Homemade Gluten-Free Flour (Crowded Kitchen)
Refined white flour is pretty rubbish both taste-wise and for nutrition. But if you don’t want to make a ‘brown cake’ that is so heavy it falls through the table, there are a range of other flours available. Here’s a quick guide to the main wholegrain and gluten-free flours available, for vegan wholefood baking. And how they are used. We’ll also do a little translating, as many American recipes call for ‘whole wheat pastry flour’, which most Brits have not a clue what it is, nor what to sub out.
Doves Farm is one of the best makers of flour nationwide in the UK, although be careful as a few of their biscuits are not vegan. Elsewhere, just find local mills, for the best flours and to support artisan businesses. In the US, Bob’s Red Mill is a reputable company. If making bread, keep dough away from pets, as it can expand in the stomach. The main types of flour are:
- White flour. This is refined, so not that healthy. But some people prefer it for baking things like Victoria sponge. At least choose an organic company.
- Wholemeal flour. This is a bit heavier, for ‘brown cakes!’ You know the type, everything wholefood, like the items they sell in health shops. Some people find these too heavy.
- Wholewheat pastry flour. This is very popular in the US, as it’s like a cross between the two. You don’t get the heaviness of brown flour, but it’s more nutritious than white flour. A lot of American vegan cookbooks use it. So the obvious question is: what do you use if they don’t sell it near you? The main idea among bakers is to just use half-and-half.
- Spelt flour. This is an ancient grain. It’s not gluten-free, but is easier on the digestion for some, as it’s less process than its relative wheat.
- Amaranth flour is a popular flour for baking, from a South American plant.
- Kamut flour is an Egyptian flour that tends to be chemical-free.
Gluten-free flours can get quite complicated, but there are quite a few, from buckwheat to rice flour. Be careful if you have allergies, as some may use the same equipment. Julie’s Originals (US) makes and sells a good gluten-free flour for vegan bakers. It’s made with brown rice and tapioca flour, potato starch and xantham gum.
Flour is produced mostly from wheat, and is one of the main baking methods used, unless you are a raw foodist, in which case you likely eat no flour at all. It takes 350 ears of wheat to make one loaf of bread, and there are many local millers who use windmills and stone grounds, but most flour sold today is just refined rubbish, and just as poisonous as white sugar. Flour has been made and eaten since Roman times and most is sifted for better results. It is now illegal to bleach flour in the EU and UK, but other countries still use it. At time of writing, it’s not banned in the US where chlorine is sometimes used to bleach it, so that the flour ‘looks white’.
Different flours yield different results. We all know that ‘brown flour’ is best but can result in heavy cakes, not what you want for a Victoria sponge cake. However even the better companies get confusing, it’s like taking a science degree to learn all the different types of flours there are. It’s not true that most flour is filtered through bone char like some sugars. But there is something found in protein powders called ‘cricket flour’ that is indeed made up of ground up cricket, so be wary of that one.
By law, vitamins have to be added to flours, and that is where it can get tricky, as some may not be vegan. Folic acid is the main one added to reduce the number of birth defects, although many point out that good nutrition and a supplement would do the same, and it’s a bit like adding fluoride to water, not people having the choice on how to do this themselves.
The main types of flour are:
Plain flour is for making biscuits, scones and sauces. It’s often called all-purpose flour. Adding baking powder makes self-raising flour so you don’t have to add it (choose ones without aluminium). The sifting often is done already, with the wheat feed leftover used in breakfast cereals or animal feed.
Stoneground flour is when the wheat is ground between two stones (one still and one turning) to crush and is only used by a small number of mills, and is nice but does not add any nutrition.
Wholemeal is when the ear is not sifted, leaving the nutrition. Brown is not necessarily wholemeal, it just has some taken away and wheatgerm has it added, or sometimes malted grains. Choose organic if you cans.
The other flours are ancient grains.
Einkorn and spelt are simply older forms of wheat as is karmut. Couscous is made from durum wheat (as is pasta) and there are also non-wheat flours including rye, maize and oat and even hazelnut and coconut flour, and chicpea flours, all have different flavours.
Store flour safely to avoid weevils, and don’t buy too much in one go. Use an airtight container in a cool part and don’t mix old with new flour. Wholemeal flour keeps for 3 months, white flour for 6 to 9 months.
teff is an ancient grain from Ethiopia, very small and organic, and also gluten-free. Good for pancakes, flatbread, cakes and brownies.
chickpea flour is good for farinata and pancakes and makes a light batter.
rice flour is nutty and makes good sauces, cakes and panacakes.
white flour is best for sponge cakes and wholemeal for others.
you can also buy bread and pizza flour.
It’s best to cook flour or heat-treat it to make it safe to eat, due to the small risk of bacteria consumption, just like you would wash vegetables before eating them. If your child licking the mixing bowl (something your mother may have said would kill you) is very rare. It’s not good to add to cookie dough or smoothies.
bob’s red mill 1-to-1 gluten-free baking flour is a simple flour that you can just use to replace with real flour if you are gluten-free. Made with sweet rice and brown flour and a few other ingredients, it works for recipes without having to buy a ton of different flours.
restoring heritage grains looks at why what a natural crop has become. It’s now the world’s most widely grown crop and yet we have a massive amount of gluten intolerance and the so-called ‘wheat belly’ for IBS and other ailments.This is not the wheat but the way it is grown, obviously using fertilisers and herbicides. Others get ‘fog brain’ if they eat wheat. Gluten allergy is serious when the body turns on its own immune system but very few people have it. Some peope find they gain energy, lose weight and cure breathing problems but it’s more likely they gave up the chemicals. the same with ‘cured raw foodists’. If you eat a lot of vegetables and give up chemical white loaves, you are likely gonig to feel a lot better very soon. The nutrition of wheat is also poor.
Amber Waves is a book that looks at how the original food from the foothills of the Middle East turned into what it is today. Ecologist Catherine Zabinski shows us in a biography of wheat what went wrong.
Tapioca or cassava flour is produced from a tuber native to Brazil, related to ucca. It’s often used as athickener in foods.