Since our last review post featuring Thrive’s Gluten-Free Flour, we have received a lot of questions, emails and comments about cooking and baking gluten-free from your food storage. Since Debbie and I are not gluten-free, I went to my friend and gluten-free expert Betsy Thomas. I met Betsy 7 or 8 years ago (while she was teaching local classes and working on her own gluten-free cookbook “Life Tastes Good Again”) and I remember thinking we were cut from the same cloth. She is BIG on helping people get back to “normal” even though they are gluten free. I’m sure if you’ve made the switch to gluten-free, her story may feel familiar to your own (the sticker shock of commercial gluten-free foods, the gritty texture of home baked goods, and the frustration). Her wisdom and kitchen testing is worth its weight in gold, if you or someone you know is gluten free, they need to read her story and get her recipe for her gluten-free flour mix (which can be made from your food storage at a fraction of the price it would cost you to purchase the Thrive gluten-free flour).
Betsy Thomas has been cooking gluten free for about 13 years. She and her business partner, Kirsti Kirkland, taught gluten free cooking classes for ten of those years, helping hundreds of people learn how to make delicious gluten free foods without breaking the bank. A mother of seven children, she spends the moments in between messes feeling guilty that she doesn’t update her blog more often.
A couple of days before Christmas, I realized that my bucket of gluten free flour was running low. I had lots of company (and a relatively small kitchen), so I baked fewer cookies than planned and squeezed through the holidays with what I had. As soon as I had my kitchen to myself again (well, myself and the two youngest children), I pulled out my food storage buckets and got to work mixing up some more gluten free flour.
I’ve been cooking gluten free for 13 years now, first so I could help my mother and later for my children who had been diagnosed with celiac. At that time there were really no commercially available gluten-free flour mixes, or even very many recipes for gluten-free flour mixes. The flour mix that I first used was Bette Hagman’s GF Mix recipe. It was okay, but most baked goods were rather gritty (because of the high percentage of rice flour in the mix). Later I started to use Bette’s Featherlight Mix recipe, but because of the high percentage of starches many of my baked goods came out with an Angel-Food-Cake-like texture … fine for Angel Food Cake, but not what I wanted in banana bread or muffins. It was, in fact, banana bread that got me thinking that I should probably combine those gluten-free flour recipes to create a gluten-free flour that was rather more like “regular” flour in taste and texture. Because we didn’t have to eat gluten-free ourselves, my friend Kirsti and I were able to compare our home baked goods to gluten-filled foods and refine our recipe until we were able to use it in almost any recipe we wanted with no one being any the wiser (“Wait … THAT’s gluten free?!?” is a question I hear a lot).
As time has gone on and more people eat gluten free, there has been a proliferation of commercially produced gluten-free flour mixes. Some of them are better than others as far as taste and texture goes, but they all have one thing in common: they are MUCH more expensive than “regular” flour. A 25 pound bag of regular-old-ground-from-wheat unbleached white flour costs about $7 at my local Costco. On Amazon.com, 25 lb. bags of gluten-free flour blends run from $50 to over $100 … that’s 7 to 14 times more expensive than buying wheat flour! I have seven children. There is NO WAY that I can afford to pay that much money for gluten-free flour! By mixing flours myself, I keep the price of my gluten free flour to about $1 per pound, keep my family provided with delicious baked goods, and keep my overall monthly grocery bill significantly lower than what food stamps would be willing to provide for a family of our size.
I buy the basic components of my gluten-free flour mix in bulk, 25 to 50 pounds at a time. Cornstarch and Tapioca Starch are readily available at my local Winco grocery store in 25 lb. bags and at about $1.25 per pound (that’s a rough guess … I think they are actually cheaper than that). Potato Starch and Potato Flour are a little harder to find, but can be purchased online from places like Honeyville Farms for $1.50 per pound (though I wouldn’t ever buy potato flour in 50 lb. bags … I just don’t use enough of it for that to make sense). I buy long grain rice at Costco for about 35 cents per pound and grind it in a BlendTec Kitchen Mill.
I keep all my basic ingredients (starches and unground rice) in 5-gallon buckets with Gamma Seal lids in my basement storage room. Every2 to 3 months I bring those buckets up to the kitchen and mix up 60 – 100 cups of my flour mix (enough to fill about two 5-gallon buckets). What with the interruptions of children who want to help me keep the grinder full, it probably takes me about an hour to grind the rice flour and mix up that much flour. I then return all my buckets to the basement. I keep a regular sized flour container in my kitchen and refill it from those 5 gallon food storage buckets as needed.
There are other benefits to mixing my own flour besides the taste, texture, and cost issues. First of all, because the starches that I use are very low in protein they don’t go rancid very quickly and are therefore ideal for food storage. Secondly, because I am in control of the amounts of flours that go into the mix I can adjust those amounts as necessary. When my sister found out that she was allergic to rice as well as having celiac, she was able to substitute gluten free oat flour for the rice flour and keep on baking. I have substituted cornstarch for potato starch and vice versa. As long as you keep the basic ratios the same, this mix is relatively forgiving as far as the outcome of the final product goes.
Eating Gluten Free’s All Purpose Flour Mix
5 c. rice flour
3 1/3 c. tapioca starch
3 c. cornstarch
2/3 c. potato starch
3 Tbs. potato flour
Combine all ingredients. Mix well. (If you are mixing large quantities, be careful to stir, shake, mix, and otherwise combine all the ingredients thoroughly so your baked goods will have a consistent taste and texture as you use up the flour in your bucket.)
*This information is provided for personal, non-commercial use only.
Need more gluten-free advice? Read our 5 Tips for a Gluten-free food storage.