Why This Recipe Works: The decision to develop our own all-purpose blend came about after we tested a variety of other published recipes and store-bought blends, none of which worked universally well in all types of baked goods. Our ideal blend would have a rich, round flavor with enough protein to provide baked goods with a good chew and decent browning, and we wanted the ingredients to be easy to find. We also decided to leave out any binders, such as xanthan or guar gum, so that we could add them as needed to individual recipes.
Most blends are based on one of three ingredients: rice, sorghum, or bean flour. We didn’t like the bean- or sorghum-based flour blends; they worked well structurally but had off-flavors. Rice flour was clearly the best choice for building our own versatile flour blend, and white rice flour was ideal because of its neutral flavor and smooth texture. In addition to white rice flour, we knew that the blend would need a few other ingredients.
Individual gluten-free flours and starches absorb water, swell, and gel at different temperatures and to different degrees, creating more or less structure, more or less readily. Combining white rice flour with other types of starch essentially combined the properties of each to make the blend work better in a wide array of recipes. We added brown rice flour because it has an earthy flavor and gave the baked goods some welcome heft. Cornstarch didn’t work well because it made the baked goods taste very starchy. Instead we liked tapioca starch, because it provided chew and elasticity, as well as potato starch, which helped with tenderness and binding.
To find the ideal ratio of white rice flour, brown rice flour, tapioca starch, and potato starch, we baked many batches of muffins and cookies (upward of a thousand) with slightly altered flour and starch proportions. In the end, we found that too much brown rice flour made baked goods gritty, too much tapioca starch made them dense, and too much potato starch gave them crumbly textures. We liked a basic ratio of 4 parts white rice flour, 1 part brown rice flour, 1 part potato starch, and 1/2 part tapioca.
Tinkering with these amounts a bit further helped us land closer to the final proportions, but we were still having some structural problems. Suspecting that our flour blend needed a protein boost, we considered adding one of the following three ingredients: calcium carbonate, powdered egg whites, or nonfat milk powder. Calcium carbonate (also known as the active ingredient in Tums) is added to many gluten-free breads, so we tried crushing and adding some tablets, but ultimately the hassle factor outweighed the slight tenderness it added. Powdered egg whites added a big boost in terms of structure but imparted an unpleasant meringue-like flavor. The nonfat milk powder, however, helped with structure, tenderness, and browning and added rich and caramel-like flavor; it also helped temper the starchiness.
Now we had a balanced and versatile blend that would perform well in many different types of recipes.
ATK All-Purpose Gluten-Free Flour Blend
MAKES 42 OUNCES (ABOUT 9 1/3 CUPS)
If you don’t bring the flour to room temperature before using, the recipe may not work as expected.
24 ounces (4 1/2 cups plus 1/3 cup) white rice flour
7 1/2 ounces (1 2/3 cups) brown rice flour
7 ounces (1 1/3 cups) potato starch
3 ounces (3/4 cup) tapioca starch
3/4 ounce (3 tablespoons) nonfat milk powder
Whisk all ingredients together in large bowl until well combined. Transfer to airtight container and refrigerate for up to 3 months, or freeze for up to 6 months. Bring to room temperature before using.
G-F Testing Lab
Rice Flours: We had the best results using Bob’s Red Mill white rice flour and brown rice flour.
Potato Starch: Be sure to use potato starch, not potato flour. Alternatively, 7 ounces (1 1/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons) sweet white rice flour, or 7 ounces (1 3/4 cups) arrowroot starch/flour/powder can be substituted for the potato starch. We had better results using sweet rice flour in quick breads, cakes, and cookies, and using arrowroot starch in yeast breads.
Tapioca Starch: Tapioca starch is also sold as tapioca flour; they are interchangeable.
Milk Powder: You can omit the milk powder, but baked goods won’t brown as well and they will taste less rich. Alternatively, you can substitute soy milk powder.
➜ View more kitchen-tested gluten-free recipes