wheat flour alternatives
I often hear people saying that they want to, or need to, eat wheat free, or gluten free, but that the cost really puts them off starting. Admittedly, wheat free/gluten free eating does cost more, but there are ways to make the cost as low as possible. Do some on-line research. Try to find a grocery wholesaler or online store that sells in bulk. I'm a member of a food co-op in my area that allows me to purchase bulk quantities of all my wheat-free flours at wholesale prices. I also don't eat anywhere near as much bread as I used to. This avoids a major expense, and as I've replaced my bread intake with more more fresh fruit and veg, it's healthier too.
GLUTEN FREE FLOUR MIXES
These pre-packaged mixes are usually a blend of potato, tapioca, maize or rice flours, along with other refined starches and gums. A number of health experts offering opinions on these mixes tend to say to use them sparingly, as they tend to be 'gluey' and not easily digestible. Most of the recipes I cook regularly use a combination of some of the following flours, without the added 'gluey' components:
Almond meal is used in many sweet recipes for gluten-free baking. I probably use it more than any other gluten-free flour alternative. It is made from ground almonds, and if you have a powerful food processor, you can make it yourself. This option is cheaper than buying it pre-made, particularly if you can buy your nuts in bulk.
This comes in both brown and white varieties and is a very commonly used gluten free flour for baking. Brown rice flour is a healthier alternative to white as it is made from rice with the bran and germ intact, making it more readily digestible and provides more fibre for the body.
This wonderful flour is the dehydrated, ground by-product of coconut milk. It is high in fibre, high in protein and not only gluten free, but grain free as well. You only ever need very small amounts of this flour as it soaks up so much liquid. Baking with this flour requires lots of eggs to help the flour bind together. It produces quite dense products that are very filling.
CORN FLOUR (Maize Flour)
Corn flour is excellent for thickening liquids and sauces. It is often a component in gluten free flour mixes. Check the ingredients before purchase, as corn flours often have wheat flour added. It's also best to buy organic to avoid GMO corn. If you are Paleo/grain free or allergic to corn, you can replace corn flour with tapioca flouror arrowroot flour.
Also referred to as tapioca starch, and is made from cassava root. This is a great thickener for sauces/gravy/pie fillings and you will also find in in small quantities in some baking as it promotes browning and crispy crusts. Can be interchanged with arrowroot flour or corn flour.
Arrowroot, or arrowroot starch is made from the arrowroot plant, a starchy tropical root. It's primary purpose in gluten-free cooking is as a thickener, and can be used interchangeably for corn flour or tapioca flour. It is quite flavourless.
Quinoa is not technically a grain, but is thrown into the grain family! It has the highest protein content of all grains and is exceptionally high in B vitamins and calcium. It makes a delicate flour and is great in pastry. In it's grain form (as opposed to flour), it's a wonderful alternative for rice or cous cous (a wheat based grain).
Amaranth is another plant high in protein and fibre. Amaranth flour is typically made from three types of amaranth plant and can be a component in gluten free cooking. It is best combined with other flours.
Potato flour is made form ground dried potato and looks a lot like corn flour. You should never find it in large quantities in baking as it has a rather gluey consistancy. It is often a component in a gluten free flour mix.
Millet is a gluten free grain with higher protein content than wheat, with a rich, sweet flavour. It is used in some gluten free baking as a minor ingredient.
This flour actually comes from a fruit related to the rhubarb family, and is not a grain. It is high in protein and B vitamins. Japanese Soba noodles are traditionally made from Buckwheat. In gluten free cooking, buckwheat is a fairly heavy flour and requires extra liquid to be added compared to some other grains as it absorbs it rapidly! It's best combined with other flours.
Rye is not a gluten free grain, but is more easily digestible than wheat. It has a heavy texture and strong flavour and is not usually used for sweet baking, but is wonderful for breads.
Besan flour is made from dried, ground chick peas. It is gluten free and is useful for batters and can make a good pancake. It's common in Indian cooking.
Spelt flour is an 'ancient grain'- a precursor to what we know today as wheat. It contains gluten, but in a form that the body digests much more easily than wheat gluten. It can be a good alternative for those sensitive to wheat, but not Coeliac (people with Coeliac Disease cannot tolerate gluten at all). It is wonderful for baking as it behaves almost identically to wheat flour, and can therefore replace wheat flour in most recipes. You can find it in wholemeal or plain varieties.
Kamut, also know as Khorosan, is another grain with similar properties to Spelt.
This is quite new to the Australian market, sourced by Changing Habits. It is the original, purest form of wheat- unchanged for thousands of years- more ancient than spelt or kamut/ khorosan, and much more easiy digestible than modern wheat.
tips for avoiding wheat and gluten
If you are Coeliac, you can get a letter from your doctor confirming this, and join the The Coeliac Society in your state. They have fantastic information about what supermarket products are suitable, as well as a list of Coeliac-friendly restaurants.
Most large supermarkets offer at least a couple of types of low-wheat bread and gluten-free bread. If you are wheat free but not gluten free, you can try the breads such as rye or spelt or other “ancient grain” (like kumut and millet). These grains contain gluten, but are much more easily digestible than wheat. and can be a real relief for people with Irritable Bowl Syndrome or other gut-based issues. Always check the ingredients, as many breads advertised as rye, for example, still have their first ingredient as wheat. I prefer buying my wheat free bread from my local Organic Store as, unlike many supermarket varieties, these contain no nasty additives.
Gluten-free breads are clearly labelled as such, but beware – some contain milk. Gluten-free bread is most palatable when toasted. Some supermarkets are carrying flat breads that are wheat or gluten free, as well as corn tortillas. These make good alternative pizza bases. Unfortunately these are also full of preservatives and additives. Organic food suppliers tend to have a great range of wheat- and gluten-free breads, rolls, fruit bread and pizza bases. These tend to be preservative and additive free. There is also a chain of stores in NSW called 'Choices Gluten Free' who have a home delivery service and make a great range of breads, pizza bases, rolls and pastries.
If your child currently only eats white bread, the closet replacement will be white (non-wholegrain) spelt bread. Start with this, then try wholegrain spelt, and gradually introduce other types. You can also buy gluten-free bake-your-own bread mixes, some of which are really nice fresh out of the oven.
Most supermarkets stock gluten free rice crumbs as an alternative breadcrumbs measure-for-measure, and in my opinion make a better crumb coating for chicken and seafood than breadcrumbs. I've also found quinoa crumbs, corn crumbs and buckwheat crumbs in some stores. Alternatively, blend up your own gluten free bread in the food processor to make crumbs. You can freeze these for later, too.
The Orgran packet mix for buckwheat pancakes is a very edible replacement for regular thick pancakes (not for crepes, though). There are a number of other 'shake' pancake mixes available too. There are many wonderful gluten free pancake recipes online too.
You can find pre-made pastry in most supermarket freezers. Check the ingredients for other things you may not want to be consuming, however! There is a line of gluten- and dairy-free pies, sausage rolls and pasties in the supermarket freezer, and some health food stores now stock a good range. You'll also find some very yummy pastry recipes here.
Gluten-free pasta is readily available in the health food aisle at the supermarket, and is very edible. I find the rice and corn pasta spirals to be the closest in texture to “regular” wheat pasta, for fussy kids.
There are a few varieties of gluten-free cracker biscuits available. Rice biscuits are a great alternative, but beware of rice biscuits that have flavourings and additives which can include MSG, milk, wheat products and sugar. Always read the labels. Currently in the Australian market, Sakata seem to be the best brand- use their plain and wholegrain varieties. Also try Corn Thins, Rice Cakes, Corn Cruskits or Ryvitas (Ryvitas are wheat free but not gluten free).
SWEET BISCUITS (COOKIES)
There are a range of biscuits in the supermarket health food isle which can be a nice treat. Just check the ingredients, because gluten free alternatives tend to have an abundance of sugar, many still contain dairy, and many have lots of artificial additives. You'll find a wonderful range of sweet biscuits on these pages, so buying them is rarely necessary!
Soy sauce usually has wheat in it. Read labels, you may find one that doesn't! Otherwise, Tamari is a wheat-free soy sauce found in health food aisles or Asian food sections.
If you've found this helpful, or still have lots of questions, you might be interested in my Friendly Food Coaching Service. Personalised information to help you get on track with cooking and eating the way that YOU want to, to accommodate your lifestyle and achieve optimum health! Click here for more info!