Gluten-Free Flours: White Rice Flour

This series on gluten-free flours is back with the perennial favourite gluten-free flour – white rice flour.

Gluten-Free Flours: White Rice Flour

White Rice Flour is the easiest alternative flour to get hold of (in the UK at least) besides the catch-all gluten-free plain flour. You can find it at most large supermarkets in their gluten-free section.

It is also the flour that if you are a keen cook you might already have stashed away in your larder, irrespective of its gluten-free properties. White rice flour is used in traditional shortbread recipes alongside plain wheat flour to give a bit of crunch to the proceedings, which tells you a little bit about the texture profile of this flour.

Shortbread

DIFFERENT TYPES OF RICE FLOUR

There are three different types of rice flour: white rice flour, brown rice flour and sweet rice flour (often called glutinous rice flour).

White rice flour is milled from grinding raw long or medium rice grains where the bran is removed before grinding. The courseness of the rice flour depends on which brand you buy.

Brown rice flour is often considered the health food option. The bran is not removed before grinding and it is not milled as finely as white rice flour meaning it is slightly heavier with a nuttier taste. Due to its courser nature baked goods using brown rice flour have a more noticeable texture and taste. For certain recipes though I find this an endearing quality. Depending on my mood I often swap out white rice flour for brown flour in recipes like my pumpkin pancakes if I want a bolder earthier flavour.

Sweet Rice Flour is a different beast entirely milled from short grain glutinous rice and as such it has a different texture, flavour and uses. I have written extensively on the personality and uses of sweet rice flour here.

Gluten-free Pumpkin Pancakes, so thick and fluffy and smothered with Almond Maple Syrup

CAN YOU USE WHITE RICE FLOUR INSTEAD OF REGULAR FLOUR?

The short answer is no. There is no direct substitute for regular wheat flour. The qualities that it brings to the table such as its elasticity (caused by the gluten), fluffiness and all purpose use cannot be replicated by white rice flour. White rice flour contains no gluten and as it is a much harder grain than wheat it does not absorb liquid as well. If you solely use white rice flour in your cooking or baking then the results will be gritty, perhaps a little greasy and often with a gummy mouthfeel. That’s not to say we should discount white rice flour, after all there is a reason that it is so popular, you just have to know how and when to use it.

ADVANTAGES OF WHITE RICE FLOUR

White rice flour is made from one of the world’s greatest staple grains which makes it a very economical flour. No-one said that gluten-free baking was cheap but since white rice flour is easily available and plentiful then if you choose this flour for your main ingredient in your flour blend then you certainly won’t be breaking the bank.

Which leads me to one of the best qualities about white rice flour and the reason it is so often used. It has an incredibly subtle taste, so if you want the butter or spices or other flavourings to shine in your bakes then white rice flour is an excellent choice. However, like most gluten-free flours it should not be used by itself and does a much better job if paired with other gluten-free flours to give a more rounded bake.

This gluten-free Golden Beetroot Carrot Cake is the best carrot cake you will ever taste. Full of sweet earthy goodness thanks to using both golden beetroot and carrots; complex with pecans, sultanas and apples; perfectly complimented with a not too sweet cream cheese buttercream and adorned with the delightful crunch of a salted pecan praline and candied beetroot and carrots.

DISADVANTAGES OF WHITE RICE FLOUR

Not only is white rice flour the most widely available alternative flour but it is also the flour which most commercial brands use as their main ingredient in their gluten-free flour blends. In fact our tendency to rely on white rice flour for gluten-free baking is one of the reasons why Alanna Taylor-Tobin in her excellent cookbook called Alternative Baker chooses not to include any recipes with white rice flour as she feels that its tendency to dominate the gluten-free field can lead to a mono diet. As discussed above white rice flour is also a bit of a tricky beast as it can turn bakes dry and crumbly due to the difficulty it has absorbing liquid.

For this reason white rice flour should always be used judiciously as this flour is probably the reason why most people judge gluten-free baking as gritty but with a gummy mouthfeel. It absolutely must be blended with other flours in baked goods to round out the texture and result in bakes that taste authentically good not just ‘good for gluten-free’.

HOW TO USE WHITE RICE FLOUR

The best qualities of white rice flour can be exploited if paired up with softer flours and flours with better binding properties. One of my favourite gluten-free flour combos is white rice flour, oat flour and tapioca flour which ticks all the boxes and generally gives a good solid bake without lending too strong a flavour to the overall bake. This is the mix that I use in this Salted Caramel Chocolate Espresso Cake where the result is light, fluffy and indelibly chocolatey.

This gluten-free Salted Caramel Chocolate Espresso Cake is one of my favourite cakes from the cake stall. A chocolate lover’s sponge sandwiched together with silky salted caramel swiss meringue buttercream and drizzled with thick luscious salted caramel.

It is also recommended to allow your baking to rest a while before placing in the oven. The finely ground rice will soften slightly leading to better absorption of liquids which will help with any potential grittiness.

OTHER USES FOR WHITE RICE FLOUR

The granular texture of white rice flour which might not be so palatable in your baking can be a real boon in your every day cooking. I prefer to use white rice flour as a coating for frying as it adds more crunch than regular wheat flour and is a lot lighter.

One of my favourite dinners which also just happens to use rice flour as it’s main ingredient is Banh Xeo. It’s a delicious Vietnamese savoury pancake made with white rice flour, coconut milk and turmeric and can be stuffed with pork, prawns and beansprouts. These pancakes are so crisp and light which of course is thanks to the white rice flour.

Banh Xeo

WHICH BRAND OF RICE FLOUR SHOULD I BUY?

There are various brands of white rice flour and the texture can be quite different across the board. Make sure you are using a very finely ground rice flour which won’t impede your recipe and will allow for better incorporation with the other ingredients. Courser rice flours will mean the liquid in your recipe is not absorbed as well which can lead to flatter and greasy bakes. I always use Doves Farm Gluten Free Rice Flour 1 kg (Pack of 5) which is ground beautifully. For US based readers then Bob’s Red Mill is also brilliant but more difficult to get hold of for us UK based bakers.

The link above, and the one for Alternative Baker in the main body of the post, are affiliate links which means if you decide you want to click through to buy then Amazon gives me a small commission at no cost to you whatsoever. I will only recommend products I use in my kitchen and love. It’s just a way for me to fund the blog so if you do click through then many thanks!!

If you would like to read more from my Gluten-Free Flours series then please go back and read the following posts:

Gluten-Free Flours: An Introduction

Gluten-Free Flours: Nut Flours

Gluten-Free Flours: Sweet Rice Flour

Guide To Gluten-Free Flours: White Rice Flour

Gluten-Free Flours: Sweet Rice Flour

Gluten-Free Flours: Sweet Rice Flour

Welcome to the third instalment of my series on Gluten-Free Flours. This one is all about Sweet Rice Flour which also goes by its alternative name ‘glutinous rice flour’. It contains no gluten but its nickname gives you an indication of the kind of role this flour will play in your cake. This is my favourite gluten-free flour and the one I use most often.

Gluten-Free Flours: Chapter 3: Sweet Rice Flour

We’re now full steam ahead on our series on Gluten-Free Flours. So far we have discussed how to get started in gluten-free baking, how we can best use the ready-made gluten-free flour blends and then how to move away from them to create light and fluffy gluten-free cakes. We’ve also talked in depth about nut flours, how to grind our own and how to use them to covert a cake recipe to be gluten-free. In this third chapter in our series we are going to be casting our net a little wider and looking at a flour that isn’t well-known at all in western baking and I doubt you will already have in your larder. However if you are gluten-free or want to bake for friends and family that are gluten-free then this is a flour you are definitely going to want to get to know.

Gluten-Free Flours: Chapter 3: Sweet Rice Flour

Today we’re investigating sweet rice flour. Until I started gluten-free baking I’m not sure I had ever heard of this flour, it’s certainly not the easiest to get a hold of, but now I find it completely indispensible in both my baking and my gluten-free cooking.

Sweet Rice Flour vs. White Rice Flour

The first thing to note is that this very fine and powdery flour is a totally different ingredient to regular ‘white rice flour’ which you can happily buy at most large supermarkets these days in the gluten-free aisle. The two products unfortunately are not interchangeable as they play completely different roles in our baking.

Sticky vs Long Grain Rice

In fact I would almost say that white rice flour and sweet rice flour are complete opposites. Whereas you might choose to use white rice flour to give lightness and crunch in a recipe, it is commonly used in shortbread for that very purpose. Sweet rice flour, which is ground from short grain glutinous ‘sticky’ rice is just that, soft and sticky. In fact short grain glutinous rice is the same rice that sushi is made from, so you get the picture, it likes to bind together.

Mochi Ice Cream

Sweet rice flour can usually be found in Asian baking. The most familiar of the Asian sweets, mochi, is made from sweet rice flour and if you have ever tasted delicious treats like mochi ice cream then you are in for a good idea of the taste and effect sweet rice flour can have in our gluten-free cakes.

The best reason for using sweet rice flour in baking is its binding properties. When we remove gluten from our cakes we are removing the essential component needed for gluing our cake together. During the bake gluten swells, forming an intricate network of gluten strands which provide cakes with their elasticity. This is what gives delicious sponge cakes their bounciness and prevents dry crumbly cakes.

Sweet rice flour has a high starch content which enables the proteins in the flour to glue together. If you have tasted mochi you will know that it has a discernable chewiness. If we harness this chewiness in the right way then we can use the sweet rice flour to mimic the elasticity of the gluten and make our gluten-free cakes incredibly soft and moist.

Best Gluten-Free Birthday Cake - a light and fluffy vanilla gluten-free sponge cake, sandwiched with a raspberry crush filling and covered in a whipped chocolate cream cheese ganache.

So sweet rice flour will give our baking excellent binding, moistness and a distinctive sweet taste. What could go wrong?

Basically for all the reasons that sweet rice flour is an excellent alternative flour are also the reasons that you really don’t want to go overboard in its usage. The moisture that sweet rice flour gives our bakes needs to be kept in check lest your cake loses its sponginess and just becomes really wet and chewy. I spent ages over this Pumpkin Bread trying to get the right texture, I started off with far too much sweet rice flour and kept pulling back until the flour did its job without overwhelming the cake. The texture of this cake is now perfect and its addictiveness is all thanks to the genius of sweet rice flour.

A deliciously moist Gluten-Free Pumpkin Bread, made with brown butter and alternative flours for an earthy nutty flavour and unbeatable chew.

The wonderfully distinctive sweet taste of sweet rice flour which is delicious in moderation can suddenly overwhelm a cake if used in excess and if you’re not judicious in its usage you’ll soon find all your cakes taste the same whether they are pumpkin, vanilla or banana.

How much sweet rice flour should you use?

I soon learnt that to gain all the benefits of sweet rice flour you can’t rely on this flour alone in your cakes and you need to blend it with other gluten-free flours to achieve perfect gluten-free cakes. Sweet rice flour is usually the main flour I use in any of my gluten-free flour blends but I try not to use more than about 40% in the overall blend for light and fluffy results that don’t taste overwhelmingly of sweet rice flour.

In the forthcoming weeks we’ll be discussing which flours to blend with the sweet rice flour for the different kinds of cakes we want to make.

Gluten-Free Flours: Chapter 3: Sweet Rice Flour

Aside from being the main flour in my homemade gluten-free flour blend, the recipe for which I will be sharing in a future post, sweet rice flour is the most hard-working flour in my kitchen. I remember writing in this blog about 18 months ago that the one thing gluten-free flours can’t fix are my gravies. There appeared to be no substitute for regular wheat flour in my roux. I am here to confide that I was completely wrong. I now make a delicious gravy with my Sunday roast beef simply by substituting regular flour for sweet rice flour. Sweet rice flour has a quality that stops liquids for separating so is a wonderful thickener for gravies and sauces without being gritty or grainy or having an overwhelming taste. Also try it in your white sauces or anything you use a roux for including béchamel and gumbo. This flour has really revolutionised my gluten-free cooking.

Gluten-Free Flours: Chapter 3: Sweet Rice Flour

The one final note on sweet rice flour is that if you add acidity to sweet rice flour it exacerbates the thickening qualities of the flour. So be wary of adding too much lemon juice, buttermilk or other acids if you are using a large quantity of sweet rice flour in your recipe.

A beautiful Strawberry Sweet Pesto Cake {gluten-free}

Where to buy sweet rice flour?

It’s possible to buy sweet rice flour from good Asian supermarkets so do pick up a bag the next time you are in Chinatown. However, I buy my sweet rice flour from Amazon. It’s excellent quality and good value.

Bob’s Red Mill is a great brand but it’s terribly expensive to buy in the UK and I stick to Flck Glutinous Rice Flour 454Gm and buy in bulk which is really economical, via Amazon you can buy about 5kg for £15. Lots of these brands of sweet rice flour (including this one) might not be processed in a gluten-free environment so if you are baking for someone who is highly sensitive or coeliac then do check the labels.

The image above is an affiliate link so if you decide to buy your sweet rice flour using the link then I will get a small commission from Amazon at no cost to you. It just goes a little way to paying for my blog expenses.

Next time in Gluten-Free Flours: The Blog Series I will be looking at the more well known white rice flour which is a lot easier to come by in our supermarkets and also a very versatile gluten-free flour.

Gluten-Free Flours: Nut Flours

Gluten-Free Flours: Nut Flours

Nuts flours are an extremely versatile alternative flour. They are easy to get hold of, straightforward to use and help to produce beautifully moist and flavourful cakes.

Gluten-Free Flours: Nut Flours

So I’m about to kick off the first chapter in my new blog series about gluten-free flours. If you haven’t read Gluten-Free Flours: An Introduction first then do head back. Don’t worry, I’ll wait. This instalment it’s all about nut flours, nut meals and ground nuts which can all be used as flour substitutes. To keep the conversation streamlined when I refer to nut flours below I’m pretty much heaping nut meals and ground nuts into the same category.

If you are a keen baker then there is no doubt that ground almonds have cropped up in an ingredients list somewhere in your baking history as it is a wonderful ingredient which can enhance the taste and texture of cakes when mixed with another flour and on a rare occasion stand alone in place of regular flour. Almonds are the most prolific of the nut flours and we’ll discuss why but we’ll also chat about the role other nut flours can play in our baking and how we can make our own to keep costs a bit more manageable.

Gluten-Free Flours: Nut Flours

The best reason to use a nut flour in your baking is to give your cake a moist dense crumb. Nuts are rich in protein so are also commonly used in baked goods for nutritional reasons but they will definitely become your best friends as you rebel against the dry gluten-free cakes you may have tasted before. Obviously nuts contain, well, nuts. So be ultra careful in asking about nut allergies when you are serving up your cake.

Fig Almond and Salted Honey Cake

How to use nut flours in cakes

Nut flours are best used in conjunction with another flour. If you are trying to convert a wheat-based cake recipe into a gluten-free alternative then I wouldn’t typically recommend using only a nut flour in straight substitution as nut flours are prone to clumping and are mostly made of fat and fibre so the results can be be quite crumbly.

One of the most common ways I use nut flour is to combine it with a ready-made gluten-free flour blend. The nut flour will give the cake moisture and structure and the gluten-free flour will lighten the results and make the finished cake a little more fluffy. It will also help with binding since most blends contain tapioca flour which is an excellent binder. Although you do have to be judicious about which recipes you convert in this way. I would recommend sturdy loaf cakes like banana breads, madeira cakes or lemon drizzle cakes where you can try substituting the full amount of plain flour for half nut flour and half gluten-free flour. This won’t replicate the wheat version of the cake but create a completely different but just as delicious alternative. The cake will take on the flavour of the nut and be a little more dense than your usual bake.

Easiest Gluten-Free Banana Bread

Almonds are the most common nut flour or ground nut substitute used in baking as almonds don’t impart a huge amount of flavour to baked goods. If you use pecan flour or pistachio flour you will be giving a very distinctive flavour profile to your baking. For example if you wanted to bake a chocolate cardamom loaf then you might choose to use pistachio flour to compliment the flavours.

One of the easiest ways to make a deliciously fudgey gluten-free brownie is just to sub the amount of flour given in the recipe for an equal weight of ground almonds, the taste of the almonds will fade into the background behind the chocolate. If you would like the nut taste to be more pronounced then add a splash of almond extract to the brownies or use a different nut flour where the taste will be stronger. Suddenly you can have smooth and fudgey walnut or hazelnut brownies.

Walnut Fudge Brownies

A few tips though, make sure you use a recipe that uses melted chocolate and not just cocoa powder as the chocolate is needed for binding the brownie. Also make sure you only use a recipe where the amount of flour is 100g or less.

What is the difference between almond flour, ground almonds and almond meal?

Gluten-Free Flour: Almond Flour

Almond Flour, Ground Almonds, Almond Meal {top to bottom}

The three ingredients are interchangeable in most recipes but will yield different results.

Almond flour is milled from skinned blanched almonds to a very fine flour and is pretty impossible to achieve in your own kitchen. It is best used where you want the results of your bake to be light and fluffy, perhaps in delicate bakes like friands or macaroons. You can buy this finely milled flour in health food shops and online.

Ground almonds are the most common of the three and are easily available to buy in supermarkets. They are made from skinned and blanched almonds ground to an even consistency. They are more nubby and not as powdery than almond flour, although they will be of different consistencies across brands. Ready bought ground almonds have usually lost a lot of their flavour so if you are just using the ingredient for texture and you don’t want a pronounced almond flavour then these are the ones you need.

Almond meal is really the same product as ground almonds but they are ground with their skins on and are unblanched. It isn’t a common ingredient to buy but if you have a standard food processor then you can make almond meal with ease. Almond meal ground at home will give the most rustic results. A hint of almond flavour will remain and the cake will be tastier and a little more full bodied.

As far as other nut flours go you can buy finely milled flours such as chestnut flour or pistachio flour but they are not always easy to get hold of so the majority of time you are using alternative nuts in lieu of flour then it’s more than likely that you’ll be using ground nuts, also known as homemade nut flour.

How to make your own nut flour

Gluten-Free Flours: Homemade Nut Flour

If you don’t bake with nut flours very often then I suggest making your nut flour on a cake by cake basis as due to the high protein content nut flours go rancid pretty quickly so it’s not an ingredient you want hanging around if you use them infrequently.

Handily whole nuts weigh an equal amount to ground nuts so you just need to weigh out your whole nuts and then grind away to achieve the correct amount of nut flour needed.

It’s not all plain sailing though as nuts release their oils very quickly when you start to grind them. When this begins to happen the nuts won’t be much good for your baking. Oily nuts will give too much moisture to your cake and cause it to sink in the oven. To delay this from happening then you should use freshly purchased nuts, if they are a bit old they will break down quicker. Also pulse the nuts and only work in batches of 150g nuts at a time so you can control the grinding process. The end result will be quite nubby so if you would like a finer ground nut flour then add in a couple of tablespoons of the sugar from your cake recipe along with the nuts. This will help absorb some of the oils.

Store your nut flour well by keeping in an airtight container in the fridge which will prolong its life.

Other uses for nut flours

Banana and Walnut Paleo Pancakes

  • Added to pancakes, like these Banana and Walnut Pancakes for texture, taste and extra protein.
  • A delicious substitute for breadcrumbs in meatloaves or meatballs like in the below Pork Crackling Lemon Fennel Meatballs.
  • Thickener and flavour enhancer in curries
  • Finely milled almond flour is particularly excellent in place of plain flour when shallow frying fish or coating chicken escalopes.
  • To make a gluten-free cheesecake base grind your chosen nuts up with butter, sugar and some gluten-free flour then press into a springform cake tin and refrigerate to achieve a tasty base to rival digestive biscuits.
  • Nut flours are also brilliant in crumble or streusel toppings to add crunch and flavour.

Pork Crackling Lemon and Fennel Meatballs

Almond Flour/Meal

Ground almonds or almond flour is commonly found in recipes for macaroons, friands (like the below Apple Cinnamon Ricotta Friands) or financiers, frangipane, bakewell tarts and polenta cakes. Commercially bought ground almonds can be quite tasteless so are useful when you don’t want an overpowering nut taste to your baking.

Also goes with: stone fruits, berries, lemon, orange, vanilla, pear, apples, pomegranate, cinnamon, cardamom, ginger, nutmeg, tahini, honey, rose, ricotta, thyme

Apple Cinnamon and Ricotta Friands

Pecan Meal

Wonderful in autumn baking. Pecans can be very oily so watch this one if you are blending yourself.

Gluten-Free Flour: Pecan Meal

Also goes with: apples, pears, coffee, caramel, bananas, carrots, squash, sweet potatoes, chocolate, sultanas, dates, maple, pumpkin, cinnamon, cloves, ginger, star anise, nutmeg, vanilla

This Pecan Butterscotch Latte Cake is an excellent place to start:

This Pecan Butterscotch Latte Cake is a gluten-free delight, the sponge flavourful with ground pecans, oat flour and muscovado sugar. The buttercream whipped to light perfection with a touch of mascarpone and all imbued with a rich coffee aroma.

Walnut Meal

Walnuts can be a little bitter so use this nut flour sparingly. Beautiful in brownies or financiers where only a little flour is needed in the recipe.

Gluten-Free Flour: Walnut Meal

Also goes with: apples, coffee, carrots, banana, chocolate, dates, squash, sweet potatoes, maple, cardamom, cinnamon, ginger, goats cheese, cheddar, stilton

Hazelnut Meal

A particularly distinctive flour with a rich buttery taste.

Gluten-Free Flours: Hazelnut Flour

Also goes with: chocolate, coffee, fig, blueberries, blackberries, pear, apricot, orange, cranberries, squash, beetroot, dates, maple, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, vanilla, tea, honey, goats cheese, ricotta

Ground hazelnuts work wonderfully in this Decadent Chocolate Hazelnut Cake as they are the only flour needed.

Decadent Gluten-Free Chocolate Hazelnut Cake

Chestnut Flour

I usually buy the flour rather than blending myself. A soft gentle flour which is just perfect for winter baking as it pairs so well with Christmassy flavours.

Gluten-Free Flour: Chestnut Flour

Also goes with: apples, oranges, caramel, chocolate, coffee, pear, vanilla, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, cranberries, cherries, sage, squash, sweet potatoes

Pistachio Meal

Unmistakably green and vibrant flour. A very rich savoury flour which can hold up to the sweetness of white chocolate and the intensity of rose. Lovely in middle-eastern bakes.

Gluten-Free Flour: Pistachio Meal

Also goes with: cardamom, rose, cherries, orange, apricots, lemons, chocolate, cranberries, tahini, pomegranate, rhubarb, raspberries, squash, honey

Of course, there are many other nuts out there which you can happily turn into flour, the above are just the ones I find the most useful in my baking.

Where to buy nut flour

You can buy finely milled almond flour from health food shops or online but it is unlikely you’ll find it in the average British supermarket so it’s definitely a more expensive product. However, if you have your heart set on the fluffy results a finely milled almond flour produces then I really love RealFoodSource Certified Organic Extra Fine High Protein Almond Flour which you can get from Amazon.

The rest of my gluten-free flours and nuts I buy from https://www.healthysupplies.co.uk/

Delivery takes about a week but the products are great and they can supply nearly every single flour that I’m going to talk about in this series.

The cheapest way to use nut flour is to buy whole nuts from the supermarket and grind your own at home. It’s worth noting as well that the nuts are often cheaper in the home baking section of the supermarket than the snack section.

To grind my nut flour I use my trusty Magimix 4200XL Food Processor which I have had for years and years. It produces course nut meal which suits me perfectly.

If you click on the above images and purchase anything from Amazon using these links then I receive a small commission at no cost to you but it just goes a little way to helping me fund the website.

In the next post in my Gluten-Free Flours series I’m going to investigate the joy of sweet rice flour which also goes by its alternative name ‘glutinous flour’. It contains no gluten but its nickname gives you an indication of the kind of role this flour will play in your cake. This is my favourite gluten-free flour and the one I use most often. You have to order it online but it will revolutionise your gluten-free baking if you fall for its never-ending charms.