Most bakers use all-purpose flour for almost everything they make at home. In the bakeshop we would use four different kinds of flour.
All-purpose flour – which contains a little more gluten than pastry flour and is used for things like cookies and brownies, etc.
Pastry flour – which contains some gluten, but less than all-purpose flour and is used for pie dough, muffins, scones, quick breads, and Danish pastries, etc.
Cake flour – which contains no gluten at all and is used mostly for cakes.
Bread (high- gluten) flour – which is used for breads and rolls, generally most yeast dough.
What is all this talk about gluten? Why define these flours by the word gluten? Because gluten is what gives baked goods their texture. Gluten is what causes the nice elasticity in bread dough. It is what causes pie dough to shrink back a bit each time you roll it out and hold together when you lift it to place it in the pan. It is also what can cause muffins or other quick pastries to turn out tough or have tunnels if the batter is overworked. Traditional bakers need to understand how to use it and how it can cause problems. So, when we transition into gluten-free baking and remove gluten from the baking equation, it is important to recognize that in addition replacing to the structure and taste of flour, we need to replace the function and effect of gluten in our baked goods.
Xanthan gum is a commonly used food additive which has been around since 1968. It is commonly used in salad dressings as a thickening agent and has properties which allow the salad dressing to thin out when it is shaken up and then thicken up again once it is poured. When added to gluten-free baking mixes it restores some of the function and effect which naturally occurs in flour where gluten is present.
Over the next few weeks I will be sharing recipes for baking mixes which can be substituted for each of these different types of flour. This first version is called Gluten-Free Pastry Flour and works well for scones, muffins, quick breads and pie dough. Let me know if you try it out!
Gluten-Free Pastry Baking Mix
1 cup rice flour
1 cup potato starch
1 cup tapioca flour
1 cup sweet white sorghum flour
1/2 cup corn starch
4 teaspoons xanthan gum
Combine all ingredients and store in an airtight container. Makes 4-1/2 cups.