If you had walked through any grocery store five years ago in search of gluten-free items, you would have left empty-handed and discouraged. These days, more knowledge about Celiac and gluten-sensitivity has led to a rise in demand for gluten-free products, and a trip to the store can get you a gluten-free substitute for almost any food item your heart desires. But why is this important for people who aren’t sensitive to gluten? The rise in demand for gluten-free flour and the increased popularity of ancient grains means that we now have easy access to a huge variety of flours when creating baked goods. Tailoring the flour you use to the type of baked good you’re making can bring your grandma’s chocolate chip cookie recipe to the next level. It’s time we break out of our All-Purpose flour rut!
But first things first…what is gluten? Gluten is a protein made up of two sub-proteins, gliadin and glutenin, found in the endosperm of cereal grains. The most common gluten-containing grains are wheat, barley and rye, but other grains also contain gluten or have a high potential for cross-contamination with gluten-containing grains during processing, such as oats.
In baking, gluten provides structure and elasticity. When gluten-containing flour is combined with water and kneaded, as when making bread, the proteins are strengthened and stretched. As the dough rises and gas is trapped in the strengthened protein links, it is able to maintain its general shape. Gluten also has binding properties and provides moisture and a soft crumb or texture to baked goods.
Without gluten, bakers have to get creative. Using a gluten-free flour blend that’s customized to the type of baked good you’re making can help bring out specific qualities, such as chewiness or moistness, to make up for the lack of gluten. For example, using almond flour can bring out more moisture in cakes, cookies and quick breads thanks to the high fat content of almonds. So if you’re interested in experimenting with different flours, choosing a gluten-free flour can transform your baked goods by adding new flavors or textures.
Use this handy how-to guide to start experimenting with your own customized flour blends:
By Guest Blogger, Carla Seet