Have you ever wondered what's the best gluten free flour blend available in stores is? Then you are not alone. In this extensive experiment I compared four widely available brands including King Arthur Measure for Measure, Cup4Cup, Bob's Red Mill 1-to-1 and Better Batter All-Purpose Flour.
Since I am a visual learner I thought it would be fun to use one recipe of mine and recreate it with 4 different flour blends. The recipe I used for this is my Ultimate Gluten Free Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe. The only change I made was using one kind of chocolate (Callebaut 811 chips) and leaving out the candied cocoa nibs.
Before I want to dive into more details about this project, we should cover some basic gluten-free knowledge. Please remember I am not a medical professional (even though I have watched all 17 seasons of Greys Anatomy)
- What is gluten?
- Let's talk Gluten Free Flours
- The Four Flours - One Recipe Project
- The Gluten-Free Cookie Bake Off
- Better Batter All-Purpose Gluten Free Flour Cookies
- Cup4Cup Multipurpose Gluten Free Flour Blend Cookies
- King Arthur Measure for Measure Gluten Free Cookies
- Bob's Red Mill 1-for-1 Gluten Free Cookies
- Overall conclusion and recommendation
- 💬 Comments
What is gluten?
Gluten is a protein found in certain grains such as wheat, barley, spelt, and rye which causes the elastic texture of dough. A gluten-free diet is clearly a must for anyone who has been diagnosed with celiac disease or gluten intolerance.
When a person with celiac disease consumes gluten, their immune system recognizes the proteins as foreign invaders and releases antibodies to neutralize the threat. Unfortunately, this immune response also ends up damaging the lining of the small intestine which leads to celiac-related symptoms.
There is a misconception that a gluten-free diet is a healthy diet - if you replace your “regular" bread and cookies with gluten-free bread and cookies you are still eating bread and cookies.
Let's talk Gluten Free Flours
The gluten-free flour world is a complicated one. Gluten-Free flours are 99% always a blend made up of a variety of products. And not every blend will work for every application (remember the profiteroles? that's one of those recipes where not every blend will work)
Almost every blend though is made up of ingredients with those components: starchy, structural, and binding. Let's talk about the most common ones.
White Rice Flour: This has a very neutral taste and is made from finely milled white rice. It is cheap and easy to digest.
Brown Rice Flour: More fiber, fat, and protein than white rice flour. Good structure but can be gritty.
Sweet Rice Flour: Made from ground glutinous rice (does NOT contain gluten). It is sticky with a high starch quality, and works great in gluten-free baking because it helps bind things together.
Sorghum Flour: High in protein, soft flour with light color. Makes bakes light and tender. Mild, sweet flavor.
Potato Flour: Made from whole peeled and trimmed potatoes. The starch in potatoes attracts and holds water, and helps to increase the moisture content in baked goods. (This is NOT the same as potato starch)
Cornstarch: Cornstarch is a dense powder made from the endosperm portion of the corn kernel. Combined with other flours it can help create a lighter and chewy dessert. Does not absorb liquid as well as potato or tapioca starch (can result in a “wet” bake)
Potato Starch: Made from root tubers of the potato plants. High in starch and therefore binds and thickens well. Adds good moisture and soft texture to bakes. Lightens the crumb of baked goods
Tapioca Starch/Flour: A pure starch made from the root of the cassava plant. Incredibly sticky flour absorbs moisture well and adds light to bakes. Promotes browning of your bakes. Use too much and it may give your bakes a gummy texture.
Xanthan Gum: xanthan gum provides elasticity and stickiness. It is produced through the fermentation of sucrose, glucose, and lactose
The Four Flours - One Recipe Project
For this project, I decided to use four widely available gluten-free flour blends. I understand not all of them are available outside of the US. Cup4Cup for example is very similar to the Schaer blends which are available in Europe.
I took the time to list all the ingredients in every blend. Ingredients are listed by quantity on labels. This means that the first ingredient is what the manufacturer used the most. This will also give us a good idea of what to expect from every blend.
Disclaimer: I have included the price for every blend - which I took off amazon.com. Clearly, products are priced differently all over the country depending which store you buy at.
Better Batter All-Purpose Flour
Women-owned company located in Altoona, PA. This product is available directly via the Better Batter website and Amazon in 5lbs bags. It is Top 10 allergen-free, non-GMO, OU kosher certified (OU pareve), and vegan friendly
Price: As of July 6th, 2021 this product costs $26.95 for 5lbs on Amazon - $0.34 per oz.
Ingredients: Rice flour, brown rice flour, tapioca starch, potato starch, potato flour, xanthan gum, pectin (lemon derivative)
What to expect by looking at the ingredients: rice flours are used as the main ingredients with starches added for moisture and structure. This is the only blend that has pectin added as an additional binder.
Raw cookie dough verdict: easy to scoop cookie dough that did not leave a residue in the scooper. Felt dry to touch
Cup4Cup Multipurpose Flour
Developed by Chef Thomas Keller (French Laundry). This product is available via Amazon as well as in many grocery stores around the country. It is made with non-GMO ingredients, OU kosher certified, does contain dairy
Price: As of July 6th, 2021 this product costs $10.79 for 3lbs on Amazon - $0.22 per oz.
Ingredients: Cornstarch, white rice flour, brown rice flour, rBST-Free Milk Powder, tapioca flour, potato starch, xanthan gum
What to expect by looking at the ingredients: very heavy on cornstarch which can cause a very crisp bake. It also does not absorb liquid very well which can cause a “wet” or gummy dough. The milk powder will help with browning and provide flavor (which is lacking due to cornstarch)
Raw cookie dough verdict: sticky dough which left a residue in the cookie scoop behind. dough felt wet
King Arthur Maeasure for Measure Flour
Created by The King Arthur Baking Company based in Norwich, Vermont. This product is available via their website, Amazon and many retailers around the country. It is made with non - GMO ingredients, vegan and kosher.
Price: As of July 6th, 2021 this product costs $7.84 for 3lbs on Amazon - $0.16 per oz.
Ingredients: Rice flour, whole grain brown rice flour, whole sorghum flour, tapioca starch, potato starch, cellulose, xanthan gum, vitamin and mineral blend [calcium carbonate, niacinamide (vitamin b3), reduced iron, thiamin hydrochloride (vitamin b1), riboflavin (vitamin b2)]
What to expect by looking at the ingredients: brown rice flour will provide structure and then sorghum flour will give it a sweet, balanced taste. The added vitamins and minerals will extend the shelf life of products baked with this blend.
Raw cookie dough verdict: easy scoopable dough which did not leave a residue in the scooper, dough felt dry to touch
Bob's Red Mill 1 to 1 Baking Flour
Created by Bob's Red Mill, an employee-owned company located in Milwaukie, Oregon. It is non-GMO, OK-kosher certified, and vegan.
Price: As of July 6th, 2021 this product costs $12.49 for 4lbs on Amazon - $0.20 per oz.
Ingredients: sweet white rice flour, whole grain brown rice flour, potato starch, whole grain sorghum flour, tapioca flour, xanthan gum
What to expect by looking at the ingredients: the sweet rice flour will not only provide structure but also be an excellent binder. Potato and tapioca starch will provide moisture
Raw cookie dough verdict: cookie dough felt wet to the touch and very soft. did leave a residue behind in the cookie scooper
The Gluten-Free Cookie Bake Off
Let the fun begin.
For the big gluten-free cookie bake-off, I allowed the cookie dough to rest for 24hrs in the refrigerator, scooped the cookies and baked them on a parchment-lined sheet tray straight from the fridge at 350F for 8 minutes, rotated the sheet tray, and baked them for an additional 4-5 minutes.
What I looked for once I removed the gluten-free cookies from the oven was spreading and browning followed by texture and clearly taste once they were cooled. I also held on to the cookies for 5 days to check their freshness every day.
Disclaimer: I do not work with/for any of the brands mentioned in this blog post. All of the results below are my personal opinion.
Better Batter All-Purpose Gluten Free Flour Cookies
I had very high hopes for this cookie since I only recently started using this blend of flour. The pectin in this blend is an additional binder aside from xanthan gum. As expected the cookies were baked very even with minimal spreading. The cookies did crisp up on the edges but retained a chewy center. As you can see in the image below, the cookie has a very airy crumb. As for texture, there was no gritty texture so I assume that Better Batter indeed uses superfine rice flours in their blend. The cookie baked with Better Batter All-Purpose Flour stayed fresh for 3 days when stored in an airtight container at room temperature. By day five it was very crisp and perfect for dunking in a big glass of milk.
Cup4Cup Multipurpose Gluten Free Flour Blend Cookies
My gluten-free chocolate chip cookies baked with Cup4Cup started out by needing an additional 2 minutes in the oven because the dough was still very unbaked after 13 minutes. The cookies did spread a lot, crisped up at the edges but stayed very soft in the center. Because of all the spread, those cookies turned out very flat. Actually the flattest ones of the project. The texture of this cookie was perfect but the taste was missing. Because of cornstarch being the number one ingredient the added milk powder has to make up for it when it comes to flavor. Sadly this cookie turned stale within 2 days when kept at room temperature in an airtight container. If you love thin cookies and plan on eating them within a day or two, I recommend using Cup4Cup for your cookies.
King Arthur Measure for Measure Gluten Free Cookies
The cookies baked with King Arthur Measure for Measure didn't spread. Well, they did spread a tiny bit not very much. First I thought this was an error on my end but I double-weighted the flour and checked my notes and there was no user error to find. King Arthur uses super fine brown rice flour as their first ingredient which makes me think the brown rice does absorb all the liquid (eggs and butter) and therefore makes it a very compact cookie. To be honest, I didn't think there was anything wrong with the cookie but in the IG polls regarding which cookie my community thinks looks the best, King Arthur was the clear loser (one day 1.... on day 5 they were the clear winner!)
The King Arthur cookies had a very cakey texture/structure but exceptional flavor. No grittiness and strange aftertaste. Cookies made with King Arthur Measure for Measure did stay fresh for five days (you ready this correct - 5 days) because of added vitamins and minerals. This blend is very similar to my own brown rice flour blend which I used for years at my gluten-free retail bakery. It's an exceptional product that works for (almost) anything. I don't recommend trying yeasted doughs with it (the brown rice is just too heavy for it)
Bob's Red Mill 1-for-1 Gluten Free Cookies
The cookies baked with Bob's Red Mill's 1-for-1 baked off the most even with crispy edges, a little puff in the middle. The texture reminded me of a traditional chocolate chip cookie with the chew in the middle (please be aware it's been 20+ years since I ate a "traditional" chocolate chip cookie). The cookie had a very balanced taste (sweetness from the Sweet Rice Flour ) but a slight grittiness to it. As far as I know, Bob's Red Mill does not use superfine brown rice flour. As for freshness, this cookie stayed fresh for four days.
Overall conclusion and recommendation
I wish I could say "Brand XXX" is the overall winner of this project and the product you should use moving forward. All our taste buds and cookie preferences are different. While I love a cakey cookie you may love a thin cookie. BUT, here are a few results that I think are very worth sharing.
- The truth no one wants to hear: There is no such thing as a "One for One" gluten-free flour blend you can use to replace wheat flour in your recipes. All 4 blends weighted differently than what the brand websites stated. I measured out 1 cup of flour and weighed it with my digital kitchen scale. I repeated this 3 times and took the average of those 3 numbers to determine how much flour to use in the recipe for each product. Better Batter weighed 180 grams, Cup4Cup 157 grams, King Arthur 178 grams, and Bob's Red Mill 155 grams.
- Best Texture: In my opinion, King Arthur has the best texture followed by Better Batter, Bob's Red Mill, and Cup4Cup. As far as I know, King Arthur uses superfine brown rice flour in their mix while Bob's Red Mill is more coarse ground.
- Flavor: Bob's Red Mill was the surprise winner when it came to flavor. Their first ingredient is Sweet Rice Flour. Cup4Cup can taste starchy and "odd" because cornstarch is the first ingredient
- Freshness: Clearly King Arthur is the way to go if you are baking ahead of time and want your baked goods to still taste delicious after 2-3 days.
- Price: As of July 6th, King Arthur is your best deal but clearly this can change quickly. Your cheapest option? Make your own blend. I am currently working on a variety of gluten-free flour blends for you to create at home and use in all my recipes. So please stay tuned!
- My personal favorite? I seriously thought I could be like "Brand XXX is my favorite" after this baking experiment but I can't pick one. All four blends work well for different applications.
In case you missed my Instagram story about this project, I did save it as a highlight on my profile at @austrianwithwuff
What are your experiences with commercial blends? Do you have ANY questions or comments? Please drop them below. This is a fun topic I would love to chat about.