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Wheat flour contains gluten, which keeps biscuits, cakes and pies from getting crumbly and falling apart. It is what gives baked goods a nice texture, because it traps pockets of air. It you want light cakes and biscuits when baking gluten free, gluten substitutes must be added to any gluten free flour mixture.
For each 140g of gluten-free flour mix, add 1 teaspoon of gluten substitute, or more if your recipe calls for it. Here are three very good substitutes for gluten:
• Xanthum gum works well as a general all-purpose gluten substitution in yeast breads and other baked goods
• Guar gum is also an excellent gluten substitute and it is available in health shops
• Psyllium husk powder is a less refined alternative to gums and is most suited for yeast breads and pizza dough
Baking powder is often gluten free, but sometimes wheat-derived products can be used. It's always best to check labels to ensure that your baking powder is 100% gluten free, especially for those with coeliac disease or a severe gluten intolerance.
To make your own gluten free baking powder at home, use a ratio of 1:2 bicarbonate of soda to cream of tartar, e.g. 1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda to 2 teaspoons cream of tartar.
Look for these wheat-free flours in large supermarkets, online and in health shops.
White rice flour
This is an excellent basic flour for gluten-free baking. It is milled from polished white rice. Because it has such a bland flavour, it is perfect for baking, as it doesn't impart any flavours. It works well mixed with other flours.
Brown rice flour
This flour comes from unpolished brown rice. It has more food value because it contains bran. Use it in breads, muffins and biscuits.
This nutty tasting flour has a high protein and fat content. It is best when used in combination with other flours and for baking brownies or any baked goods with nuts or fruit.
This is a light, white, very smooth flour that comes from the cassava root. It makes baked goods impart a nice chewy taste. Use it in recipes where a chewy texture would be desirable. It would work nicely in bread recipes such as white bread or French bread. It is also easily combined with cornflour and soy flour.
Cornflour is mostly used to thicken sauces but it can be used in combination with other flours for baking and is easily available in supermarkets. Just ensure it is pure cornflour and not mixed with any other flour.
This is a gluten-free thickening agent that is perfect for cream-based soups and sauces. Mix a little with water first, then substitute potato starch for flour in your recipe but cut the amount in half. You'll find it in health food shops. Be sure you buy potato starch, which is refined and very white, and not potato flour, which is a different product entirely.
You can get a couple of brands of gluten free four blends at all major supermarkets - from plain flour to self raising to bread flour. They usually contain a mix of gluten free flours and some starches. Note that gluten free bread flour will often have xanthan gum already added; read labels to check ingredients when in doubt.
When you start cooking gluten-free, begin with recipes that use relatively small amounts of wheat flour like brownies or pancakes. These turn out great and the difference in taste is minimal.
Here are some gluten-free flour mixes to make at home so you always have gluten-free flour mixes to hand:
Gluten-Free Flour Mix I
4 tablespoons soy flour
4 tablespoons tapioca flour
8 tablespoons brown rice flour
Gluten-Free Flour Mix II
960g white rice flour
280g potato starch
140g tapioca flour
Check out our Gluten free recipe collection for loads of easy and tasty ideas.
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