So, about all those different flours—my answer is “yes, but maybe not all at once.”
Gluten-rich wheat flour has the body, flavor, and color that we expect. Gluten’s stretchiness gave rise (baking pun—sorry) to traditions from croissants to baklava. It’s in pizza and pancakes and even pasta. When we blend gluten-free flours and starches—some of which provide body, while others give dough flavor, or color, or a bit of stretchiness—it’s possible to almost duplicate many of our old favorite foods.
Suggestion: Start with millet and sorghum flours and a small bag of xanthan gum. Xanthan gum is expensive, but it goes a long way. With these three ingredients, you can create a flour mix that’s pretty good (try ½ cup millet, ½ cup sorghum, and ½ tsp xanthan gum)—but it might not satisfy you until you add a bit of sticky (“sweet”) rice flour and maybe some light, starchy potato or tapioca flour.
Once you feel OK about keeping strange flours in your pantry, try experimenting with others. Teff is good for whole-grain nutrition and a satisfying brown color, which is why I like it for breading Cube Steak or Chicken Chunks, or for baking Light Brown Yeast Bread. White rice flour can be grainy, but it makes lovely sugar cookies when mixed with sticky rice flour. Sticky rice flour adds lightness and gluten-like stretchiness without adding gluten.
Oats are somewhat controversial for those avoiding wheat. Oat flour has a distinctive flavor and is highly nutritious, but it’s best to be sure it’s marked “gluten free.” According to most of the sources listed below, oats have little or no gluten, but they’re often ground on machinery that’s also been used to grind wheat … or they might have grown in or near fields where wheat was raised, which can also cause cross-contamination. As with all grocery purchases, READ THE LABEL. Especially if you have celiac disease, don’t buy oat flour unless it says “certified gluten free.”
For further reading about oats and gluten: