By now you have probably realized that I bake with primarily brown rice flour. I thought I'd take a moment to talk about why I do. This post is long but I review cake mixes, cookie mixes, brownie mixes, all-purpose baking mixes and different types of flour. Almost everything you might want to know about gluten free baking that I have tried or experimented with in the last year and a half. When I first went gluten free, I was scared of the idea of baking gluten free from scratch because in my search for gluten free recipes, I was reading a lot of comments about how baking without gluten takes a lot of trial and error and how that missed efforts will turn out as hard as hockey pucks. So needless to say, I was nervous. I love to bake from scratch but I didn't want to make a bunch of food that would be wasted and end up in the trash. The price for gluten free ingredients is expensive and I really didn't want to be wasteful.
So I began my foray into GF baking with baking mixes and all-purpose baking mixes. I had mixed results with this approach. First of all, I really missed making my own stuff. It's just not the same to open a package, mix in a couple additional ingredients and bake. I wanted to bake like I used to bake. Second, it was more expensive. Sure the price of a gluten free flour is pricey, but not nearly as pricey as buying a baking mix every time I want to bake, which is pretty darn often I have to admit. Last, the taste wasn't the best.
I did find a few gems, like Betty Crocker's chocolate and yellow cake mixes. Those cake mixes are amazing! No one can tell they are gluten free and the cakes turn out delicious and moist. The thing I like about those cake mixes is that someone who isn't gluten free can make them for someone who is, without having to have a bunch of other ingredients on hand. For example, my mother in law is a very thoughtful hostess and it bothered her when our family would get together and I couldn't eat dessert too. Once she learned about these cake mixes, she bought one and tried it. She was happy with the results and surprised by the good taste. Now whenever our family gets together, she makes a cake that we all can eat and enjoy.
As for the cookie mixes, I haven't had the best results with them. Betty Crocker's cookie mix turned out well, but tasted like cookies made from a mix, not from scratch. I tried King Arthur Flour gluten free all-purpose baking mix and made pretty good cookies, but they were still lacking a bit of something. My kids thought so too because although they would say they liked them, they would follow that up with a question about when could we make the "old" cookies again, meaning the pre-gluten free days cookies. I also tried Cherrybrook Kitchens cookie mixes. There mixes are gluten free, dairy free and nut free. A really good choice for someone with additional food allergies. I thought these cookies were good, less box mix taste. The downside to these is the price for the amount of cookies that they make. Each box doesn't make much over a dozen cookies, which isn't enough cookies for my household. However, in spite of the cost and the amount the mix makes, Cherrybrook Kitchens makes a really good sugar cookie. And unless I can successfully make my own sugar cookies this year, I will probably be buying a box or two to make this Christmas.
I have tried two brownie mixes, Betty Crocker's and King Arthur Flour's. Out of these two, Betty Crocker edges out King Arthur's by a little. The King Arthur's mix has a rich, chocolately taste. The downside is the texture. Something is just a little off about the texture of these brownies, a little too spongy for my taste. The Betty Crocker have the fudgy texture that I like in my brownies, but they dry out pretty quickly and still don't taste as good as the from scratch recipe that I used to make.
There are two gluten free all-purpose baking mixes that I've tried. I already mentioned the King Arthur Flour mix when I talked about the cookies. I was pretty happy with that mix but there wasn't enough in the box for someone who bakes a lot like me. Plus I wasn't completely happy with the taste results whenever I baked with this mix. The other mix that I've tried is Bob's Red Mill All Purpose Baking Flour. The combination of flours that they use in their mix give the cookies an odd taste, in my opinion. I am a really big fan of Bob's Red Mill but I was really disappointed with their gf baking mix. One of the flours that they use gives the cookies a bitter flavor. I think it is the garbanzo bean flour that causes the bitterness because they also use garbanzo bean flour in their biscuit mix and it has the same bitterness to it. I really like the idea of using a bean based flour, but the result isn't the best.
So this brings me to why I use brown rice flour when I bake. After trying all these various mixes with mixed results, I decided that I was ready to try my own. I bought white rice flour, brown rice flour, coconut flour, quinoa flour and almond meal. I tried the flours alone and in all kinds of combinations. White rice flour makes the food grainy so I don't use that at all anymore. Coconut flour adds a coconutty flavor and fiber to whatever I am making with it. However it absorbs a lot of liquid and can't be swapped out for regular flour in a recipe without adding liquid too. The quinoa flour is pretty good also. I like to use it whenever I want to bread something, like fish. I also really liked to use the almond meal; it adds a slightly almond flavor and I love the idea of baking with almond meal instead of a grain. Sometimes I bake with a combination of these flours, but keeping this many specialty flours stocked in my pantry is a bit pricey. So I began experimenting with using only brown rice flour. Once I started do that, I was really happy with the results of the baked goods. I have found that baking with brown rice flour, cornstarch and xanthan gum gives the best gluten free baked goods that doesn't taste like it's gluten free. I will continue to experiment with other flours in the future, but for now, I will probably do most of my baking with brown rice flour.
All of the flours that I mentioned are from Bob's Red Mill. I really like this company a lot. I think their ingredients are high quality and they seem like a great group of people. I used to buy their flours in my grocery store, but then I discovered that I can by them off Amazon and save a little. And if you chose to subscribe and save, like I do, you can save even more. You can pick how often you want the product to come to your house, depending on how much you bake. And by subscribing, you will get the lowest price per ounce you can get from anywhere. I get a 4 pack of 48 oz. bags so I also get the lowest price by buying in bulk. All these little things add up to help offset the increased price of buying gluten free ingredients.
I hope that by me sharing my experiences with some of these products will help you as you navigate through the gluten free world. We are so lucky that there are so many options to choose from today. I'm sure celiacs and gluten intolerant individuals that lived 50 years ago would love to have the wide variety of choices that we have. But buying gluten free is pricier and we all want our money to stretch as much as possible. Hopefully by sharing my opinions, will help you make your own choices and spend your money wisely.
If you have any specific questions about any of the products that I mentioned or any other gluten free product, let me know and I'll do my best to help you out. You can ask in the comment section below or directly contact me through my "Contact Me" page or message me at my Facebook page.