How to use rice flour in gluten free baking is one of the first challenges for everyone new to the gluten free diet. In the past I had no interest in knowing why wheat flour worked. I could successfully bake so I never thought too much about it.
After several years of gluten free baking I can tell you that understanding a few basics about flour is very helpful for gluten free bakers.
Understanding Gluten Free Flour
You might think (or hope) that you can simply buy a gluten free flour blend to replace wheat flour and bake all your old recipes. This is simply not true. (You’ll get over it, this is definitely true.)
|No single gluten free flour or starch behaves like wheat flour. |
Thus begins the journey of trial and error with gluten free baking.
All flour contains protein, starch and fat. Who knew!
Flour is typically used for three purposes:
- to create structure in baked goods,
- thicken sauces,
- as a coating for meat and vegetables.
These three processes rely on the different properties of wheat flour and they’re not all the same. With gluten free flours we want to use the ones that best mimic the property of wheat flour in each specific recipe. The good news is there is always more than one flour to do this.
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The Difference Between White, Brown and Sweet Rice Flour
White rice, brown rice and sweet rice flour are all commonly used in gluten free baking. The flour is made from rice so like white rice and brown rice, each flour is a little different. Further down I will list the properties, cons and best uses of each flour but this general understanding is helpful.
Most store bought flour blends contain rice flour and if you have one that works for the baking you do that’s awesome. It takes many people a long time to find a blend that works best for the type of baking they do.
You can see on the label what is included but the challenge is that you don’t really know how much of each flour is in your blend.
Discovering my EGFG flour blend is what finally took my baking to the next level. At that time my baking was “good for gluten free” but quickly went stale. With this blend the sweet rice flour helped with freshness because it retains moisture better than white rice flour.
For crisp cookies I had better luck when I added brown rice flour to my blend or used a specific combination of flours that included brown rice flour (and/or potato starch and almond flour). If you’re a cookie lover like me be sure to check out this post, Cookie Flour Blend.
Around this time was when I started sharing this quote:
The more I know, the more I realize I don’t know.Unknown
How To Buy Finely Ground Rice Flour
The milling process affects the texture of every flour and it varies by brand. Finely milled rice flours are preferred for gluten free baking.
I can’t tell the difference in texture by the feel of the flour but through research I learned that Asian brands are known for their fine grind. They’re readily available at Asian grocery stores and I buy Erawan white and sweet rice flours.
America’s Test Kitchen recommends all of Bob’s Red Mill rice flours and I find them to work well and be readily available to me.
Gluten Free Flour Doesn’t Absorb Liquid Like Wheat Flour
This tip is just the tip of the iceberg for gluten free bakers.
Resources for Gluten Free Bakers and Cooks
For those of you that are interested I recommend these two excellent resources from America’s Test Kitchen; How Can It Be Gluten Free and How Can It Be Gluten Free Volume 2. These two cookbooks will give you a lifetime of learning about gluten free baking and cooking. They explain why a recipe works so you can apply these principles to your recipes.
In their first cookbook the ‘all purpose gluten free flour blend’ includes white and brown rice flour. After more than a year of baking with their flour blend I finally figured out that it has too much rice flour for my taste. I love these books and refer to them often but I prefer the blend I now call my EGFG gluten free flour blend.
For this reason I am always reminding my readers that you need to bake, taste and repeat. Over time you will have a more discerning palate and be confident to make adjustments that improve your baking.
In cookbook volume 2 America’s Test Kitchen created more blends once again proving that no single gluten free flour blend behaves like wheat flour for all uses.
How To Use Rice Flour on YouTube
If you visit YouTube (like 1000 times a day) you can watch my video on this topic. When you’re there please give me a thumbs up and subscribe if you want to see more videos. Thank you in advance.
White Rice Flour
- Neutral flavour and smooth texture
- Affordable and easy to find
- long shelf life
- Not ideal in recipes with low liquid and high fat content like cookies and muffins
- Gives baked goods with an unappealing, translucent-white colour
- 30-60% of a flour combination for all uses
Brown Rice Flour
- Affordable and easy to find
- Mild flavour and texture
- The tan colour gives baked goods a slightly browner look
- Some brands have an odd earthy flavour
- High fat content means shorter shelf life so is best stored in the fridge or freezer
- Adds a crispness to cookies
- 30-60% of a flour combination for all uses
Sweet Rice Flour (AKA Glutinous Rice Flour)
- Combines more readily with fat than other rice flours
- Freeze and thaw stable
- Its’ natural elasticity makes it ideal for rice noodles
- Name is confusing since this flour is not sweet and does not contain gluten
- When purchasing this flour the package may not even say sweet rice flour
- As a thickener for soups and sauces
- Up to 40% of a flour combination for all uses
- Making rice noodles and wrappers (the kind we buy)
Tips for Successful Baking
Enjoying freshly baked goods at home is one of the joys of baking. You don’t need to bake every day or even every week but the ability to make muffins, cookies and the occasional birthday cake is a basic life skill worth learning. If you have kids in your life, whether they have celiac disease or not, be sure to involve them in the adventure.
Start with that first successful gluten free recipe you made (I hope you have at least one). Then make it often and focus on learning to improve your baking.
Learn how to substitute one flour for another, alter other ingredients to suit my taste or incorporate those tips you keep hearing about.
My Best Tip to Quickly Learn About Gluten Free Baking
Make a double batch of muffins (or whatever recipe you like) but don’t double the ingredients in one bowl. Instead, make two recipes side by side using a different flour combination.
In no time you’ll be more confident making substitutions and you’ll perfect your favourite recipes.
How to Use Rice Flour – The Recipes
There are so many recipes using rice flour I couldn’t begin to list them. For the majority of baking I do, my homemade EGFG flour blend works great and makes life easier. I make pancakes, crepes and waffles, muffins and quick breads, pie pastry and tart pastry, brownies and cookies, and many more.
The table below is simply to give you an idea of the variety of flours that can be used successfully. You will be happiest when you have figured out what works for most of the recipes you like to make.
Cooking is the best way to figure this out.
|There are no links in this table. It simply demonstrates some of the uses and how common rice flour is in baking. To find the recipes use the SEARCH magnifying glass in the top right corner of every page on the website.|
This is the first in my series of 12 blog posts on gluten free flours. My intention is to provide a basic overview of several gluten free flours for the everyday home cook, both new and experienced.