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Our favourite store cupboard gluten free flours and how best to use them

In our new Honeybuns All Day Cook Book, the aim was to make the recipes as inclusive to everyone whilst still tasting deliciously decadent, using a variety of free from flour blends. 

Shop bought gluten free flours have their place but can be quite dry. Gluten free baking lends itself to a more innovative approach. We create all our own flour blends and this results in a more luxurious tasting treat. We believe in using naturally free from ingredients , eg. nuts rather than flour that has had the gluten extracted from it. There are so many gluten free flours out there and therefore infinite blends to be tried and tested. At Honeybuns we embrace the opportunity to get stuck in and try things out. 
There is a really useful store cupboard introduction chapter in the book. Below is an extract about gluten free flours and how to get the most out of them in your gluten free baking.
gluten free ingredients for the store cupboard

The question we’re most commonly asked is, “what flours should I use and once I’ve bought them how best do I use them?”

Naturally gluten free ingredients for the best free from bakes

In an attempt to answer this we’ve carefully edited this vast array of flours down to focus on a delicious, versatile and obtainable collection of “go to” staples for your food cupboard. At the same time, we’ve included some more unusual options to try if you want to experiment a bit. Here we class ground nuts, seeds, pulses and grains as flours. 

Doves Farm and Bob’s Red Mill both do good all purpose flours. Alternatively, our Honeybuns “go to” gluten free flour blend is one we make ourselves using 15% ground flax, 45% sorghum flour and 40% ground almonds.

At the end of the day, our philosophy is that if you’re going to the trouble of making a lovely home made gluten free bread, cake or pastry, then it’s worth investing in the right ingredients needed to get the best result. 

A general tip on flours is that you can freeze them if you’re concerned about using them before their best before dates are up. This is especially relevant to ground seeds and nuts which can become rancid if left exposed to the air for long periods.

In our first book, Honeybuns gluten free baking, we included a lot of ground nuts, namely ground almonds, hazelnuts and pistachios. We remain great fans as they give reliably tasty results as well as adding moisture and nutritional benefits to recipes. The downsides are their expense and the need for some nut free recipes to include those who can’t tolerate them in their diet.

At Honeybuns we benefit from being able to buy nuts in larger, more economical quantities. For home bakers having to buy in smaller, retail packets, this can be eye wateringly expensive. One option is to make your own nut flours by simply blitzing your chosen nuts, either skin on or off, in a food processor until you end up with a flour like consistency. You can then buy a large bag of whole nuts and make several batches of nut flour which you can then freeze.

This issue of expense has led us to discovering how versatile milled seeds are as an alternative to using ground nuts.

Here we talk you through the flours we favour, why we like them and how to get the best out of them.

Naturally gluten free ingredients for the best free from bakes
GROUND ALMONDS

Almonds are one of nature’s over achievers. Packed to the rafters with vitamin E and antioxidants as well as having cholesterol lowering properties to boot. Their naturally occurring oils keep breads and cakes moist and their sweet flavour means you can add less sugar to recipes. You can use them solo, as per traditional Mediterranean style cakes, but you will get a denser result than if you blend them with sorghum flour or ground flax. The almond bread (blended with flax) recipe in our new cook book is soft, moist, sliceable and utterly moreish. Almond based cakes, breads, cookies and pastries are all delicious and have great keeping qualities.

The downside is the price. Almonds are susceptible to drought and California, one of the largest growing areas, has been badly affected in recent years thus making them more expensive. The most cost effective way of buying almonds would be from a natural food wholesaler. Whole almonds are cheaper than ground and, as mentioned above, you can then make your own flour at home and freeze it. Alternatively you can use ground cashew or ground sunflower seed flour.

At Honeybuns we use around half a tonne of ground almonds each week and it’s fair to say we’ve become quite intimately acquainted with their quirks and foibles. When they are harvested and what the weather conditions were whilst the almonds were growing affects their oil content. This we discovered when batches of our Amondi cookie appeared to be frying, rather than baking. This particular problem can be countered by adding a non-oily flour, such as sorghum, to mop up the excess oil. The key is to adapt the recipe if you encounter such variables.

BROWN RICE FLOUR

This is easily available, relatively inexpensive and lends a crispness to pastry. We’ve used it in some of the savoury tart and quiche pastries where you want a bit of crispness. It is, like most gluten free pastries, quite fragile when you need to lift it and transfer to a tin. This is a non-issue as you can hand “squidge” the pastry into its tin without any drama. We find it too heavy and drying to use on its own, so we blend it with either tapioca or cornflour. If it is used heavy handedly in a recipe, you can detect a slight grittiness in texture. Feel free to use white rice flour instead.

CHESTNUT FLOUR

Chestnut flour is well used in France in chocolate based recipes. We’ve used this as a one-off in a bread roll recipe in this book where we combine it with mashed, roasted butternut squash. The resulting flavour is fantastic. Chestnut flour brings a touch of luxe and lots of moistness to bread and cake mixes. The snags are: it can be tricky to get hold of, it’s expensive and it can be heavy or “claggy” if used on its own rather than blended. It’s therefore best to mix it with sorghum and/or tapioca for fluffier, lighter results. As a flavourful and more economical alternative try ground roasted peanuts instead.

Naturally gluten free ingredients for the best free from bakes
CHICKPEA / GRAM FLOUR

This is a valuable ingredient to include in baking owing to its nutritional benefits. It is 20% protein and contains high levels of vitamin A, B1, B2, niacin and vitamin C. It has a strong flavour and is a very heavy flour. We use it to add body and flavour to savoury pastry but only up to 25% of the flour blend.

CORNFLOUR

This multi-tasking, neutrally flavoured flour can be used as a thickener and also blended with other flours to create a soft chewiness in baked goods. If using it as a thickener, take care not to boil it as it won’t survive anything over 96°C.

GOLDEN FLAX, GROUND

Made from golden linseed; flax comes in two colours, brown and golden. To be honest, the only reason we favour the golden is that it looks more inviting when baked. Nutritionally, flax is a great source of protein, fibre, omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidants. There is also good evidence for its blood pressure lowering qualities. There is an excellent UK grower and supplier where you can buy flax and learn about its medicinal and culinary applications. Baking with it is a delight. It lends a lovely wholemeal taste to breads and cake but without the heaviness. It is outstanding when used in biscuit bases for cheesecakes. We use it in conjunction with other flours such as ground almond and sorghum. It can be bitter if you exceed more than 20% in any flour blend.

HAZELNUTS, GROUND

This is a beautiful ingredient to use. Simple to blend in with other flours such as sorghum or polenta to make sweet tart bases, cookies and cakes. The flavour comes out strongly without you needing to use more than 50% ground hazelnut, in conjunction with other flours. As with the ground almonds, you can make your own from whole hazelnuts to help make this ingredient less costly.

HEMP, SHELLED OR HEMP SEEDS

This interesting ingredient is available as a flour but it’s the nutty tasting seeds we tend to add to flour blends for extra texture and flavour. Great to include in sweet and savoury bakes for those who can’t eat nuts. Nutritionally they deliver essential amino acids and contain an optimal balance of omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids. We have used Linwoods branded shelled hemp.

MILLED FLAXSEED, SUNFLOWER & PUMPKIN SEED BLEND

This is one of our favourite flours. It blends easily with other flours and brings moisture, texture and layered flavour to sweet and savoury bakes. If you need to go nut free this is an excellent substitute and is nutritionally loaded with omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin E and fibre to name just a few. Linwoods make a lovely blend and it’s readily available either in the supermarkets or on their website. Alternatively, try making your own by grinding and blending equal parts of each seed. 

POLENTA

This is dried, ground maize and is a rich golden yellow in colour. Flavour wise it’s neutral. It creates a lovely, fluffy texture when blended with ground seeds or nuts. We use polenta this way in cakes and breads. It also adds crunch to shortbreads and biscuits and can also be used instead of a bread crumb coating.

QUINOA FLOUR

As with polenta, quinoa lends a lovely golden colour to baked products. Nutritionally it’s an important flour to try and include in your diet as it’s a complete source of protein, providing all the amino acids. Quinoa is also a good source of iron and antioxidants. It’s nutty in flavour and works well in both sweet and savoury recipes. 

SORGHUM / JOWAR FLOUR

This is the best general purpose gluten free flour we’ve come across. It works brilliantly when mixed with moist nut and seed flours as it fluffs up and produces a soft eating cake. We use it happily in breads, pastry, cookies and cakes. It‘s sometimes said it can have a slightly bitter after taste but we have had no problems using it up to 50% blended with ground almonds or a milled seed blend. Nutritionally it’s rich in vitamins and minerals. Specifically it’s a good source of selenium and niacin, both of which have been cited as having possible anticancer properties.

TAPIOCA FLOUR

Tapioca flour is one of our hard working flours in the Honeybuns kitchen. It’s virtually flavourless and lends body and chew to a recipe. It absorbs moisture and acts as a binding agent. You don’t need very much. We blend it at 15% with sorghum and almond flour in sponge cake recipes.

Gorgeous naturally gluten free ingredients for home baking
NUTS & SEEDS

For those wanting to cook or bake for nut allergy sufferers it’s important to be aware of certain misnomers and their potential for causing confusion. For instance, pine nuts are the edible seeds of the pine tree rather than tree nuts. According to Anaphylaxis Campaign UK it is highly unlikely a nut allergy sufferer would be adversely affected. However it would always best to check with nut allergy sufferers before you use them in a recipe.

Similarly, coconuts are not nuts but are botanically classified as a drupe. As with the pine nuts it would be advisable to check with the nut allergy sufferer that they’re OK with them.

Whole seeds can be used instead of whole or chopped nuts in a recipe quite happily. Our “go to” seeds are: sunflower, pumpkin, pine nuts and golden linseed.

Where toasted nuts and seeds are called for, you can spread them out on a baking sheet and pop them in a preheated oven at 180°C / Gas 4 for 3-5 minutes. Seeds such as pine nuts, sunflower seeds and pumpkin seeds tend to take less time to toast. We start with 3 minutes and watch them like a hawk. You are aiming for a lightly toasted finish rather than a deep tan. Nuts can be toasted for up to 5 minutes and we either leave them whole or roughly chop them, preferably with their skins on. The alternative method is to dry roast them for the same amount of time in a frying pan on a high heat. You’ll need to shake the pan around every 30 seconds or so. We often add whole toasted seeds to pastry, bread and cake mixes for texture and a toasted, nutty flavour. Once their packaging is open and they’re exposed to air, seeds and nuts lose flavour and can become soft and rancid over time. Freezing them, either whole or in flour form, is a great option.

We're always more than happy to answer any questions you might have.  

Honeybuns All Day cook book

This is an extract from Honeybuns All Day Cook Book by Emma Goss-Custard, published by Honeybee Books. 

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