Save money and time and boost nutrition by making your own homemade whole grain gluten-free flour blends!
When switching to a gluten-free diet, everything can be overwhelming, sometimes even more so than just beginning a real food diet.
You feel like there are no cheats possible!
There’s so much to learn, so many places gluten hides that you wouldn’t expect, so many gluten-free flours to understand, and so many new things you have to buy and new techniques to try. Gluten-free baking feels nothing like regular bread baking! So especially when you are already making homemade bread for your family and feeling like you’re doing the most amazing thing in the world for them, and then you find out you need to go gluten-free for health reasons, it puts a lot of pressure on a home baker or cook. Related: Interview with a master gluten-free bread baker who had just that experience!
Whenever I would look through gluten-free baking recipes when I was first switching over, they drove me crazy. So many flours! Who can find or afford all those things!
Because I value real food, the worst tended to be when a recipe would look easier at first, because it just used a gluten-free flour blend. I didn’t want to buy a gluten-free flour blend, because they were never whole grain, always full of starches, and sometimes with gums that made me a little uncomfortable as unknown additives.
Finding a homemade gluten-free flour blend that I felt good about was nearly impossible, so I began playing with my own…
Why Grind your own Flour (Especially for a Gluten-free Blend)?
Here’s the deal: Gluten-free flours are quite simply expensive.
Rice is one of the cheapest things you can buy and often recommended for people on a budget, but try to buy it already made into flour and your budget breaks like a vase dropped from a skyscraper!
Grinding your own grains has nutritional, budget, and time-saving benefits, which means it’s the perfect practice for a good kitchen steward.
Above: 100% whole grain gluten-free sourdough loaf – my first attempt!
As I’ve written about before, grains lose a lot of nutrients as soon as they are cracked. Grinding them fresh and using within 24 hours, or at least freezing your own and small batches, means that a lot more vitamins and healthy fats are getting into your family’s bodies.
Also, because some of the healthier parts of the grain are also the more fragile, such as sensitive fats going rancid, they are usually the parts left out of flours sold commercially even as whole-grain. When you grind your own, you know the entire seed or grain as God intended it is going into your food.
Related: Paul Lebeau tells us even more about the health benefits of grinding fresh grains in this great interview.
With gluten-free flours, in particular, being so expensive, buying them in whole grain form can save from $1 a pound up to 4 or even $6/pound!
For example, I can buy organic brown rice at Costco for around $1/lb. right now. This organic brown rice flour on Amazon is nearly 50c/ounce, which means I save over $6/lb. grinding my own! Price disparity can be less when not seeking organic, but there’s still usually a gap.
Similarly, I can get whole buckwheat groats at Country Life for just over $2/pound, and Bob’s Red Mill flour on Amazon would be $4 more per pound – plus it’s the gross black stuff! Buckwheat is a MUST for freshly ground for taste alone.
Also, you should store whole-grain flours in the freezer, which means you can’t buy in bulk nearly as easily as you can with the whole grain before it’s ground. Buying in bulk almost always saves money, plus if you don’t need as much freezer space you can have a smaller freezer, less energy usage, or potentially fit more other foods in your freezer that will save you money there.
Measuring flour can be a time-intensive process, especially when you’re juggling 3-5 flours for one recipe. You have to carefully scoop into the measuring cup, scrape the flour flat, clean up messes, etc.
If you use whole grains and mill them yourself AND figure out how to bake with a scale to weigh the grains, it’s really fast. Weigh grains in one container, grind with the Mockmill directly into the mixing bowl, and you’re off to the races. No storing extra flour or digging in the freezer to see what you have, plus fewer dishes.
We have found that this is also a great way to help kids learn to bake with less mess. 😉
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How to Make a Simple DIY Gluten-Free Flour Blend (No Gums!)
This one I developed while working on gluten-free pumpkin muffins, which is a recipe that is so forgiving it’s not even funny. I can even use just straight brown rice flour and it still works. However, this blend also does great in our gluten free pancakes, homemade granola bars, and even makes these homemade biscuits gluten-free, except they are not as fluffy as with pastry flour of course.
The measurements are for flour itself, so you can make this blend easily whether you use a grain mill to grind your own or buy the flour commercially.
To have a nice gluten-free blend that can sort of act like wheat flour and even substitute in recipes for wheat flour like I mentioned above, you need to have a balance of protein and starch. Some say you don’t need starch at all, but most people seem to fall on the side of starches being necessary. Arrowroot is a pretty clean starch as they go, so I don’t feel too badly about only one-quarter of this recipe being arrowroot starch.
I do usually make this with freshly ground grains, but I’ll make it in bulk and freeze a big gallon bag of it for easy baking later.
How to Make a Freshly Milled 100% Whole Grain Gluten-Free Flour Blend (Gum-free, No Starches)
I’ve just started experimenting with this 100% whole grain gluten-free flour blend, which I reverse-engineered (aka guessed) from Jovial Foods’ whole grain blend (find it here on Amazon). Theirs does include xanthan gum, so if you are making actual bread with my version, like sandwich bread, you’ll want to be careful and may potentially have to include some xanthan gum or psyllium husk as a binder. See below for more on gums.
We used this blend in our homemade whole grain gluten-free tortillas, except the test was with quinoa instead of teff. The quinoa has a rather strong, bitter flavor, so I’m looking forward to trying the tortillas with teff. If you don’t have teff, put quinoa in place of it.
I also tried this GF blend in biscuits, but I have to admit they were pretty crumbly and not that great. They were definitely good “for gluten-free biscuits” when they were hot, but the leftovers were a mess. Finding something that is actually whole grain, gluten-free, and works as well as whole wheat flour is a tall order!
Important note: chickpeas can be hard to grind, so I recommend putting those in FIRST so all the other grains can chase them through the mill. The Mockmill can handle chickpeas no problem though! You just want to decrease your changes of getting one rogue chickpea bouncing around that doesn’t want to grind up. If one does get stuck, the beauty of the Mockmill is that you can take it apart in minutes to pull it out. Our Nutrimill has never been the same since a chickpea got stuck in it and my husband spent 45 minutes trying to get it out, having to break some pieces in the process.
With a little math, you can use this blend with freshly ground or commercial flour.
If your recipe in grams, simply multiply the total # of grams by the percentage. So maybe you need 250g of GF flour blend. You’ll take 250 x 0.6 = 150g of sorghum. Then 250 x 0.2 = 50g of teff, and so on. Measure the whole grains and mill it all up.
If your recipe is in cups and you have already-milled flour, it’s a little harder but not impossible. Let’s say you need 3 cups GF flour blend. If you multiply 3 x 0.6 for the sorghum, you’ll 1.8. That amount of flour, 1 cup plus eight-tenths of a cup, you almost have to eye up OR round down to 1 3/4 cup and make sure you round something else UP to make 3 cups total.
Alternatively, you can do what I do and simply mix up a big batch like this:
- 1/2 c. chickpea flour
- 3/4 c. millet flour
- 3/4 c. brown rice flour
- 1 c. teff flour
- 3 c. sorghum flour
Double or triple that once you know you like the blend, then just measure the amount you need for a recipe from the big bag, stored in the freezer because some of these will definitely be whole grains.
Is Xanthan Gum Bad for You? (And Some Better Binding Substitutes for Gums)
Xanthan gum is one of those controversial ingredients in gluten-free baking. Some say it’s no big deal, and you certainly don’t use much of it in a recipe. However, in any sort of gut healing or elimination diet, xanthan gum is always off the list. Apparently, it can really exacerbate gut issues especially if you have a bit of a sensitive digestive system.
The comments at our recent gluten-free, dairy-free pastry dough post are really an interesting read on the subject!
Chris Stafferton, the master gluten-free baker I interviewed recently, says that gums truly aren’t necessary. He’s been baking gluten-free bread very regularly for 10 years and he showed us the first bag of xanthan gum he ever bought, which is still half-full.
He tends to use ground chia or flax seed as a binder instead, but his favorite is psyllium husk. He uses that in both ground and the whole form. The trick with psyllium is that the dough will need a rest time in order for the psyllium to really do its binding job well. Again, for very sensitive guts, flax and chia can be a bit hard on them, but for many, they are a great fiber-filled supplement.
I believe psyllium husk is probably about the same in that arena, but it does tend to be a little less expensive and you need to use less of it in the baking recipes, according to Chris.
All of this with binders and stuff is still pretty new to me, as I have definitely not mastered a gluten-free sandwich bread loaf yet. I love the ease of our gluten-free flatbread so much, and you don’t even need a grain mill for it. Check out the video to see me make it and only 7 minutes!
How to Use your Homemade Gluten-free, Gum-Free Flour Blends
These gluten-free flour blends are going to be great for many recipes, especially things like pancakes, waffles, cookies, and muffins. I am really not sure if they’ll work well in yeast bread recipes but I’m curious to find out!
As you use them, I would love to hear in the comments what successes you have… And hopefully not failures, but we can learn about binding ingredients together, right?
The Grinding Challenge Series is getting me to use my Mockmill grain mill! Here’s what we’re covering:
- Intro to the challenge and a video of setting up the Mockmill for the first time
- How to Translate Whole Wheat Recipe to Einkorn (and an interview with an einkorn farmer)
- Bio-Individuality – why it’s both the new face of health and the genesis of this whole project
- How to Translate Baking Recipes to Weights
- Why Baking with Weights is the Best for Kids
- Testing Pizza Dough with Freshly Milled Grain: Whole Wheat, Einkorn, Gluten-free (whole grain and not-whole-grain)
- Interview with a Master Gluten-free Baker
- Testing Tortillas with Freshly Milled Grain: Whole Wheat, Einkorn, Gluten-free
- Why Mill Your Own Gluten-free Grains?
- How to Make a Gluten-free Sourdough Starter
- Whole Grain, Gum-Free Gluten-free Flour Blend (& a bit on whether xanthan gum is bad for you)
- Interview with a Grain Milling Expert
- The Official Kitchen Stewardship Mockmill Review
Recipes We’ve Worked on in the Series:
- Spelt Banana Muffins
- Einkorn Applesauce Muffins (with peanut butter variation)
- 100% Whole Grain Gluten-free Tortillas
- Whole Wheat Pizza
- Crispy Crust Gluten-Free Pizza (amazing!)
- Einkorn Pizza Dough
- 100% Whole Grain Gluten-Free Pizza Crusts (no gum!)
- How to Make a Gluten-Free Sourdough Starter
Don’t worry, if you don’t have a grain mill or couldn’t imagine yourself grinding grain yourself, I’ll be sure to address when any of these CAN’T be done with commercial flour. Usually recipes are very compatible!