Feb 062013

Gluten-Free CupcakesThanks to a recent online discussion about gluten-free baking, a couple of flour blend recipes came to my attention, and I agreed to try them both and report on my results. Originally, I was only going to try one gluten-free flour blend, but it called for sorghum flour and I didn’t have any.

None of the usual grocery stores had it, either. So I looked for an alternative flour blend, just in case I couldn’t track down any sorghum flour. I found a similar recipe using using potato starch instead, which I had plenty of, so I tried that one first and called it GF1.

1 cup brown rice flour
1 cup potato starch (NOT potato flour)
½ cup millet flour
1 teaspoon xanthan gum

At least, that’s how I made it, only I actually ended up doubling the recipe because I knew I needed at least 3 cups of the flour blend for the cake I wanted to bake.

The recipe for GF1 had several suggested substitutions, including using corn or tapioca starch in lieu of the potato starch. I suppose this is because potato starch can be a challenge to find, but check the Kosher section of your grocery store because sometimes it’s on display there. Another recommended substitution was using almond flour instead of millet. This would up the protein factor, but almond flour tends to be coarser.

A day or so later I managed to get a bag of sorghum flour at Whole Foods, so I mixed up the other flour blend recipe, doubling it, and called it GF2. It’s darker anyway, so I don’t think it would be hard to tell them apart.

1 cup brown rice flour
1 cup sorghum flour
1 cup tapioca starch
½ teaspoon xanthan gum

You can watch a video demonstrating this flour blend recipe here: How to Make Gluten Free Flour Blend. In the recipe notes on that same webpage, there’s another flour blend that has a higher protein content, as well as the suggestion to
replace ½ cup of the tapioca starch with ½ cup cornstarch, to “alter for taste.”

Oh, and if you decide to try this flour blend, pay attention to the xanthan gum

  • add ½ teaspoon xanthan gum for cakes, cupcakes and cookies
  • add1 teaspoon xanthan gum for Breads and rolls
  • add 1 ½ teaspoon xanthan gum for pizza and pie crust.

Since I was making a cake, I went with ½ teaspoon.

I wanted to know how these flour blends would do when used in a conventional cake recipe in lieu of regular all-purpose flour, so I made the Wilton Butter Cake recipe with them.

Cake layers and cupcakes made with gluten-free flour blendsI baked an 8″ round cake layer and some cupcakes with each flour blend, and I was disappointed.

Both cake layers and the cupcakes started shrinking as soon as they came out of the oven. The GF1 (top) cake layer and all the cupcakes sank in the middle. The GF2 (bottom) cake layer didn’t sink as much, but it suffered more overall shrinkage.

Obviously, adjustments need to be made to avoid a shrinking, sinking, heavy, and dense cake. I just don’t know what. This is the challenge–it’s very difficult to just replace regular flour with a gluten-free blend in a conventional recipe and get reliable results.

Cupcakes made with different gluten-free flour blendsFrom now on, I’m going to stick with recipes listing the ingredients by weight, not volume. At least when I’m subbing out the flour and trying to make it gluten free.

It’s hard enough to be accurate when using regular all-purpose or cake flour, but with these gluten-free blends, some of the flours are heavier than others, so I’m not really sure if I’m using the correct amounts.

As far as taste, though, both cakes were fine. I thought the GF1 cake was way too sweet, and it formed a hard, crunchy top crust so I reduced the sugar in the recipe when I made it using GF2, and it was still plenty sweet but without the thick top crust. I think the general consensus in my house is the GF1 cake tasted better and was more visually appealing compared to the darker GF2 cake.

The texture and mouthfeel weren’t too bad, either. Despite its density, I think I prefer GF2 on this front, though. GF1 has more xanthan gum, and the cake tends to do that thing where the crumb congeals together in your mouth as you chew, and gets a tad slimy just before you swallow it. Or maybe that’s just me.

Further to my experiments, I had enough of these flour blends left over to get a batch of buttermilk biscuits out of each, and for now I’ll stick with Pamela’s Gluten-Free Baking and Pancake Mix for my biscuit needs. I think it makes better biscuits than either of these flour blends.

Gluten Free Buttermilk BiscuitsI used a cutter to make biscuits with GF2, and they hardly rose at all during baking, making them look like hockey pucks.

Plus, they were more crumbly than flaky, with a muffin-like texture, and got stale very quickly. Lots of strawberry jam was their only hope!

Gluten Free Buttermilk BiscuitsI baked the GF1 biscuits in a muffin tin (drop-biscuit style), and they turned out looking like dinner rolls, but at least they had some height to them.

The GF2 biscuits suffered from the same mouthfeel issue as the cake made with this flour blend, but other than that they tasted fine. Sadly, they also went really stale by the next day.

If you have any suggestions or ideas about how to adjust the butter cake recipe cited (or one like it) to get better results using a gluten-free flour blend instead of regular flour, then please leave a comment and let me know. Or, if you have a reliable gluten-free cake recipe, please share!

Leave a Reply