Why do gluten free recipes use so many types of flours/starches? Woud it be possible to just use one or two?
For the same reason it takes 10-20-30-40 ingredients to make fat-free "sour cream" or vegan "chicken". It's not easy to force things do what they are not meant to.
I was a successful 100% rye sourdough baker before I was diagnosed with celiac disease. It took me a year but I was able to devise a gluten-free sourdough technique based on the rye technique. I found the starter had to be treated differently than rye or wheat starter to prevent spoilage. I also found that at least some flour combining seemed to be necessary for proper texture and taste. One major benefit of the sourdough process is that it gave the bread an excellent shelf life, 5-7 days unrefrigerated.
I have worked for 5 years on my technique and have developed many recipes based on different starters and flour combinations. So far I managed to develop 1 single-flour bread using quinoa flour. It has enough natural sponginess that it holds its own. If the quinoa grain is carefully rinsed and dried before grinding the finished bread tastes sweet rather than bitter. (quinoa can be taste bitter). All my other recipes include at least 2 flours.
One of the reasons many gf recipes call for many ingredients is that starch flours like arrowroot, tapioca and potato are used to "fluff" up the bread. Some retail breads and cakes are almost all starch flours. I discovered that the fermenting process naturally creates enough fluff so that I was able to eliminate the starch flours. I just had to be careful not to beat or knead the fluff out of it. The batter (it's a batter, not a dough) has to be handled carefully to preserve the fluff and sponginess.
Here is my basic Starter Recipe. I boost and preserve it with 2 tablespoons of a fermented drink like water kefir, kombucha tea, milk kefir or whey:Make a starter by mixing equal amounts of gluten-free flour and water. Add 2 tablespoons of water kefir or other fermented liquid. You can read about these fermented drinks in this post.Feed every 8 hours or so with equal amounts of more flour and water. After 3 days it should be ready to use.
I also grow these starters in the fridge reducing the feeding frequency but extending the time it will be ready to 5-7 days.
Message me if you want more info.
it's not that easy to make it taste right. What you buy at supermarkets often tastes like card board.
But at least it's doable - I made two different kinds for a friend, with six different kinds of flours, and both tasted good.
You need at least three different flours for good results. The reason is that any single flour will be too distinctive (rice flour is grainy, the starches yield a too crumbly texture, and the bean flours taste just horrible). Each flour kind of cancells out the undesirable qualities of the other flours. But I think that if you have at least three flours in relatively equal parts you will have no problems.
I've been baking GF for my son for 7 years. At first I fussed around with different flour blends. I discovered that the bean flours are too distinctive and quickly eliminated them. Recently I got tired of all the different flours in my cupboard (that and I got bugs) so I combined all the GF flours (that didn't have bugs) in a single container and had no problem with anything I baked. Trying to keep things to a minimum I then bought just three flours: Bob's Red Mill brown rice flour, BRM sorghum flour and BRM tapioca flour and mixed the three bags together into a single container. Again the flour mixture worked just fine. It's still expensive, but much less fussy this way. When a recipe calls for all the odd measurements of GF flours, I just total the amounts and reach for the simple Rice/Sorghum/Tapioca mixture.
Of course, I have a few recipes which call for a specific GF flour (potato flour for a cake I like and teff for brownies) but my cupboard is much less cluttered than before and I only need three dedicated containers (so I don't get bugs again)!
I would add some nut flour now and then, because that always tastes good.
Do you do a GF sourdough, too, Jane?
No sourdough, I only do GF for my one family member as the ingredients are more expensive and, quite frankly, it's difficult to reproduce regular baked goods. Sourdough is too much work for just one person.
I am, however, experimenting with delayed fermentation techniques on the GF bread I make. I think that enzymatic action on even non-gluten flours might possibly be a big part digestive problems with cereals in general. My son noticed that he feels better even when he cuts back of the GF products. I'm not convinced that the highly refined GF flours are particularly healthy. I'm trying to determine if delayed fermentation can make the GF breads more digestible. There's so much we don't understand about human nutrition. Unfortunately the food and pharmaceutical industries do little advance our knowledge. I'm just so thankful for forums like this. My son would not have even gotten a correct diagnosis if it hadn't been for the Internet!
Back on topic, I really only make two things with the flour blend, a white bread and pizza dough, so I really don't know how the mix performs in a variety of recipes. I try to make baked goods that are naturally gluten free, things like buckwheat pancakes, an Italian cake made with potato starch, Indian breads with chickpea flour, rice pudding and cornbread. That way everybody in the house can eat what I spend hours making and I don't have to make two versions.
Karin, there are a TON of Italian cakes and pastries that use only nut flours. I make them for special occasions when I don't want to make a "special" dessert for my one son. They're easy to make and produce amazing results. People always as for the recipes. I like the nut flours much better than the GF cereal blends!
I have a Swiss recipe for Baseler Kirschkuchen (cherry cake from Basel) that is made entirely with unbleached, whole ground almond meal. When I first baked that in the 70s I had no idea that there was something like gluten intolerance, I only wondered how a cake could be made without wheat flour. I made it many times, it tastes very good.
As for a GF sourdough bread, you might just try letting part of the flour mixture (ca. 64 %) ferment for three days at room temperature (flours mixed with an equal part of the water).
What Italian dessert recipe with nut flours do you like best?
I started off using a 3 flour mix, but now I am more likely to use one or two flours, depending on what I am baking. In a yeasted bread I'll usually use 2: the seed flour plus tapioca or arrowroot. For sourdough I might just use one, say buckwheat. It depends on the bread I want to make and the characteristics I want in the final loaf. Some GF flours need additional starch because they are so nutrient dense there are not enough starches for the lactic acid bacteria to convert for food for the wild yeasts to use on to make a decent sourdough. All my breads are made from dough so that I can get the right crumb structure for the style and flavour of bread I am making. I have written up some of my GF sourdough work here: bit.ly/xpXWJR
Learn more here about gluten free bread baking http://theworldofglutenfreebread.blogspot.co.nz/