Gluten Free Substitutions Part VIII: The Flours

by Jenn on August 30, 2010

in Flops,GF Substitutions,Gluten Free

2 cups of gluten free flour Rolling out the Détrampe

Welcome to the next installment of of the gluten free substitutions series here on Jenn Cuisine!  We’re currently in the process of investigating various GF baking ingredients, and why they may or may not be useful.  Last week I did a post about starches and why they can be important in baking, and previously I had discussed various binding agents to use.  So this week we are pressing on to the flours!

Truth be told, at the moment I’m not feeling so awesome about my abilities to discuss gluten free flours with you .  I had a bit of a baking flop this weekend.  I mean a real flop.  I attempted puff pastry.  Maybe I was being too ambitious? I don’t think so, after all there is more than one very successful looking gluten free puff pastry recipe out on the web, namely by Jeanne of Four Chickens and Helene of Tartelette.  My last gluten free puff pastry attempt unfortunately didn’t puff.  Yesterday, neither did this attempt.  After talking to the Twitterverse I don’t think it was all from my flour combo, instead I am thinking it is also my lack of decent puff pastry skills.  But I did use some less starchy flours, and maybe that also contributed to its downfall.

Oh well, everyone is allowed a flop here or there.   Maybe one day someone can teach me exactly how to do this and show me when I go astray… until then just don’t expect to see any cute little vols-au-vents here on the site!

Folding the butter packet
Once I’ve decided on a starch:flour ratio to use for a recipe, my flour choices are actually pretty simplistic.  My main determining factor? Taste and coarseness.  I’ve learned that if you use a coarser grained flour (like my amaranth flour is) and no finer stuff (like my white rice flour), then things fall apart more.  But other than that my logic is not so complicated.  I’ll sum up in a few bullets the main things that go on in my head when picking flours:

  • READ the package.  Just because it’s sorghum doesn’t mean it’s guaranteed to be GF. “may contain gluten” or “produced on machinery shared with gluten” are a bummer, but don’t take the chance if you are gluten intolerant/celiac!
  • Choose at least 2 flours to go along with the starch and binding agent
  • Don’t have more than 1/3 total GF mix as bean flours, they’ll taste too strong
  • Don’t have more than 1/3 total GF mix as coarse flours (quinoa, amaranth, etc.) else things will fall apart
  • Make sure at least one flour is of a medium/finer grain
  • And I will add – for things you are going to be rolling out, go higher on the starchiness/finer flours!

So what is my grand list?  Everyone likes to see lists.  I like to see lists.  They help me immensely to make sense of things, and the many ingredients we have here definitely need some making sense.

“Grainy” Flours:

  • Amaranth
  • Quinoa
  • Stone ground corn
  • Coconut meal

“Less Grainy” Flours:

  • Teff
  • Buckwheat
  • Corn
  • Brown Rice
  • Chestnut Flour, other nut flours

“Medium” Flours:

  • Millet
  • Sorghum
  • Bean Flours (chickpea, soy, etc.)
  • Finely Ground Nut Flours (like a v. fine almond)

“Fine” Flours:

  • White Rice Flour
  • Potato Flour


  • Cornstarch
  • Tapioca Starch/Flours
  • Potato Starch
  • Arrowroot Powder
  • Glutinous Rice Flour

Binding Agents

  • Xanthan Gum
  • Guar Gum
  • the other agents (gelatins, eggs, etc.)

So looking back at this list, what was I missing? Too much emphasis on the coarser flours, no medium/fine ones.  Puff pastry is a delicate thing, and maybe I needed more delicate flours to help it hold together and win the fight against the butter.  I think my problems with flour choice were exacerbated by my temperature issues, and the result was a total fail of a puff pastry.  Why does my pasta dough roll so easily? I think it is because I only have  25% as a grainy flour.  As you can see in the picture above, I chose about 50% here for my puff pastry dough (teff/buckwheat), which actually was a large change from either Jeanne or Helene’s recipes.  The more I think about it, the more I think my flour choice was definitely a contributing factor to this puff pastry’s demise.

Well, I never said I was an expert, just inquisitive, and I am hoping to ask the right questions to help us all get a better handle on our gluten free baking.  I may be a chemist, but food chemistry is certainly not my forté!  Trust me, there are certain chemistry topics that I could go on ad nauseum about and bore you all to tears (ha after all, I did spend 4 years slaving away in a lab to get that phd!), but they’re not really interesting in terms of food :) So I am learning in this process as much as you.  Part of learning is analyzing our failures – to see why something might not have worked, and how to change it for the better the next time.

Puff pastry, I’m not done with you yet!  They say third time’s a charm, right? Guess I will just have to try again, this time with a bit more knowledge about how to get it right.

So for some self encouragement, let’s look as some things I can do right!


Bagels, Gluten Free

Tarte Shells!


And a terrible photo, but an awesome lemon almond cake!

GF Lemon Almond Cake

Ok, now it’s your turn!  How do you decide which flours to use?  Are you able to analyze your flops and figure out how to fix what went wrong? Did I pick the correct diagnosis for my puff pastry issues?