Last week I spoke of my desire to find a gluten-free all-purpose “cup-for-cup” flour blend that I can use to bake a tried and true wheat recipe — without having to make it several times in order to get it to look, taste and feel like it should.
As a cookbook writer and a celiac, I’d like someone to make a “cup for cup” blend, or almost “cup for cup” blend, that works, so I can buy it and use it for the recipes I develop in my cookbooks (and in my own life when I want to bake something without the blend I use now). In reality, I doubt there can ever be a perfect “cup for cup” blend. But at the very least, I’d like it to be close enough so that I can tweak the recipes in my books and get as great product as I’m often able to do with my Brown Rice Flour Mix (using the Authentic Foods extra finely ground brown rice flour).
I tested Thomas Keller’s Cup-4-Cup a couple of years ago and Nameste Perfect Flour Blend earlier this year. My search continued with Pamela’s All-Purpose Gluten-Free Artisan Blend last week. And this week, I’m reporting on what happened when I gave Bob’s Red Mill Gluten-Free 1-to-1 Baking Flour my cupcake test. The front of the package says to “Use this astounding blend in place of wheat flour in your favorite recipes for cookies, cakes, brownies, pancakes, pies, muffins and more.” I hope to be astounded.
I have high regard for Bob’s Red Mill and their products. I think they make many excellent gluten-free flours and I use several of them, along with their xanthan gum, guar gum, and gluten-free oatmeal. Unlike some people in the gluten-free community however, I have not been a fan of any of their baking mixes. But, just like Pamela’s, Bob’s has good distribution in grocery and specialty stores around the country. No shipping, no worries about finding it. I have high hopes that at least one of these companies can develop a cup for cup blend so good that I can give adaptations for using it with my recipes. It would be nice to have a little more choice when it comes to what gluten-free flours I reach for.
The goal of my cupcake test is very clear and simple. I want to see what happens when I use a purportedly “cup for cup” gluten-free flour blend in a classic wheat recipe that I know works well and tastes good. It has to be a recipe that I’ve been able to successfully convert to gluten-free using my Brown Rice Flour Mix in such a way that it is indistinguishable from the wheat version. My mix is made with very finely ground brown rice flour (I like Authentic Foods), potato starch, and tapioca starch. It is not a cup-for- cup blend. (Authentic Foods also makes a product called GF Classics Blend that is my Brown Rice Flour Mix already mixed up in a bag).
Why my vanilla cupcake recipe? Because the original wheat recipe doesn’t contain a lot of ingredients and it needs very few changes to make it gluten-free (1/2 teaspoon of xanthan gum and 3/8 teaspoon increase in baking powder). Also important – both the wheat and gluten-free versions of this recipe make a delicious, light and tender cupcake. So the idea here is that I already have a gluten-free flour mix that works well in the original wheat recipe. In order for the new “cup-for-cup” blend to pass the test, it would have to work as well or better.
Impressions and Findings
The Bob’s Red Mill’s Gluten-Free 1-to-1 Baking Flour has far fewer ingredients than the Pamela’s blend. Thankfully, the folks at Bob’s decided they didn’t need to throw in everything they had in the warehouse. But the alarms went off when I saw the first ingredient — sweet white rice flour. In my experience, sweet rice flour doesn’t really need to be included in most gluten-free recipes, and in this case, here it is making up the largest amount of the blend. The list of ingredients on the package is as follows: Sweet Rice Flour, Whole Grain Brown Rice Flour, Potato Starch, Whole Grain Sweet White Sorghum Flour, Tapioca Flour, Xanthan Gum.
Again, my guess is that in Bob’s good-intentioned attempt to banish the dry and gritty reputation of gluten-free baked goods, they went large on the wetter, moisture-giving flours. And again, based on my experience, I was worried they might have over-compensated. But for the first round of the test, I wanted to see if the blend worked as described on the package- as a cup-for-cup replacement for wheat flour.
I opened the bag. The Bob’s blend was slightly grittier than both the Pamela’s Artisan Blend and my Brown Rice Flour Mix (made with finely ground brown rice flour from Authentic Foods). Interestingly, it was less gritty than my Brown Rice Flour Mix made with Bob’s Red Mill Brown Rice Flour (I had some made up in my pantry that I use to make pizza crust). It smelled fresh and mild with no stale or rancid odors.
The Bob’s blend mixed up more “liquidity” than my mix and a lot more like the Pamela’s blend (the Thomas Keller Cup4Cup mixed up gooey and thick and the Nameste Perfect Flour blend mixed up in a way that was very similar to my blend). The cupcakes didn’t rise particularly well as they baked in the oven and they were very light in color, but the tops were nice and smooth. They also shrunk a bit more than I expected as they cooled.
I cut one of the cupcakes in half to take a look. The inside was really dense, with small air pockets. It tasted good, and in fact, there was no real difference in flavor between it and the one made with my mix. But it was really gummy, and kind of wet and chewy, and a bit tough. It also had a small amount of grit. Not a lot, but it was noticeable enough to be noticeable. I was clearly under-astounded with the way the Bob’s blend worked in one of my favorite recipes. And disappointed.
So What Do I Think?
I really think there is too much sweet rice flour in Bob’s Red Mill’s Gluten-Free 1-to-1 Baking Flour. And maybe potato starch. And maybe too much xanthan gum. And the ratio of whole grain flour (brown rice flour and sorghum) to starch seems off.
But I gave Bob’s Red Mill the same second round test I gave Pamela’s in which I took out 1 tablespoon milk and 1 tablespoon canola oil, and I increased the baking powder to the same amount as I use in my gluten-free version with my flour mix.
The second round cupcakes didn’t rise all that much more and the air pockets only got a little bigger. The one I cut in half and then tasted was still too gummy, chewy and tough. And that noticeable bit of grit was still noticeable. However, it was less “wet”. Was it good enough for me to put on frosting and serve to my family? Sadly, no. And I say sadly because I still had some of that homemade coconut frosting from the second round test on the Pamela’s blend – and I was looking forward to using it up.
As it currently stands, I don’t think Bob’s Red Mill Gluten-Free 1-to-1 Baking Flour can be called a “cup for cup” all-purpose blend – because it’s not. I’m not even sure it has enough promise in its current state for me to try to use it in other recipes from my cookbooks – with adaptations to the recipe. I think Bob’s Red Mill would have to significantly reduce the gummy, chewy and tough factor before I’d do further testing. But I’d be happy to test any new renditions they come up with.
Take a look just for fun: the cut cupcakes from the first round of testing. Bob’s Red Mill Gluten-Free 1-to-1 Baking Flour on the left, my Brown Rice Flour Mix (made with Authentic Foods) in the middle and Pamela’s All Purpose Artisan Blend on the right.