Gluten Free Substitutions Part IV – All Purpose Flour

by Jenn on August 2, 2010

in GF Substitutions,Gluten Free

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So it’s about time we move onto the subjects everyone wants to demystify when it comes to gluten free baking – flour.  All of those different types of flours – nuts, seeds, other grains, there’s a lot to handle.  And on top of that, there are so many pre-made mixes out there too!  This week I’ll be talking about using the pre-made flour mixes – well as best as I can.  Each brand has a slightly different composition, a different starch ratio, and varying textures and flavors.  I used to use all purpose GF flours all the time, but more recently have strayed away from them mainly because I love mixing my own flavors together, and also because not all flours are suited to all types of baked goods.  Some brands do better jobs than others at tailoring mixes for certain applications.  If you have found a gluten free cake mix that you absolutely LOVE to use, that’s awesome.  But ever the scientist, I have a harder time systematically trying every brand of mix to find the best ones for each type of food that I want to make (because of course I’d have to try them all, right?), and have generally found it easier for me to try a recipe where I have more control over the ingredients, or where I can make my own mixes for a better price.  It’s one of the main reasons why I started looking to using all these “alternative” flours and ingredients in the first place.

That being said, I haven’t ruled pre-made mixes completely out of my life.  There are some dishes that all purpose flour mixes are fantastic for, no matter which brand you buy.  Some all purpose mixes also make incredible cookies.  Some make terrible cookies.  I apparently also make terrible cookies, but more on my gluten free cookie recipe development saga later.  Today, I want to talk about those foods that truly don’t matter which company’s flour mix you bought – and those are foods that use flour as thickeners and coatings.

Any sauce that needs thickening can usually be done with an all purpose flour – gravies, béchemel, other creamy sauces, even many soups.  This is probably my most common application.  One can use pretty much any brand of GF flour in any recipe where the flour is not integral to the structure of the dish, such as in the following:

Gluten Free Mac & Cheese

Soups – All purpose flour is a perfect thickener in soups.  There are so many great cream based soups out there that use flour in the ingredients (just think of all those soups normally off our list of possibilities!).  If all a soup needs to be converted to GF is a gluten free flour, an all purpose mix is often quite sufficient to create a tasty gluten-less soup :)  While I haven’t actually posted any on this blog yet (hmm will have to correct that!), many soups only require making minor changes to being gluten free – using a gluten free broth and an all purpose flour mix (as always, make sure to check all listed ingredients and read their labels).  Many chowders that we make only require these modifications, and I’ll make it a point to blog more chowders when the weather starts cooling down again!

Sauces – It’s a perfect thickener in many gravies and sauces, like a classic beef stroganoff.  Or while the pie crust of a chicken pot pie may warrant a more complicated recipe (well, mine does anyways), the sauce is a béchemel derivative which works well with really any flour combo you happen to have.   Or an étouffée just needs a little GF flour to become the perfect gluten free side to blackened catfish.  Really, it just takes this one ingredient sub. to be able to make any sauce that requires flour (again, double check your ingredients and always read labels, I can’t say for sure about every sauce recipe out there!).  I just listed a few, to show how many great possibilities there are, and we are still doing just one easy substitution!

And as long as you have gluten free pasta, you can even whip together a homemade mac & cheese recipe from scratch with only two very easy substitutions!  See, it doesn’t have to be so difficult, really!

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Next, the flour coatings:

Ricotta gnocchi is virtually flourless, and a quick dusting of all purpose flour is all you need to make this handmade pasta gluten free :)

Fritters – I used a GF pancake mix for this particular recipe of chestnut pumpkin fritters, but anything that you are going to batter and fry can be done with an all purpose GF flour.

Frying Meats – Many dishes require coating cuts of meat in flour before frying, like I did in this hearty stew or bourguignon recipe.

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Using an all-purpose mix is a great starting point for building on what we already know about substituting & converting to gluten free meals.  Try not to think of these types of dishes as really complicated rocket science that has to occur – in many ways, an all purpose mix is no different from what we discussed last week with one-ingredient substitutions.  Sometimes the mix you have will work for other things as well.  Go ahead and try if you want to experiment!  I just wanted to share this week things that I know will work no matter what brand you buy, for a couple of reasons – one, no one is sponsoring me and so I don’t want to do any product placements and two, we’re going in baby steps.  I want us to develop a comfort zone with gluten free substitutions, and then gradually expand it and let your repertoire of gluten free cooking expand as well.  I hope you can help me expand mine too!

So this week I am asking, what about your experience with all purpose mixes?  Which dishes have you found that it doesn’t matter what type of GF flour mix you throw in, it always comes out great?