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Secrets to Successful Low-FODMAP Baking, Part 2

Lisa Rothstein, low FODMAP recipe developer and co-author of IBS-Free Recipes for the Whole Family.

Lisa Rothstein, low FODMAP recipe developer and co-author of IBS-Free Recipes for the Whole Family.

This is a continuation of Lisa Rothstein’s guest post about low-FODMAP, wheat-free baking. Lisa has much more to share today to help you become a successful low-FODMAP baker--this is a treasure trove of information and tips for bakers. She is the recipe developer and co-author of the cookbook IBS-Free Recipes for the Whole Family, Flavor without FODMAP Series, with Patsy Catsos and Karen Warman. Onward!

Secrets to Successful Low-FODMAP Baking, Part 2

Now that you have learned some basics about wheat-free low FODMAP baking, you are ready to jump feet-first (well…hands first) into the crazy, fun world of low FODMAP, wheat free baking. You can take a shortcut and check out my baking mix recipes, which replace wheat flour cup-for-cup in most recipes, in our low FODMAP cookbook IBS-Free Recipes for the Whole Family, or design your own baking mix based on availability of ingredients, price and health needs. If you bake a lot it really becomes cost effective to order larger amounts of flour online. Additionally, I have listed possible sources for some of these flours.

These flours consist of two basic classes: the “whole grain” flours, high in fiber, proteins and nutrition, and the starchy low nutrition flours. Both classes of flour provide important contributions to the taste and texture of baked goods and work best blended together.

Low-FODMAP, Whole-Grain Flours

The protein and fiber content of these flours contributes to better structure and texture. They tend to have a stronger flavor than starchy flours. Store several weeks at room temperature, but refrigerate or freeze for long term storage.

Brown rice flour is a good basic flour with a fairly neutral taste. There are multiple companies that produce brown rice flour and the coarseness of the flour varies between companies, therefore results in texture, thickness (like in a cookie) may be quite different if you switch brands or use a different brand than a recipe was written for. Companies producing brown rice flour are Arrowhead Mills, Bob’s Red Mill, Hodgson Mill and Authentic Foods. Fairly easy to find in the gluten-free section of well stocked supermarkets or natural foods markets.

Dark buckwheat flour is not related to wheat but is related to rhubarb. High in fiber and nutrients it has a strong, distinctive earthy taste and dark brown color so blend it with neutral tasting flours. Very good baking properties and lends good texture to baked goods. It is often available in natural foods markets. Arrowhead Mills and Bob’s Red Mill are two common brands.

Have you ever tried light (aka silver-hulled) buckwheat flour? 

Have you ever tried light (aka silver-hulled) buckwheat flour? 

Light buckwheat flour is much lighter and very neutral tasting compared to dark buckwheat and has excellent baking properties, similar to wheat flour. If this flour becomes more readily available I predict it will be a very popular gluten free, wheat-free baking flour. Very hard to find in stores (I have found it in Hannaford in the Northeast US). Since it is even hard to find online I have provided three sources:

  1. Bouchard Family Farms Light Buckwheat flour
  2. Nuts.com
  3. Kaufmans Fruit Farm

Quinoa flour is high in protein, fiber and vitamins and is a very healthy option; however it has a strong somewhat grassy, bitter taste so use only 20-25% of flour volume. Some people toast the flour in a low oven to rid it of the bitter taste, but I don’t know if this affects the nutritional value. Bob’s Red Mill, King Arthur Flour and My Spice Sage.

It is difficult to tell one flour or starch from another--label them carefully if you remove them from their original packaging.

It is difficult to tell one flour or starch from another--label them carefully if you remove them from their original packaging.

Sorghum flour is also called milo in the US or jowar/jawar in India. It is high in nutrition, fiber and protein with a mild, fairly neutral, slightly sweet taste. It has excellent baking properties similar to wheat flour in baked goods and is worth seeking out. Available in red and white/light varieties, the white variety is best for baking. It has become more popular recently so has become easier to find in the gluten-free section of well stocked supermarkets, natural foods markets, in Indian markets, or online. Bob’s Red Mill, Vitacost and Authentic Foods.

Cornmeal can be found finely ground like a flour (Goya brand) or more coarsely ground as cornmeal. There are many different levels of coarseness, which will affect texture. Quaker cornmeal is medium grind, polenta is coarser than that and stone ground is the most coarsely ground. Gives baked goods a yellow color, pronounced corn taste and crunch if a coarse grind is used. Dry cornmeal is sometimes labeled as polenta, even though Polenta is actually not a type of flour. When prepared, polenta is basically a cornmeal mush made from coarsely ground cornmeal and is not usually used for baking. Easily found in most supermarkets or natural foods stores.

Millet flour has a mild, neutral taste, is easy to digest, and adds good springy texture. It can however turn bitter quickly after it is ground. You can grind millet seeds yourself in a blender or spice mill just before using. If using commercially ground flour, once opened, wrap airtight and freeze to prevent flavor change. Bob’s Red Mill, King Arthur Flour and Arrowhead Mills.

Oat flour has a mild, neutral taste, is high in fiber, protein and nutrition, and adds great texture and structure to cookies, breads and other baked goods. It is easy and cost effective to grind your own oats into flour in a spice mill/coffee mill, or blender. A food processor will make coarser flour but will still work, however you will need to adjust liquid and the final texture may also be different. Note: Oats are a source of oligo-fructans and GOS; no more than 1/4 cup of this flour should be ingested in one sitting—check to see if one serving of your recipe stays within this limit. Those with celiac disease should use certified gluten-free oats, but since gluten is not a FODMAP, other people can use regular oats. Bob’s Red Mill, Arrowhead Mills and King Arthur Flour.

Teff flour is high in protein, fiber and calcium with a nutty, sweet taste. It comes in dark and light varieties. The dark has a hazelnut and slight molasses-like taste, and ivory has a milder taste. Easiest to find online. I believe that this nutritious flour will become more widely available in time. Bob’s Red Mill, Nuts.com and Maskal Teff.

Nut flour: While not whole grains, nut flours can be used like whole grain flours. They add protein, structure, fiber, healthy fats, and taste to baked goods. They work great in quick breads (e.g., banana bread), muffins, cakes, brownies, cookies and exceptionally well in pie or tart crusts. Nut flours can be made from un-blanched (with skins) or blanched nuts and are interchangeable, though un-blanched nuts will darken baked goods. Add up to 25 percent to a basic grain flour blend or use up to 50 percent or more in cakes leavened with several eggs. Replace 1 cup grain based flour with ½ cup nut flour. Important: Even FODMAP-friendly nuts in large amounts can add too many oligo-fructans so pay attention to your overall FODMAP load per serving. Commercially prepared nut flours are fine in texture, but can be expensive. Make nut flours at home by grinding nuts in a blender, food processor or coffee or spice mill. Do not grind too long or your nuts will turn into paste or nut butter. Grinding nuts with sugar and/or flour called for in the recipe will help to yield a finer grind with less chance of turning into paste. Home ground nut flours however will be coarser than commercial nut flours. Store nut flours in refrigerator for several weeks or longer in the freezer as they can turn rancid.

Low-FODMAP, Starchy Flours

Low-FODMAP, starchy flours (the “white flours” of the wheat-free world) have a bland, neutral taste and are important to include in flour blends for their stickiness and to lighten up whole grain blends. The shelf life of these flours is long, due to the lack of oils that can go rancid. 

White rice flour is used as a base in many commercial flour blends but is best combined with other flours as rice flour alone will make things crumbly. While somewhat neutral in taste, too much in a recipe adds a “ricey” taste to baked goods. Can be found in natural foods markets, Asian, Indian markets, or online. Grinds vary widely by company with Asian rice flours being more finely ground. 

Tapioca flour is smooth with a neutral taste; it gives baked goods a chewy texture so it is used in many commercial flour blends. I add this to all of my blends. Available in Hispanic markets, Asian markets and in the gluten free section of well stocked supermarkets or natural foods markets. Goya, Bob’s Red Mill and Ener-G.

Potato starch is the starch extracted from potatoes and has excellent baking qualities when combined with other flours as it adds a springy texture. Can be used interchangeably with cornstarch, cup for cup. Available in Kosher section of stores, gluten-free section of supermarkets or online. Do not confuse with potato flour which is made from the flesh of potatoes. Bob’s Red Mill, Manischewitz (in kosher section) and Ener-G.

Cornstarch lightens baked goods, makes them more airy, good for thickening gravy and sauces. Can be used interchangeably with potato starch. Easy to find in supermarkets. Argo and store brands. 

Sweet rice flour is a very starchy variety of white rice sometimes labelled “glutinous rice flour”. It neither contains gluten, nor is sweet. It works very well in cookies and biscotti making them less crumbly. Often available in Asian markets (aka Mochiko rice flour), or online.

Potato flour is not the same as potato starch and is made from ground potatoes. It’s not used much in baking as it can make things heavy and gummy but can be used to add stickiness or doughy texture to baked goods in addition or in place of xanthan gum (results won’t be the same). Use in small quantities no more than 1-3 tablespoons in a recipe.

TOP 4 GUIDELINES FOR WHEAT-FREE BAKING MIXES

Now that you know something about the different types of low FODMAP, wheat-free flours how do you decide what to use? Given that there are 15 flour types to work with and so many combinations, it is hard to recommend just one mix, as everyone has taste and texture preferences and availability may vary. After 25 years of wheat-free baking, here are the top 4 guidelines I have come up with for making a baking flour mixture that works cup-for-cup as a replacement for wheat flour using some of the adjustments noted in the next section. 

  1. For the best wheat-like texture and taste I use a blend of 2-3 different whole grain flours combined with 1-2 types (I prefer 2) of starchy flours. A more bare bones mix can be 2 types of whole grain flours plus 1 type of starchy flour. These blends can be used cup for cup as a wheat flour substitute. Why blend flours? If you only use whole grain flours the results will be dense, leaden products which may have a strong or distinctive taste from one type of flour. If you use all starchy flours alone you will get gummy, wet baked goods that won’t rise. The combination of several flours yields a more neutral taste and better texture as each flour type contributes a slightly different taste and texture profile, creating a balanced flour mixture.
  2. How to blend your flours? Many gluten-free recipes recommended a 30% whole grain to 70% starchy flour, but after years of experimenting I flipped this around and started working with 60-75% whole grain flours and 25-40% starchy flours. I found that my baked goods were tastier and crumbled less. Since protein and fiber contribute to better texture it stands to reason that using more of them in the mix will help. The plus is that your baked goods will have more fiber, protein and nutrition, and they will not stale as quickly.
  3. Experiment to find a mix you like. If you pick flour with a strong taste profile, counterbalance it with more neutral flour(s). Stronger tasting flours work best in chocolate flavored baked goods or recipe with lots of flavors, spices and sweetness. 
  4. Since you will be mixing 3-5 flours when baking, rather than adding each of these flours separately it’s much easier to pre-mix the flours to make a bulk mix once you find a combo you like. If you bake a lot consider doubling or tripling this mixture. Store it in an airtight container at room temperature for up to eight weeks or for several months in the refrigerator or freezer. This technique will save you so much time when baking and you will pat yourself on the back for doing this in advance.

TWO TEMPLATES FOR MY PREFERRED BAKING MIXES: 

75% Whole Grain/25% Starchy Flour Mix with 2 Whole Grains

  • 1 1/2 cups whole grain flour A
  • 1 1/2 cups whole grain flour B
  • 1/2 cup starchy flour D (preferably tapioca)
  • 1/2 cup starchy flour E

75% Whole Grain/25% Starch Flour with 3 Whole Grains

  • 1 cup whole grain flour A
  • 1 cup whole grain flour B
  • 1 cup whole grain flour C
  • 1/2 cup starch flour D (preferably tapioca)
  • 1/2 cup starchy flour E

ADDITIONAL BAKING TIPS

  • Substitution of low FODMAP flours for wheat flour in recipes usually requires extra liquid and the addition of binders, protein and/or fat. In addition you will need about 50% more baking powder or baking soda than called for in wheat-based recipes.
  • Any time you use different flour you may get a different result. You may have to adjust liquid amounts. 
  • Bake breads and rolls in containers with walls to help them rise. Without gluten, bread loafs and rolls don't hold their shape, so free form baking other than cookies don’t usually work out. 
  • In a pinch you can make your own flours by grinding the whole grains in a spice mill/coffee grinder or powerful blender. This works well for rolled oats, quinoa, millet, however they will be coarser than commercially milled flours. Food processors don’t grind grains very well; they will be too coarse. Hard grains like rice and sorghum don’t grind well unless you have a grain mill.
  • Unlike wheat flour, companies differ in how finely they grind their flour; that can affect how the recipe absorbs liquid, which may change the resulting texture. You may follow a recipe to the letter and get different results because your flour could be a coarser or finer grind than the recipe developer’s. Knowing a little bit about batter and dough texture is important. If a recipe is well written is should describe what to look for. If a batter or dough looks dry, or too thick add more liquid. If it doesn’t rise add more leavening next time (see below). If it crumbles too easily, next time add more binder (in very small increments), and/or protein or fat.
  • Doughs and batters often need to be much thicker and denser than wheat-based doughs.
  • Many doughs and batters benefit from a rest period (10-30 minutes) before cooking or baking to allow the flours to absorb liquid. This is often important when making cookies. Try baking one test cookie the first time with a new recipe and if they spread too much on the pan, refrigerate the dough for 30-60 minutes and try baking with cold dough. Chilling in the freezer can speed this up.
  • If time crunched, an alternative to blending your own flours is to make a “semi-custom” baking mix. Buy a FODMAP friendly, wheat-free flour blend, and if it contains mostly low nutrition, starchy flours you can add one or more “whole grain” wheat-free flours to the mixture. For example if the commercial flour blend is made up of white rice flour, tapioca starch and cornstarch this blend is 100% starchy flour. Add up to 60% of a whole grain flour by adding 3 cups of whole-grain, low-FODMAP flours (a mixture of two different whole grain flours is best) to 2 cups of the purchased starchy flour mixture. If the commercial baking blend contains leavening agents you will need to add additional leavening, (often baking powder) for each cup of whole grain flour that you add. Use 1½ teaspoons baking powder for each cup of flour you add. 
  • Chia or flaxseed meal can be used as an egg substitute: 1 tablespoon ground seed + 3 tablespoons warm water per large egg. Whisk, let sit for 10 minutes for chia seeds, and 5 minutes for flaxseed, whisking a few times. 

STORING AND SERVING WHEAT-FREE LOW-FODMAP BAKED GOODS

Muffins in the fridge ready to reheat for tomorrow's breakfast!

Muffins in the fridge ready to reheat for tomorrow's breakfast!

  • Wheat-free items turn dry and crumbly, and mold much more quickly than wheat based products. Therefore, products should be stored on the counter for no more than 24-48 hours. For longer storage refrigerate, freezing double-wrapped is a better option. Frozen baked goods can be microwaved, but do so just before serving.
  • Most wheat-free baked goods whether homemade (more than 24 hours after baking) or commercial, benefit from a slight warming up to restore the just-baked taste and texture. Microwave a single serving for 10-30 seconds on high power, or wrap the item in foil and heat in the oven until soft and warm. Do not overheat as they can quickly become overly moist and mushy.
  • When freezing large items like banana bread, cut into single servings. Microwave on high power for 30-40 seconds to thaw. 

When you started the low-FODMAP diet you might have hoped to find commercial gluten-free baked goods that you could eat, only to be disappointed that many contain high FODMAP ingredients. Or, you found some that you could eat but that were high in fat or sugar. Perhaps you live in an area that doesn’t have specialty foods like these. Maybe you have other food restrictions or health issues which narrow your choices even more. Now that you have the basics of low FODMAP, wheat-free baking you can make your baked goods your way. Start experimenting with your favorite recipes, visit gluten-free or low FODMAP blogs armed with this information. Before you know it you will be happily sharing (or not) amazing baked goods that are tailored to your preferences. 

Lisa Rothstein is the recipe developer and co-author of the cookbook IBS Free Recipes for the Whole Family, Flavor without FODMAP Series, with Patsy Catsos, MS, RDN, LD and Karen Warman, MS, RDN, LDN . This cookbook contains many recipes for baked goods using two of Lisa’s favorite baking mixes. One is a baking mix, including leavener, for making a large variety of baked goods (muffins, pancakes, waffles, scones, quick breads, etc.). The other is similar to all-purpose flour, for baked goods with a finer crumb like cake, pizza crust, focaccia, and pie crust.

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