Ask the ChefsFeb/Mar 2017 Issue

Ask the Gluten-Free Chef

My pantry is packed with different flours and starches for all my gluten-free recipes. Help!


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Q  My pantry is packed with different flours and starches to make all these gluten-free recipes. Can you give me a few tips to help streamline my baking toolbox?

A I hear you. Gluten-free flours can really clutter up your kitchen. You’ll be pleased to learn that a high-quality gluten-free all-purpose flour blend will work okay in just about any recipe (although results will vary). Just total up the flours and starches in your recipe and replace that amount with an equal amount of your all-purpose blend.

For best results, tweak your blend according to these general guidelines:

■ Recipes for pie crusts, yeast breads and pizza crusts work best with a blend that contains at least one high-protein flour (like amaranth, quinoa, millet, sorghum or chickpea flour). Stir about cup of high-protein flour into your all-purpose flour blend and then measure out the amount of blend you need. It should equal the total amount of flours and starches called for in your recipe. Then use about 1 teaspoon of xanthan gum or guar gum for every cup of flour blend in your recipe (if gum is not in your blend).

■ Cake recipes generally work best with a blend that contains a higher proportion of white flour (like rice flour) and white starches. Use about teaspoon of xanthan or guar gum for every cup of flour blend (if gum is not already in your blend).

■ Most recipes for muffins, quick breads and cookies are flexible enough to work fine with any all-purpose flour blend.

For more about using gluten-free flours, starches, blends and substitutions, check out GF Flour Replacements and Substitution Solutions. For smart tips from our readers on how to conquer gluten-free kitchen clutter, visit

Q  I bought a gluten-free all-purpose flour blend that contains rice flour, pea flour, potato starch, tapioca starch and xanthan gum. Can I use this blend to make bread?

A Most all-purpose flour blends can be used as a cup-for-cup replacement for the flours and starches in almost any gluten-free bread recipe. Just total up the flours and starches in your recipe and replace that amount with an equal amount of your all-purpose flour blend. Be sure to add xanthan gum and salt if they’re in your recipe but not in your blend.

Results will vary depending on the blend, of course. The one you mention is particularly well suited for bread as it contains pea flour and xanthan gum, which add extra protein and stretchiness. See my answer above for more about working with flour blends.

Q I just spotted a weird ingredient listed on a package of gluten-free chocolate cookies—apricot kernel paste. This brings up memories of laetrile and cyanide poisoning. Is it safe?

A Rest assured, apricot kernel paste is safe for you and your gluten-free diet. A nut-free substitute for marzipan that’s lower in price, apricot kernel paste is now an ingredient in many food products, like the cookies you reference. Apricot kernels are closely related to almonds (both members of the Rosaceae family) and have a similar flavor and nutritional profile.

Q The bread recipes in your magazine sound awesome. Unfortunately, my gluten-free daughter has a nightshade sensitivity. What can I substitute for potato starch and still wind up with fantastic baked goods?

A In place of potato starch, an equal amount of arrowroot flour, cornstarch or tapioca starch will give you good results. For potato flour, the answer isn’t quite as simple. It depends on how much potato flour is in your recipe. If you’re replacing a fairly large amount, you may have to experiment for best results. Refer to our GF Flour Replacement chart.

Q Can you give me a version of Beth's No-Knead Bread (October/November 2016) that contains eggs and the dough rises in a few hours rather than overnight? I’d like to prepare the bread in the morning and have it for dinner that evening. With the shorter time frame, I can use eggs in the recipe instead of flax meal.

A I don’t recommend replacing flax meal with eggs in this recipe. It’s a makeover of a simple gluten-filled loaf that contains just four ingredients—flour, salt, water and yeast. Adding eggs would significantly change the texture of the loaf. What’s more, letting batter with uncooked eggs sit out on your counter for eight hours can risk breeding salmonella. And there’s another reason this no-knead bread must sit overnight. The overnight fermentation process provides flavor to your loaf and helps transform the rough, craggy dough into dough that’s wonderfully soft.

Q I made Beth's No-Knead Bread and it was very hard on the outside but still dough-like on the inside like it wasn’t cooked enough. It was a bit shy of the 190F internal temperature but I had already cooked it 70 minutes. Any suggestions?

A One way to make sure the bread cooks completely is to make a smaller loaf. Either cut the recipe in half or divide the dough and use half for boule and half for rolls or breadsticks. A smaller size boule should bake completely in 55 to 60 minutes. For rolls or breadsticks, follow the recipe instructions.

Q I know flax is used as an egg replacement. Now I see it’s listed as part of the “dry blend” in my gluten-free muffin mix. What gives?

A Flax gel is a standard substitute for eggs in baking: To replace 1 egg, combine 1 tablespoon of ground flax seeds (flax meal) with 3 tablespoons of warm water and let it sit a bit to thicken. The mixture becomes viscous, like an egg white. Flax meal is also used in baked goods, a plus for both baker and consumer. It delivers moisture and stability to the finished products and increases the nutritional profile, adding beneficial fiber and omega 3s.

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