Exactly Why am I Eating This?

My first introduction to gluten free bread was in a health food store in Colorado. We were visiting friends who were very sympathetic and non judgmental about my dietary requirements, though I do believe they were alarmed at the prospect of trying to provide food for me. At that time of my familiarity with eating gluten free, I had rather resigned myself to losing weight (sad, sad 🙂 ) every time we stayed away from home. However, they’d done some research and took me to a store that sold foods ‘suitable’ for us folks with weird diets. I turned quite animated at the prospect of gluten free pasta and bread, and we traipsed off back to their house loaded up with things to try. One of the oddities that we’d picked up was something which called itself ‘tapioca bread’. It looked a bit like stale, white, sliced bread, but if it meant I could have toast and marmalade for breakfast, or a sandwich piled high with veggies, I could cope. It seemed to me that the bread had to have some sort of merit if someone was going to the trouble of making it and stocking it in a grocery store, even if I didn’t recognize the main ingredient, right? I took out a slice as soon as we got home, spread it lightly with margarine, took an enthusiastic mouthful and couldn’t believe what I tasted. Maybe I just needed to be a little more familiar with the flavor. After another (more cautious) mouthful, the whole loaf went in the composting (including that which was in my mouth). My girls were curious, but I honestly couldn’t bring myself to let them try it. The only beneficial outcome to this sorry experience, is that I started looking into making gluten free bread with various gluten free flours. You know how derogatory folks can get about white wheat flour? Well, check this out (most information I gathered from: http://ndb.nal.usda.gov/ndb/foods/list , the rest of it was gleaned off the back of flour packages): .

Grams of Protein per ounce Grams of Fiber per ounce Kcals per ounce
Whole wheat flour: 3.7 3 95
White wheat flour: 2.9 0.8 102
Tapioca flour/starch: 0.07 0.3 107

All of a sudden white wheat flour doesn’t look so bad nutritionally, which just goes to show how dreadful some gluten free flours really are! Anyway, on my travels around the web (probably on one of those clever sites that joins in with the Gluten Free Ratio Rally – if you’re new to this, Google them, they’re worth a visit), I found someone who advocated using starch to make up about 30% (by weight) of the flour used in any recipe. Starch is actually a valuable ingredient in your gluten free kitchen, not for its flavor, or nutritional value, but for its structuring ability. Note that this means that you’ll be diluting the nutritional value of the main flour you use, which really needs to be as virtuous as you can stand it. With gluten free flours, better nutrition generally goes with stronger flavor. Here’s my list so far of flours that I’ve used, and their (very basic) nutritional footprint.

Grams of Protein per ounce Grams of Fiber per ounce Kcals per ounce
Hemp 8.8 1.1 155
Flax seed: 6.5 8.6 129
Almond meal: 6.5 2.8 168
Garfava flour: 6.5 2.2 108
Garbanzo bean flour: 5.6 4.7 103
Cocoa powder: 5.5 10.4 64
Coconut flour: 5 11 124
Cashews (raw): 5 1 155
Oats 4.7 3 109
Quinoa flour: 4 2 110
Amaranth flour: 3.9 2.4 88
Whole wheat flour: 3.7 3 95
Teff: 3.7 2.2 103
Buckwheat flour: 3.5 2.8 94
Millet flour: 3 1 104
White wheat flour: 2.9 0.8 102
Cornmeal: 2.3 2 101
Sorghum: 2.2 1.8 101
Brown rice flour: 2.2 1.3 102
Potato flour (not starch): 1.9 1.7 100
White rice flour: 1.7 0.7 102
Tapioca flour/starch: 0.07 0.3 107
Cornstarch: 0.07 0.3 107
Potato starch (not flour): 0.07 0.3 107

This is correct to the best of my knowledge, but I got a bit cross-eyed by the time I’d finished transcribing this lot across, so if you notice any mistakes, please do let me know and I’ll up-date the list! The data for cocoa powder still astounds me, but here’s the link: