Wheat-free baking is not so hard. Really. The first thing you need to do is accept that your wheat-free baked goods will Never have the same texture of wheat-based baked goods. That said, I have found that if you play around with ingredients, you can sometimes get pretty darn close.
You can buy packaged wheat-free flours at Whole Foods and other health food stores that are ready to use, but they can be rather pricey. You can also find them on Amazon, but you usually need to buy a lot to get a good price. That's fine if you bake a lot (raise your hand if that's you!), but if you don't you'll have lots of flour sitting around. Most of these mixes have ingredients that keep well, so it shouldn't be a problem. Honestly though, I've never used a mix - but I'm sure some of them are good.
I've read a lot about combining your own flours to make wheat-free mixes. I've tried a few different combinations, and now have one that I use exclusively when a recipe calls for "wheat-free or gluten-free mix." Some recipes specify what flours to use, and that makes it easy. But when they don't, here's what I use:
- 1 part Sorghum Flour
- 1 part Rice Flour (white or brown)
- 1/2 part Potato Starch (Not Potato Flour
- 1/2 part Tapioca Starch or Flour
I usually make a bunch and keep it on hand. For example, I'll do 3 cups of Rice flour, 3 cups of Sorghum flour, 2 cups of Potato starch, and 1 cup of Tapioca flour. I whisk it together and keep it available for when I want to bake a goodie.
Bob's Red Mill is a company that makes a lot of these flours. Many stores carry this brand. I find Sorghum flour is hard to find locally, so I usually order a box from Whole Foods. It keeps well.
Other flours I've had success with include Oat flour and Almond flour. Almond flour can be expensive, especially if it's made from blanched almonds (better tasting, IMO). You can make your own by blanching almonds and removing the skin - and then chopping them in a food processor until they are very fine (but not quite almond butter, please!). Time consuming, but easy. I just bought some Coconut flour that I thought I would play with. It's not likely I will use it a lot, because it is ridiculously expensive. But I'm curious to try it.
There are other ingredients that are helpful in wheat-free baking that are not typical household staples, like Xanthan Gum, which helps improve the texture of baked goods. Xanthan Gum is not a chemical (even though it sounds like it!). It's a natural substance. It is pricey, at about $10.00 for an 8-oz bag, but you generally only use 1-2 tsp at a time, so it lasts a long time. It needs to be refrigerated.
I hope this information is helpful if you're interested in experimenting with wheat-free baking. There a lots of other wheat-free flours out there to try. My experience has been that this type of baking is actually very forgiving - so you can play around with different types of flours that sound good to you, and probably get good results!