All the Flours I've Messed With

Since I got back into gluten-light living, the cravings for all things baked have been frequent and intense. This has led me to be experiment with alternative flours. I'm blessed to live in a place where there are a few flours that are readily available and (for the most part part) affordable. All the gums that lead to a nice-wheat like consistency? Not so much. So I'm learning to carve out my own path and create my own recipes. I've got a good base because I've experimented with a LOT of different flour combinations. I haven't found the perfect blend, but i'm determined to make this work. I mostly bake banana bread, but i've been branching out and will be sharing some hits and misses in future posts. For today, i'm going to document lessons learned so far and an overview of the flours I've used. 
  1. Corn Flour: The OG GF Flour. My love for corn/maize runs deep. Maize is a staple  food in Malawi (where i grew up) and Rwanda (where i live now) so I think i'm well-versed in it's qualities. My fave way to enjoy corn - all the forms: roasted, boiled, in chilli, with beans, as cornbread, as a fritter. (Disclaimer: I have a strong dislike for corn in porridgy consistency so no nsima, polenta or grits for me).  Corn flour is my OG GF Flour - I knew about it's bake-ability long before I knew I was allergic to wheat. Corn flour is used to bake traditional chigumu (banana bread) and zitumbuwa (banana fritters) in Malawi.
  2. Oat Flour: This is likely most accessible flour I've used in all the places I've lived.  This flour has a consistency that is close to wheat flour. It's also very versatile for sweet things. I'm pretty comfortable using oat flour for sweet things: pie crusts, scones, cakes, banana bread, pancakes, crumbles etc etc. The list goes on. It's not the most affordable in Rwanda, but oats are a food group for me so I buy them every time I go grocery shopping.
  3. Chickpea Flour: Perfect for making a quick, protein packed flatbread and surprisingly some chocolate chip cookies. This one is one of the more expensive ones - at 6000 francs/kg so I use it sparingly. (Pro tip: It's the main ingredient in my go-to facemask). 
  4. Millet Flour: Nutty, light and rich in color. It adds a purplish hue to recipes. Combined with corn flour, it makes a yummy banana bread. I also reach for it when I make pancakes.
  5. Sorghum Flour: Also nutty and gritty. This is a go-to for pancakes and as a filler/blend for other recipes. 
  6. Rice Flour: Grab some rice, grind it and sift and you've got rice flour. I find rice flour only baked goods a bit blah so I prefer to blend it with other things. It is good on it's own for savory waffles - if you've got waffle iron have at it. Top your savory waffle with some guacamole, chutney or pesto and an egg.
  7. Glutinous Rice Flour: I discovered  this a few months ago while strolling through the food section a Chinese super-store. It has been a godsend to my baking game. I haven't used it on it's own - it's pricey!!! I typically add a bit to most baked goods - it adds a bit fluffiness. 
  8. Cassava Flour: Another East/Southern African staple food, cassava. Boiled cassava is great on its own. Cassava flour as a stand-alone, nah. To be honest I haven't figured out how to make this one work. I tried to make some tortillas out of it a few months ago. I got some very yummy, but oily and dry tortilla chips. I haven't tried again since but i've got a whole bag of it left so watch this space. 

Lessons Learned
  • Chasing wheat-like results from non-wheat flour is a fool's errand. Wheat is amazing. Embrace the different textures and tastes of non-wheat as they are. Don't try to make them into something they're not. 
  • Start small - try half of a recipe first before scaling up. I've gone full-steam and tried to make a batch of 12 tortillas once (or thrice) only to end up with more than half the dough in the trash can.
  • Dry, crumbly messes: I've been humbled by many, many fails. Be prepared to experiment again and again to find the perfect blend. Actually, perfection is a scam. Be prepared to experiment again and again to find the blends that work for you in the moment. 
  • Most times you'll have to blend 2 or more flours to get the desired resulft. For example, corn, millet, sorghum and rice flour can be very gritty. To get a good texture, you need to add more liquid and oil, and blend with oat flour and glutinous rice flour. Oat flour on it's own can be quite dense - fluff it up with some rice glutinous rice flour for the airiest banana bread. 
  • Use expensive flour sparingly. Use them to enhance flavor and texture in smaller quanities and rely on the cheaper flours for the bulk of your needs.