Saturday, March 17, 2012
My Favorite Gluten-free Flour Mix Recipe
You will probably begin to notice that as this blog begins to take on more life and greater character, there is so much variety to the baking I do. Yes, my original bundt cakes were born out of the mainstream school of sugar, butter, eggs, and wheat flour. But over the past few years, I have become much more conscious of what I'm actually eating on a daily basis. Let's face it. We all love Paula Deen, but we DON'T love Type II Diabetes, weight gain, and all the other health issues that inevitably tag behind a butter-and-wheat-laden diet. The fact for me is that I've experienced some difficulties from low thyroid, estrogen dominance, and simply not understanding what my body TRULY requires and desires. After reading Eat Right for Your Type a few years ago (and being 'diagnosed' with low thyroid and estrogen dominance a few years before that), I learned that my sensitive AB blood type did not really like a lot of the foods I had been previously consuming. And it was evident. I ate lots of chicken, which I thought was healthy, but I always felt tired and bloated afterward, although I was taking digestive enzymes, mixing organic apple cider vinegar with my water before a meal, doing yoga, and many other things that were supposed to aid in the breaking down of my food. Surprise, surprise. AB-ers don't like no stinkin' chicken. We prefer turkey and seafood for OUR protein sources. And I also learned that wheat was not my friend. Luckily I can tolerate many other grains. But wheat just wasn't on the list. I'm not miserable eating a fresh piece of natural, organic bread a few times per week. But if I truly ate a piece of cake every single day from one of my typically-rich bundts, I'd be 20 pounds heavier and a raging hormonal biotch. So what's a sugar-lovin', cake-huggin' gal ta do? Learn to make healthier things that still taste like they are bad and sinful.
When I made the choice to start following a more gluten-free lifestyle and to veganize some of the meals I was enjoying, I absolutely knew I didn't want to learn how to make cakes tasted like health food. What's the point? If we are going to eat like piggies and consume guilt-inducing amounts of calories, why waste it on garbage that tastes like cardboard? So after pouring hours of my life through more than 50 food blogs, mostly devoted to gluten-free living but also some on sugar-free and vegan, I decided that I needed to come up with an all-purpose flour that I could make at home that would easily plug in for regular wheat flour, at least for 70% of my recipes. And not long after, I came across what is now one of my favorite gluten-free cookbooks, Gluten-Free Baking Classics by gluten-free genius, Annalise G. Roberts. This book has it all. Pizza crust, breads and rolls, cakes, cookies, muffins, big soft pretzels, cinnamon rolls! And nearly all of it tastes as good as the gluten-filled counterparts. Except for the pancakes. I didn't care for them, so I stick with Pamela's. Those are the best!
Annalise has a gluten-free mix in the front of her book that is used for nearly everything, except the breads, which have their own mix. But everything else calls for her brown rice flour mix. And the mix is simple to put together as it only contains three different flours. The thing that makes this mix so unique and what makes it work so well is that Annalise doesn't just use any old brown rice flour. She recommends using a SUPERFINE brown rice flour, which is ground so finely that it actually feels like wheat flour between your fingers. Regular rice flour tends to have a coarser grind, and it often results in a gritty product. And yes, I put this to the test. When I first got the book, I was bummed to find out that I didn't have the right type of flour in my pantry, and the superfine flour isn't as easy to come by in the supermarkets. It's also more expensive. So I decided to be a cheap ass and just use the standard Bob's Red Mill brown rice flour. I attempted to make blueberry muffins as my first tester recipe. So, yeah. The batter held it's shape, didn't quite rise as beautifully as a wheat muffins would, and it had a slightly chewy/gritty texture to it. Determined not to screw up any more of my recipes (gluten-free baking can wrack up quite a bill, and fast!), I bit the bullet and purchased the Authentic Foods SUPERFINE brown rice flour. This was the wisest decision I've made along my gluten-free journey. My baked goods turn out perfect almost every time, and I've been able to EASILY convert some of my regular cakes into gluten-free cakes, cup for cup, with NO grit or chewy texture. I will say that gluten-free bundts tend to turn out best in smaller pans, but I've still made several big, fat bundts with satisfying success.
I know. You want me to shut up and just give you the recipe.
'Food Philosopher' Gluten-free Brown Rice Flour Mix
2 parts Brown rice flour* (extra finely ground)
2/3 part Potato starch** (NOT potato flour...please don't confuse the two, you will hate me if you do)
1/3 part Tapioca flour/starch** (I usually sub in arrowroot starch as my body seems to like it better)
Just put everything into a large mixing bowl and whisk well. I usually make what I consider to be a double-batch, which is 4 cups of the brown rice flour, 1 and 1/3 cup of the potato starch, and 2/3 cup of the tapioca or arrowroot starch. I store the mixture in either a large freezer bag or a large tupperware container and keep in the freezer. Most gluten-free flours are made from ingredients that can go rancid fairly quickly if left out at room temperature, so it's always best to keep in the freezer. Just make sure you bring the flour back to room temp. before using it to bake.
*The brown rice flour I use is made by a company called Authentic Foods. I would advise you to check around with health food stores first before resorting to ordering online. The flour is not only expensive, but so is the shipping, even if you order from Amazon. It's nearly as expensive as the flour itself. I don't know why this is, it doesn't make much sense, but it is what it is. One of my local grocers carries a 3-lb. bag for a little over $13. At that price, it's obviously not for bulk baking. But you can still afford to keep incredible-tasting treats around your house without having to piss off your IBS or sending yourself off into the land of hormone hell.
**For the potato starch and tapioca flour, check your local Asian market if you have one. I am able to get 1-lb. bags of the stuff for just a few dollars a piece. If I were to purchase a name brand at somewhere like Whole Foods, I would be paying at least double, if not triple, that price. You might even be lucky enough to find some finely ground brown rice flour at the Asian markets as well. For some reason, my local market didn't carry brown rice flour, only the sweet rice flour which is a white, super-starchy flour that should only be used in small amounts unless you want a sticky, stretchy, gooey mess.