The Best Flour for Gluten-Free Baking

21/07/2014 22:14 BST | Updated 19/09/2014 10:59 BST

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Exploring the world of gluten-free baking can lead to many discoveries. Baking your own gluten-free desserts and breads can save you money and also expand your baking repertoire.

In a short while, I've discovered some intriguing guilt-free desserts such as paleo brownies, vanilla cupcakes that actually contain cannellini beans, and a new variation on the traditional blueberry muffin.

The greatest discovery, though, was a new flour that I now consider one of my very favourites. It's low GI (glycemic) and gluten-free: coconut flour.

Why try coconut flour?

It keeps baked goods moist.

Coconut flour has an uncanny ability to absorb and hold onto water. This means your baked goods stay lovely and moist - always a good thing!

It's high in fibre.

Happily, the fibre in coconut flour is light and white, so it doesn't taste or feel like a traditional high fiber food such as a classic bran muffin.

It has a low GI.

Unlike wheat and most other gluten-free flours, coconut flour is low in digestable carbs so it doesn't spike your blood sugar levels. This means it's more waistline-friendly.

It's grain-free and gluten-free. Therefore it's wonderful if you want to eat more 'paleo' or need to avoid gluten.

What's not to love about coconut flour?

Coconut flour is more expensive than regular flour.

Wheat based flour is so cheap, it's not surprising that coconut flour is significantly more expensive. But remember you'll be using a fraction of the amount, so the price difference isn't as extreme as it seems at first. Just think about the long term savings to your health.

It has a coconutty flavour (of course!)

This isn't necessarily a bad thing, but coconut flour does have a distinct slightly sweet coconut flavour. This can be a plus for things like brownies. In more savoury baking like the bread below, I quite like the subtle coconut.

How do you use coconut flour?

After experimenting with substituting coconut flour for regular flour, I've had mostly successes. I've found the best starting point is to replace the flour with 1/3 coconut flour and 2/3 water. For example in a recipe that calls for 100g (3oz) regular flour, I'd use 33g (1oz) coconut flour and 66g (2oz) water or other liquid.

'Paleo' Bread Recipe

makes 1 loaf

If you're after a hearty bread that's also healthy then you're in the right place.

Don't be alarmed by the number of eggs. Coconut flour is much lower in protein than wheat flour, so the eggs are needed to give enough protein in our loaf.

Feel free to add a few handfuls of your favourite flavourings like rosemary, roast cubed potato, seeds, nuts, roast garlic, or caramelized onion.

165g (6oz) coconut flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

250g (9oz) butter, melted

12 eggs, lightly beaten

1. Preheat oven to 180C (350F). Line a loaf pan with baking paper.

2. In a large bowl combine coconut flour, baking powder and 1 teaspoon salt. Make a 'well' in the middle of the flour.

3. Add eggs and butter in the well. Whisk to combine, but don't stress if there are a few lumps.

4. Transfer the mixture to your prepared pan. Smooth the top.

5. Bake for 45 minutes or until the loaf is well browned and a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean.

6. Remove from the pan and cool on a rack before eating.