These days, if you were to knock on your neighbor’s door to borrow a cup of flour, it wouldn’t be totally out of the question for her to respond by asking,“almond, coconut, or brown rice?”
Thanks to the gluten-free revolution, the number of flours on store shelves has multiplied massively, with plain old all-purpose flour now being joined by millet, quinoa, chickpea, and tons of other exotic—and confounding—new arrivals.
So what’s a clueless baker to do? According to Emily Lael Aumiller—proprietress of Brooklyn’s healthiest special-occasion bakery, Lael Cakes, and the author of Pure Artisty: Extraordinary Vegan and Gluten-Free Cakes—if your goal is to make dessert, it’s all in the mix.
According to Aumiller, alt-flours are like brownies and ice cream—they’re better together. “You have to create a blend to get that light, fluffy pastry texture—you can’t find it in one specific alternative one,” she explains. “Especially when you’re making cakes, I’ve found when you use just one alternative flour it tends to be a little bit heavier.”
This might seem like a lot of work, but Aumiller insists it’s worth the extra effort, even if you haven’t totally sworn off wheat. “The flours I use are rich in nutrients that wheat sometimes can’t give you, and it’s nice to have a variety of nutrients in your diet,” she says. “Plus, alternative flours aren’t processed as heavily as wheat flour is in the U.S., and that’s the main concern if you’re sensitive to gluten.” (Some even call it Frankenwheat.)
Pull up your favorite muffin recipe and keep scrolling for Emily Lael Aumiller’s tips for baking with gluten-free flour—and get her recipe for the blend she uses in all of her exquisite cakes.
Your gluten-free flour cheat sheet:
Think grams, not cups: “Measuring things by weight with alternative ingredients is really important, rather than measuring by volume,” Aumiller stresses, noting that this is especially important when you’re using gluten-free flour in a recipe that calls for regular. “Sometimes when you use a measuring cup, a cup of a heavier alternative flour won’t actually have the same volume as a cup of regular flour. If you have a scale you can measure a more accurate amount.”
Don’t be afraid to play: “Sometimes I find not one gluten-free flour mix is perfect for everything, so making small batches at a time and testing it out here and there is a good idea,” says Aumiller. “That way, you don’t have a ton left over if it’s not your favorite.” And don’t get caught up in perfection, she says. “It can be really fun to mix your own… you can make something incredibly personal to what you need if you play around with the recipe a bit.”
Stir it up: Made a big batch of flour mix and it’s been sitting in your cupboard? “I always recommend giving it a good mix with a whisk before you use it,” says Aumiller. “Different flours have different weights, so it can settle.” This ensures you’ll have the proper ratio of flours in your blend when it’s time to use it.
Lael Cakes’ Gluten-Free Flour
Aumiller recommends the blend below—which she uses for pretty much everything at the shop—with millet flour as its base. “It’s kind of the shining star of the mix,” she proclaims. “Millet flour has the most body, has a really delicious, tender flavor to it, and is really light. So that gives you the color and texture you want in a gluten-free flour mix.”
Of course, you can always switch it up to suit the flavor profile of your pastry—she recommends swapping coconut flour for coconut-flavored or tropical desserts, almond flour for nutty ones, or buckwheat flour for savory recipes like flatbread, pizza dough, or muffins.
But she warns that if you opt for coconut or almond flour, you’ll have to add slightly more liquid to your recipe, since they’re heavy flours that’ll soak up a lot of it. “Milk and oil are easy ingredients to add more of if your batter’s a little dry,” she says.
Makes about 3 1/4 cups | 497 grams
1 cup (227 grams) millet flour
1/2 cup (114 grams) tapioca flour
1/4 cup (57 grams) cornstarch
1/4 cup (57 grams) potato starch
3 Tbsp brown rice flour
1 1/2 Tbsp guar gum
1. Combine all ingredients in a bowl and whisk together to ensure everything is evenly distributed.
2. Store in an airtight container in a cool and dry environment.
While you’re upgrading your flour selection, why not also stock up on these healthy holistic pantry essentials? And if you’re feeling really ambitious, have a go at DIYing your own yogurt, ghee, and muesli (it’s easier than you’d think).