Gluten-Free Flours 101

Humble Gluten-Free Flour Beginnings

In 2004, when I first started baking gluten-free, I was a grateful disciple of Bette Hagman, the Gluten-Free Gourmet. I pored over her books, trying desperately to understand enough to enable me to bake something—anything—familiar for my very young, very hungry gluten-free son.

Bette’s many cookbooks were among the very first to make gluten-free baking even possible. To approximate wheat flours in baking, she preached lots of different multi-ingredient blends of gluten-free flours, each for its specific purpose. It was cumbersome and often confusing, but it was a lift raft for me all the same. I purchased the component flours, I made the blends, and I baked my little heart out.

Over time, craving simplicity, I began purchasing ready-made blends that mimicked one particular Bette Hagman blend that seemed most versatile. It was a bean-based flour, and although it was relatively versatile, it smelled awful and limited my baking repertoire severely. When I finally learned (from some of my blog readers!) of Better Batter’s all-purpose gluten-free blend, I cried tears of joy.

Better Batter’s all-purpose blend

For years after discovering Better Batter, I didn’t touch even a single component gluten-free flour, preferring to leave the high cost and confusion of those days behind entirely. I periodically purchased other companies’ all-purpose gluten-free flour blends, but that was as far as I strayed.

No one gluten-free flour is comparable to conventional all-purpose gluten-containing flour, but I feel strongly that gluten-free baking should be accessible to everyone. Not precious or out of reach. And requiring the use of lots of different flour blends for basic baking recipes like muffins and cookies is just too hard.
It is for that reason that I formulate all of my recipes for my blog and cookbooks for use with a high-quality all-purpose gluten-free flour like Better Batter. For more specialized recipes like pastry and yeast breads, somewhat specialized blends make sense. But early success in gluten-free baking fuels confidence, which leads to more gluten-free baking, which leads to a sense of satisfaction and control. And a return to normalcy. All good things.

More recently, with my bean flour days long behind me and a couple cookbooks under my belt, I have begun to experiment with my own blends—mostly as my readers have demanded it. I have broken down a couple popular blends into their component parts in what I find are the proper proportions to get comparable results. But I’m always seeking at least a multi-purpose blend.

When deciding whether you would like to blend your own flours, start small. And assume that, at least for most purposes, you will need xanthan gum or guar gum to hold your gluten-free baked good together. Unless you have a rice allergy or intolerance, avoid bean flour blends. And remember that multi-ingredient gluten-free baking mixes that contain ingredients such as baking powder, baking soda and salt are not intended to be all-purpose gluten-free flours. They will not work in gluten-free recipes that are not specially formulated for them (which means that they will not work in any of my recipes).

So start simple, be successful and then get complicated, if you like. And then let me know how it goes!



About Nicole

Nicole Hunn is the personality behind the popular blog, Gluten-Free on a Shoestring, and is the author of Gluten-Free On A Shoestring: 125 Easy Recipes for Eating Well on the Cheap (Da Capo / Feb 2011) and the forthcoming Gluten-Free On a Shoestring Quick & Easy: 100 Recipes for the Food You Love—Fast! (Da Capo / November 2012). She’s been featured in the New York Times,, the Dr. Steve Show and the San Francisco Chronicle. She lives with her family in Westchester County, New York.

One Response to Gluten-Free Flours 101

William Carr says: September 17, 2012 at 1:48 am

There is some question now, whether Xanthum Gum or Guar Gum are necessary.

I baked for a month, figuring things out with Xanthum Gum, and then started getting sick.

Then I got quite sick.

I’m going to switch to using Ground Flaxseed and Chia Seed, activated with boiling water.