Gluten Free Flours - How to stay safe without compromising on taste

As the (gluten free) dust settles on another delightful day of teaching at River Cottage, I've been feverishly researching sources of gluten free flour for the next course. I'll tell you why...

For years I have happily used Doves Farm Gluten Free Buckwheat flour - safe in the knowledge that they test their gluten free products and glad that they also provide something nutritious and slowish release. It's certainly not something that can be said for most gluten free flour mixes!

When the flour order arrived for my course yesterday, the Doves Farm flour had been replaced with Shipton Mill buckwheat flour. A quick call to the mill revealed that this was not gluten free, as the same mill is used for all grains - Wheat, Rye, Barley, ayayai!

It transpired that whilst I had been slowly working my way through my bulk purchased buckwheat - (very slowly as we pretty much eat grain free here) - Doves Farm had stopped producing gluten free buckwheat flour due to problems with contamination in the fields where buckwheat is grown.

Anyone who has wondered about the reason why some oats are labelled 'gluten free' and others not - this is the reason why. Gluten free flours or oats need to come from a carefully controlled source, where the farmer has ensured that the crop is not contaminated with Wheat, Barley or Rye. The products are then tested using the Elisa test system to ensure that parts per million of gluten are within acceptable limits - ie non existent or virtually non existent.

I have struggled to find certified gluten free flours in the UK that are not simply blends of rocket fuel starch (maize starch, potato starch, white rice flour and tapioca), so I was delighted when I found a few sites selling Bob's Red Mill gluten free flours. Bob's Red Mill is an American company producing a lovely variety of flours from gluten free grains - all tested to ensure that they are safe for coeliacs.

On the Bob's Red Mill list are these exciting flour prospects:
Teff (flour for amazing flat breads and sourdough and grain for delicious fermented porridge)
Sweet Sorghum (great for cakes and pastry)
Quinoa (great moist addition to fermented breads or soaked pancakes)
Amaranth (peppery flavour that works best in socca and savoury breads)
Millet (gives a wonderful shortness to crumbly biscuits)
Coconut (grain free, high fibre)
Brown Rice (a nuttier version of white rice flour with all the nourishing germ included)
Garbanzo and Fava Bean Flour (falafel, socca and many Middle Eastern and Asian dishes use this - just make sure you always soak/ferment it in your recipe to make it digestible)

Here are a few links to companies selling Bob's Red Mill products in the UK:
Gluten Free Food Market - free shipping over £30
Healthy Supplies
Amazon - check for gluten free on the listing as all products on this page are not gluten free
Naturally Good Food

Infinity foods also sell their own range of flours that are certified gluten free under their own label, these include Millet, Brown Rice, Buckwheat and Quinoa. Find them here or at healthy supplies above.

Healthy supplies is the website for Sussex Wholefoods, who sell a mixture of certified and uncertified flours. Many of their own brand flours are good, but check if you are coeliac and need to eat certified flours.

Finding gluten free dark chocolate can also be a real chore! Green and Black's, Lindt, Divine and Côte D'or are not gluten free and Green and Black's and Côte D'or also contain milk powder.

I have found that All Plamil 'free from' chocolate is gluten free. I love their 87% cocoa chocolate, as it has a high cocoa butter content that gives it a lovely melting quality without too much bitterness. Their 70% Luxury Chocolate is also decent - although rather too sweet for my tastebuds.

Organica also make gluten free dark chocolate if you can find it and Caillebaut is gluten free too.

So what are you waiting for? Try a few flours at a time and think about what you're most likely to bake. If you know you love muffins, why not buy brown rice, teff and coconut for some delicious breakfast muffins? If you yearn for some tasty and interesting breads, try teff, sorghum and quinoa. If you love mezze then branch out with fava bean flour, millet and amaranth, for some delicious fermented pancakes and falafels. If you're a brownie fan, stock up on gluten free chocolate, ground almonds and teff or sorghum for some gooey chocolate delights, with which to win friends and influence people!

Update Feb 2016

If you have bought my book River Cottage Gluten Free then you will already have a long list of gluten free flour suppliers to choose from. My new favourite is Shipton Mill, who sell a fabulous range of gluten free flours from their mill in Wiltshire. Be sure that you are choosing from the gluten free flours, as they also have a separate mill that produces gluten containing flours.

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