America's Test Kitchen Whole-Grain Gluten-Free Flour Blend
Why This Recipe Works
In addition to our ATK All-Purpose Gluten-Free Flour Blend, we wanted a whole-grain flour blend that loosely mimicked the flavor, color, and texture of whole-wheat flour. We started by testing a variety of store-bought blends and published blend recipes to get the lay of the land. Surprisingly, most whole-grain blends we tested produced decent baked goods, but none of them had a deep, hearty, “wheaty” flavor. In fact, when we set up a blind taste test and pitted baked goods made with these whole-grain blends against our own all-purpose blend, most tasters could not tell the difference. We knew we could do better. As with our all-purpose blend, we wanted the whole-grain blend to use five ingredients or less, and we didn’t want to include any binders such as xanthan or guar gum. Also, we wanted to keep this blend as allergen-friendly as possible and avoid milk powder, oat flour, and potato starch. Finally, we wanted whole-grain flours to make up more than 50 percent of our blend. The world of gluten-free whole-grain flours is fairly large, but we quickly narrowed it down to just eight options—amaranth, brown rice, buckwheat, coconut, millet, quinoa, sorghum, and teff. We ran these flours through a series of tests to help identify their flavors and textures and confidently eliminated buckwheat, quinoa, and coconut flours from the race because they all tasted too distinctive for a blend. Moving forward with teff, brown rice, sorghum, millet, and amaranth, we began a series of tests that paired them together in various configurations, round-robin style, to see what worked best. We also added some tapioca starch into the mix, knowing that we’d finesse the type and amount of starch later. As we moved through this intense round of testing (during which time we produced over 600 muffins), teff flour consistently came out on top for its hearty chew, darker color, and wheatlike flavor. Brown rice flour also ranked well because its mild flavor and texture smoothed out the rough edges of the teff. Sorghum, millet, and amaranth all fell out of the testing along the way—the sorghum consistently made muffins taste dry and tough, while the millet and amaranth added an unwelcome aftertaste and a grainy texture. Working with a ratio of 3 parts teff flour to 1 part brown rice flour, we put the tapioca under the spotlight and tested it against a few other starches including arrowroot, sweet white rice flour, and cornstarch. Tasters unanimously preferred the clean flavor and smooth, nongritty texture of sweet white rice flour over the others, and we settled on 3 parts teff flour and 1 part brown rice flour to 2/3 part sweet white rice flour. Finally, we turned our attention to a somewhat random group of secret ingredients that are sometimes added to blends in small amounts to add flavor, help with browning, or boost the protein content to make the blend stronger. Our secret list included ground flax, chia, and hemp seeds and pea powder isolate. We loved ground golden flaxseeds because they added a well-rounded, wheaty flavor and richness to both muffins and cookies. After 126 tests and more cookies and muffins than any one person could consume in a year, we nailed down the ingredients in our whole-grain blend: 3 parts teff flour, 1 part brown rice flour, 1 part ground golden flaxseeds, and 2/3 part sweet white rice flour.