I have most definitely used gluten-free all-purpose mixes, who hasn’t? (Other than gluten eaters, you don’t count.) It’s easy. It’s painless. It’s quick and less messy. But does it really work in all recipes? Well, yes it can work, but if you’re looking for something that’s almost exactly like it’s gluten-containing counterpart, then the answer is most definitely “no.”
Why? Because for one, you can’t simply replace wheat flour cup-for-cup with a gf all-purpose flour. They just aren’t the same thing, at all. And two, ratios. When most people hear that word, they’re thinking flour to liguid to eggs to fat, and when you do the research on gluten-free ratios that’s also the language you will typically find. But I’m talking about just that first part, the “flour.” Obviosuly it doesn’t mean wheat flour, so in the gluten-free world that means some combination of flour and starch. But are all gluten-free mixes the same? Absolutely not. Which is why if you use a blend of flours in a recipe that isn’t the same as the one the author used, then you shouldn’t be surprised if yours comes out a little differently. Does this mean you can’t use a pre-made blend other than the one specified in the recipe? Absolutely not, you don’t have to go out and buy all the ingredients just for that one blend, but you do need to know the ratio of flour to starch they use. If it’s a blend out of a store-bought bag, chances are there isn’t a handy little label that identifies that ratio. So to be on the safe side you might want to consider making your own blend to keep on hand so that you know exactly what the ratio of flour to starch is. This way, you can still use your blend but be able to adjust as necessary with recipes for different types of baked goods by adding more flour or more starch. (And by “your own blend” I mean you can either actually create your own or find someone else’s blend that you’ve tried and liked.) I would also recommend you buy a kitchen scale, nothing too fancy but it’ll make a world of difference. It will be much easier to match recipes with gf glours by weight than cup-for-cup, your more likely to have similar results, if you’re not using the same blend the author used. (I have this one in yellow. It was too expensive, but I love it.)
When I was originally writing this post, I had it in mind to give you a list of common ratios used in baked goods like bread, biscuits, and cakes. I got to work reading recipes and calculating their ratios and then started to pull my hair out because EVERYONE DOES IS DIFFERENTLY. I mean seriously, you people are all over the place with your recipes. So for now I’ll just leave you with the above little nugget of wisdom: you can make substitutions based on what you have but always keep in mind the ratio of flour to starch and try your best to match it. And be prepared to throw caution to the wind! (And don’t replace the flour in a gluten-containing recipe with a gf all-purpose blend, you will be highly disappointed. Unless you get lucky.)
You should check out the GFRatioRally page. You’ll find tons of cool recipes that are explained really well, and they give you the tools you need to work on your own unique kitchen creations.
Thoughts? Comments? Questions? Post away! What works for you?