This Is The Only Gluten-Free Flour Blend I’ll Buy

Photograph by Isa Zapata, Food Styling by Sean Dooley

I’m not gluten intolerant but I am *checks personality quiz* type A. Which means, when I started developing gluten-free recipes for our March issue, I may or may not have gone off the deep end. So many outcomes, so little time.

There is considerable variability in ingredients when it comes to gluten-free baking. This is fascinating or frustrating, depending on who you ask, but for today, let’s go with fascinating. Here’s why:

With wheat flour, you can switch between brands and conceivably have comparable results. (You could make these cinnamon rolls with one brand of all-purpose flour, I could make them with another, and we’d both sell out at the bake sale.) But with gluten-free baking, something labeled “all-purpose” is not as consistent across brands. Blends often vary in their ratios of rice flour (the typical base) to starches, and they have different grind sizes, dramatically altering the results. This became evident when I set out to develop a gluten-free focaccia, strewn with red onions and crisp as a potato chip on the bottom.

One option with gluten-free baking is skipping a store-bought blend altogether. For example, in this gluten-free oat cookie recipe, you just need old-fashioned oats (to turn into homemade oat flour) and a smidge of xanthan gum. In many situations, though, a gluten-free blend is invaluable, allowing you to recreate classic baked goods in a swift and seamless way, without having to buy a lot of different flours. Such is the case with gluten-free bread.

My experiment involved three nationally available gluten-free flour mixes: Cup4Cup Multipurpose Flour, Bob’s Red Mill 1-to-1 Baking Flour, and King Arthur Baking Company Measure for Measure Flour. The recipe was identical as were the rest of the ingredients. When the three loaves came out of the oven, the difference was noticeable.

In fact, it was so noticeable that tasters mistakenly assumed that the Cup4Cup focaccia was a sneaky control made with regular flour. Focaccia made with Cup4Cup gluten-free flour blend was puffy, golden, soft, chewy—all the hallmarks of great bread. The rest were dense, gummy, or simultaneously dry and soggy (no, I can’t explain it). Test after test corroborated this truth: Cup4Cup consistently outperformed the other GF flours.

Cup4Cup Multipurpose Flour (3 Pounds)

$17.00, Amazon

This brand has been around for awhile. In the late-aughts, at the restaurant French Laundry, in Yountville, California, Lena Kwak was tasked with finding a gluten-free alternative to the restaurant's iconic salmon cornets—small, crunchy wafer cones filled with salmon tartare to signal the beginning of the meal. What followed, according to Kwak, was 18 months of trial and error. The result was Cup4Cup, meticulously tested and endorsed by Thomas Keller, influential chef and owner of French Laundry and stickler for scissor-cut masking tape (where do you think The Bear got the idea from?). It went on to become one of the first commercially successful gluten-free flour blends.

Why does Cup4Cup work so well? An ingredient breakdown provides answers:

Milk Powder: Milk powder is the standout ingredient that sets it apart from the rest. Milk proteins improve the stability and structure of gluten-free baked goods while the sugars caramelize in the heat of the oven, resulting in golden brown breads and cakes with nuanced, toasted flavor.

Starches: The blend contains three kinds of starch (cornstarch, tapioca starch and potato starch) each with its own unique abilities to bind and thicken. These work together to make your baked goods tender and voluminous. Starches also lock in moisture, preventing your treats from going stale too fast.

Rice flour(s): A combination of brown rice flour and white rice flour, with their ideal balance of protein and starch, provide bulk and mildly sweet, neutral flavor. The rice flours are finely ground so they absorb liquid quickly and evenly.

Xanthan gum: Critical in gluten-free baking, xanthan gum holds ingredients together, providing elasticity and springiness. Like baking soda or baking powder, you need only a little to make a big difference.

Of course, the ratio of these ingredients is also enormously important. And while I don’t have access to such proprietary information—wouldn’t that be fun if I did?—I do have the experience of making hundreds of gluten-free baked goods in a week. I tested and retested baking recipes so many times that we had to go to a whole different floor in the office to hand out treats because everyone in the test kitchen had absolutely had it. The one constant through it all? Everyone’s favorite gluten-free treats were made with Cup4Cup.

Gluten-Free Focaccia With Rosemary and Onion

Shilpa Uskokovic

Originally Appeared on Bon Appétit

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