I’d like to share something with you I haven’t told you yet, something that happened on the path to developing our All-Purpose Gluten-Free Flour Blend. It might help you understand why these flour blends are extraordinary and worth your pledge.
This past year, I nearly drove Danny crazy. Picture this. We’re in our kitchen studio, music playing, working for the day while Lu is at school. Danny’s flipping some kind of hot food in the black cast-iron skillet, hovering above a flame on the stove. I’m standing at the wooden island in the center of the kitchen, my apron smeared with floury handprints, my hands reaching for a jar of millet flour. Or sorghum. Or sweet rice flour. Or quinoa flour.
“Shauna, are you making another flour blend?” he asks me, over the sizzle of the fire in front of him. I nod. I know he doesn’t approve. But I couldn’t stop until I knew.
A few years ago, Danny and I came up with a formula for a great all-purpose flour blend: 40% whole grains, 60% starches. Typically, bleached wheat flour is about 10% protein and 90% starches. (I didn’t know that before I started researching. We put so much of our focus on that gluten protein that we don’t realize that wheat works because of its starches.) So when I stopped using 8 different flours in a single recipe and tried to create a blend of flours to use over and over again, I started there.
I found that a flour blend that was 40% whole grain gluten-free flour gave me about an equivalent amount of protein in the flour blend to bleached wheat flour, minus the gluten, of course.
When I first began publishing the recipe here, I encouraged everyone reading to make up his or her own blend. Use whatever flours work for you! But by the time we began writing Gluten-Free Girl Every Day, however, I wanted to find the one blend that worked best for us.
(Danny and I are both food geeks, determined to make the best possible food we can, then creating and testing a recipe so you can make that food in your home. Besides that, I genuinely feel at home in front of a food scale, writing down baker’s percentages. I know. I’m weird.)
I tried so many flours. Typically, most gluten-free flour mixes seem to use some variation of brown rice flour, white rice flour, potato starch, and tapioca starch. I started there. I didn’t like that blend, however, no matter how much I played with the percentages. Even a bit too much tapioca and a blend turns slimy. I don’t like the taste of brown rice in a flour, plus it just doesn’t absorb water well. And long-grain white rice flour felt useless to me in terms of what I wanted: a soft flour that would work as well in cookies as pizza dough.
So I started again. Over the months of developing Gluten-Free Girl Every Day, now three years ago, I played with every permutation I could. Sorghum? I like it. But it can taste a little bitter sometimes. Quinoa? Too grassy. Amaranth? FAR too grassy. Buckwheat? Love it. But when I paired it with sweet rice flour, which I fell in love with years ago, the flour blend was too starchy. I made dozens of different flour blends.
And in the end, it was really clear for me. Millet, sweet rice, and potato starch.
The ancient grain millet is high in protein and magnesium. It also has a natural sweetness — I find I use less sugar in a recipe when millet is in the flour blend — and lends a warm taste to baked goods. Millet creates a wonderful soft crumb to baked goods.
Sweet rice flour, milled from “sticky” rice, has wonderful binding qualities for gluten-free baked goods. Plain white rice flour is ground from long-grain rice. Think about the quality of a batch of long grain rice on the plate. It’s a pile of fluffy rice, each grain separate from another. That’s delicious when I want a bite of jasmine rice. But when I want a binding, starchy flour, I want the short-grain rice that is sweet rice. (It’s not sweet. And it’s often called “glutinous” flour. That simply means sticky, not that it contains gluten.)
In fact, sweet rice flour binds all the other ingredients in a baked good together so well that you truly do not need xanthan gum, guar gum, or even psyllium to create most baked goods.
For awhile, I was determined to bake with only high-protein whole grains and not include any starches in my flour blend. But remember that wheat is mostly made of starches. Those baking attempts were leaden and sad. A bit of starch helps. Potato starch, in particular, keeps everything moist and light in our baked goods.
We committed to this flour blend for Gluten-Free Girl Every Day and created light and fluffy biscuits with it. The apple pie is a dream — flaky and tender. We made dumplings, lemon yogurt cake, sandwich bread, and millet waffles with that blend. Hundreds of you have written to say these recipes have become your family recipes now.
So you’d think I would be done, right?
This is where I drove Danny crazy.
When we were developing American Classics, Reinvented, we decided we wanted an all-purpose flour blend and a grain-free blend for the book, which could be used interchangeably. (I’ll tell you about the grain-free blend on Monday.) Danny said, “Well, we have the AP flour already.”
I twisted my feet toward each other and tied the strings of my apron tight. “Well….”
“What?” he asked, surprised.
“I want to make sure it’s the one. I mean, yeah. It’s a great blend! But if we use it in two books, we’re saying that’s the blend for the rest of our career. I have to be sure.”
He refrained from rolling his eyes. Instead, he gave me a hug and turned toward the stove. He let me play with brown rice again, with teff and quinoa and tapioca and arrowroot and anything else we had in the cupboards, in all kinds of combinations, with different percentages, in jars and bowls all over the kitchen. That red-striped apron of mine has seen some flours in its time.
The day came when I turned to Danny and said, “You know what? You’re right. It’s the millet blend. It’s still the best. I’m done.” He didn’t say “I told you!” Instead he just hugged me close and said, “Oh good. Let’s start baking with it again.”
Can I tell you something amazing for me? I haven’t made up a new flour blend in close to a year.
Well, I did fiddle with it a bit. I finessed the percentages a bit so 1 cup of this all-purpose flour (if you whisk it, scoop it into the cup and swipe a knife across the top) weighs 140 grams. Exactly. Do you know what that means? You can use this flour as a 1 to 1 replacement for the bleached white flour in your family favorite recipes. All you need to bake is this all-purpose flour blend.
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We keep the millet/sweet rice/potato starch blend in our kitchen, along with the grain-free blend we created. We reach into those big jars to start making pancakes on Sunday morning or bake cupcakes for Lucy’s kindergarten class. Desmond is usually jumping to music we’re playing as we dance. But I haven’t made another flour blend in months and months.
I’ll never make another all-purpose flour blend. This is our blend forever.
And that Gluten-Free Girl All-Purpose Flour Blend can be on the market and in your kitchen if you pledge to our Kickstarter, then tell everyone you know to give to it, so we can fund it successfully.