The Best Gluten Free Flour Mixes (and DONUTS!)

I started this post thinking I was going to write about why and how “gluten free” doesn’t necessarily mean “healthy” and how substituting wheat flour with 15 other highly processed ingredients isn’t doing your health any favors…. But then it was spring break and I wanted a donut.

In my daily life, especially during swim season, I’m lucky to have enough time to prepare some sort of dinner-food a few nights a week. (Let alone bake or recipe-test.) Most nights I want dinner in less than 25 minutes, start to finish. Basically, this means we have some form of tacos, burgers, or BBQ’d something more often that not. Sides are limited to microwaved sweet potatoes, random-ingredient salads, and whatever vegetables I can cut up and throw in a pan/in the oven. For me, this food works. It fills me up, doesn’t make me sick, and is generally healthy since there are so few ingredients, all of which are “whole foods.”

But when I get a second of free time, my very first thought is of all the glutenous foods I want to shove in my face and how I can make them myself, sans gluten.   (Really, I’m lucky to have a full-time job. Left to my own devices, I would undoubtedly be obese. Perfectly content, but excessively overweight.)

Enter: spring break. Aside from cleaning the house and filing my taxes, the only other productive thing I’ve done this week is cook. It makes my heart (and stomach) very, very happy. But the post I started writing about gluten free baked goods not being very good for you, totally went out the window. So instead, I’m going to tell you about the best store-bought gluten-free flour blends. Highly processed, carb-filled goodness.

Then we’ll get the whole donut thing.

Everyday Flour Blend

I’d love to tell you that I always make my own flour blends. I do, on occasion, and they are typically more cost effective. (If you’re into that sort of thing, ATK has a great recipe, off which I loosely base my own.) But store bought things are just so damn convenient. Plus, there are about 100 different varieties, which allow me to nerd-out with my kitchen science experiments.

For your generic, everyday flour needs, King Arthur is the way to go. I’ve made everything from muffins to pizza crust to fried fish using this blend and I’ve been pleased with all the results. It’s slightly sweet, fluffy (not dense), and can take the place of wheat flour cup-for-cup. It’s also less expensive (although still pricey, as all gluten free things are) than some of the “fancy” flour blends like Better Batter or Cup4Cup.

Pancakes and Baking

My newly discovered favorite for easy pancakes and other baked goods (think: things you want to be fluffy and sweet) is Pamela’s Baking and Pancake mix. It has almond meal and buttermilk powder, which gives tang, texture, and richness to the mix. It also includes salt, baking powder and soda, and xanthan gum so it makes the assembly part easy. Like, scary-easy. (This is how I made the donuts in under 30 minutes… I promise, I’ll get there soon.)

Savory Baking

My sister happened upon a random box of GF pizza crust mix at TJ Maxx a while back and it’s turned out to be one of my favorites. Domata is easy, has no rise-time, and makes soft but crisp crust that doesn’t taste like cardboard.

The rest of my savory baking mostly consists of Pao de Queijo (Brazillian cheese breads) that only require tapioca starch or the hamburger buns from Every Last Crumb that just call for almond meal and tapioca. (I always have both on-hand…. In GF cooking, they’re staples.)

Cake Mix

Last, but certainly not least, we must talk about cake-in-a-box. Of course, cake from scratch makes you sound a lot cooler, but cupcakes ready to eat in under 30 minutes makes me happier than any reputation ever could.

Surprisingly, I’m a big fan of Betty Crocker. I usually tend toward more specialty (read: expensive) ingredients, but I’ve tried out quite a few and have had the best results with Betty. I use the Devil’s Food mix and whip up a quick chocolate frosting with a little espresso powder and salt.   Cupcakes with rave reviews and done in well under an hour. (That’s on my list of to-share recipes, don’t worry.)

The best part about all the above mixes is that my local grocery store (Vons) carries all of them. Meaning I don’t have to go to 3 specialty food stores looking for ingredients and pay $45 for organic, locally-sourced, hormone-free, humanely-raised rice flour.

Ok, so now that your pantry is stocked with delicious, overly-processed, easy to assemble carbs, let’s get down to business.

The donuts.

Baked Gluten Free Donuts with Strawberry Icing | Now What to Eat?

Baked Gluten Free Donuts with Strawberry Icing

Ingredients:

Donuts

2 oz (1/4 cup) unsalted butter, room temperature

1/4 cup coconut oil (melted)

1/2 cup white sugar

1/3 cup brown sugar

2 eggs

1-2 tsp. vanilla

11 oz Pamela’s Gluten Free Baking and Pancake Mix

½ tsp. ground nutmeg

1 cup buttermilk

Strawberry Icing

1 cup fresh strawberries

A splash of milk (2-3 tbls)

2 cups confectioner’s sugar

½ tsp vanilla

Process:

  1. Preheat the oven to 425 and grease a donut pan (I got mine for $7 at World Market) with coconut oil.
  2. In a stand mixer (or with a hand mixer) cream together the butter, oil, and sugars until pale and fluffy.  Make a huge mess, like me.
  3. Add in the eggs, one at a time, the vanilla, and the nutmeg and mix until well incorporated.
  4. Add in the flour and milk a little at a time, alternating between each.

*If you’re like me and don’t keep a quart of buttermilk in the fridge at all times, you can jerry-rig your own by splashing some white vinegar or lemon juice into your whole milk and letting it sit and curdle for a few minutes. Works like a charm.

  1. Fill the donut molds to the top with the batter.

*I scooped mine into a zip-top bag, cut off a corner, and piped it in… just because I couldn’t figure out how else to fill them without covering up the hole. You’re probably better at that stuff than I am, so feel free to just use a spoon and not be complicated like me.

  1. Bake the donuts for 8 minutes. They should just be starting to turn golden on the tops. Cool in the pan for a couple of minutes, then transfer to a cooling wrack for about 15 minutes before icing.
  2. Make the icing.  Throw the strawberries and milk into a blender and puree until smooth. Mix about 2 Tbl of the strawberry puree and the vanilla into the powered sugar. (I’m keeping the extra puree in the freezer to use in smoothies.) Stir until it forms a nice glaze. If you like your glaze on the thin side, add more puree. Or if you like it more like frosting, start with only 1 Tbl and play with it until the consistency is to your liking. You can always add more sugar if you add too much puree. See, baking is fool-proof!
  3. Once the donuts are cooled, spoon a healthy amount of icing over each donut, letting the extra run down the sides. Let the glaze harden for a few minutes before eating. Also, sprinkles are optional, but definitely encouraged.
  4. Devour donut, preferably with coffee or cold milk. Then have another. Then break off just a little part of a 3rd and eat that. Then, if you’re like me, come back 15 minutes later and eat the rest of that third donut. Lay down until your stomachache and sugar coma subside.

                                                        Baked Gluten Free Donuts with Strawberry Icing| Now What to Eat?

And they actually taste as good as they look.

 

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The Experts

Although I feel like I haven’t had bread in about a million years, I’m still relatively new to the world of restricted diets. Because I can’t help but over-research literally everything, you can imagine the amount of reading and question-asking I did (and continue to do) when I first made the switch. Since I’m really only as good as my information, I thought I’d share a couple of my favorite resources, not only for gluten-free eating, but also for nourishing food in general. Keep in mind, this list will be in no way comprehensive. Just a couple of places to start.

Motivation

When I first started eliminating gluten, I was basically miserable. All I wanted was a giant donut and a melty grilled cheese. (Sourdough, cheddar, extra bread-and-butter pickles. Duh.) So I needed some motivation for WHY I was actually doing this, besides the whole spending-4-nights-a-week-on-the-bathroom-floor thing.

Enter Michael Pollan’s In Defense of Food. Sure he can be controversial, but if you’re looking for a book to help solidify all the reasons you’re eliminating gluten (or cleaning up your diet altogether), look no further. He also takes a historical/anthropological look at the negative effects of sugar, corn, soy, and even dairy. (We’ll get to my opinions on all these later). Oh, and the data he gives, a science nerd’s wet dream.

Along the same lines, Wheat Belly is also great for data-and-convincing and sticks mostly to the problems grains have caused in modern health.

If all else fails, just Google search “gluten-free success stories.” It’s crazy (and inspiring) to read changes people experience after eliminating gluten and other inflammatory foods.

Information

So now that we’re sold on why we’re doing this, we need some guidelines. We need to know what gluten is, where it is, and how we should be avoiding it. I always start with a quick round up of medical research. I won’t bore you with the papers I find interesting, but Mayo Clinic and NIH are good places to start. This quick article from Mayo Clinic gives some bullet-pointed lists of do’s and don’ts, which is helpful and easy to read.

Blogs are also a great place for information because bloggers do a lot of the leg-work for you. Gluten Free Girl wrote a great piece for gluten-free newbies (that I hope to recreate in my own words at some point….)

There are thousands of other places to find information but for the sake of brevity, we’ll start with these.

Recipes

We’re lucky to be living in a time that gluten-free is so popular because there are a plethora of fabulous recipes for just about anything you’re craving.

My favorite go-to for GF comfort foods is the America’s Test Kitchen How Can It Be Gluten Free cookbook. It plays on my science-nerd need for data and research while providing solid recipes for some of our old favorites (breads, pizza, mac and cheese, etc.). It also gives tips on the best brands, how to stock your pantry, and key terms you need to know when cooking gluten-free.

But wait….

If you’re like me, all this research (and an hour with your nose buried in the ATK book) has probably led you to a couple of conclusions or questions. 1. WTF is xantham gum? Psyllium husk? Tapioca startch? Those can’t be “good” for you, can they? Isn’t this sort of what Pollan was talking about with the disintegration of the American diet? And 2. This seems like a lot of extra work to make a goddamn biscuit.

Those are basically the same conclusions I came to, which is what led me to…. Paleo. Ok, don’t roll your eyes. (And if you don’t know what Paleo is, of course I have a resource for that.)  I’m definitely not going to claim I follow a strict Paleo diet, but I use Paleo recipes more often than not because they are always gluten-free and typically use whole-food ingredients—which means I feel better about myself AND I’m not having to go to 4 different store looking for psyllium husk to make a fucking pizza crust. Not to mention, the Paleo community kind of kicks ass and is filled with a bunch people who I literally want to be in my next life. I could probably make a whole post of just Paleo bloggers I follow, but here are some of the best:

Mark Sisson at Mark’s Daily Apple. He started the “primal” movement and is an even bigger research nerd than I am. I also don’t know if he’s technically even considered a blogger anymore… just, like, the Godfather of Paleo. Great information, inspiration, and resources to boot.

Stupid Easy Paleo is my girl crush. She squats heavier than my boyfriend and comes home to whip up this deliciousness.

Danielle Walker at Against All Grain has great recipes, information, and even shopping lists to help make the whole process simpler. Her second book, Meals Made Simple, makes meal planning, shopping, and eating on a weekly basis a breeze.

Finally, PaleOMG makes me happy to read her blog every day. She makes delicious food, but also shares my passion for over-sharing. You know exactly what’s on her mind, in her mouth, or in her closet. And she doesn’t hesitate to throw in a handful of swear words to round it all out.

I have so much more to say about all of this… but if I give you all the goods at once, I won’t have anything to keep you coming back! Not to mention it would be the longest post in history. So look in to some of this stuff and let me know what you think… Or don’t. Meanwhile, I’m going to work on using less parentheticals (but I probably won’t. Sorry.)

Does the world need another food blog?

The short answer is: probably not.  But, here I am anyway.

(Preface: How many times can you write the same blog entry– analyzing, revising, hesitating, criticizing… until you finally get the courage to post it? I’m going on 5, but still haven’t decided if this is the one… So here it goes, again.)

Since I discovered I was gluten intolerant over two years ago, I’ve spent much of my free time researching, experimenting, and learning in an attempt to come up with new ways to fill my cravings and keep myself sane. It was a rough start considering I spent most of life sustaining on pasta, grilled cheese, pizza, and donuts; but I think I’ve finally reached a point where I feel satisfied with what I eat on a daily basis and no longer feel the need to bitch-slap every person who eats a hot sourdough roll in front of me. (Not to mention I’m actually healthy for the first time in a decade or more.)

Anyway, during these past few years I’ve been asked the same questions over and over and have become the designated “gluten-free friend” who you send the, “Hey, random question but….” text to. And they’re almost always something like:

What do you even eat if you can’t have gluten? What happens if you eat gluten? How did you feel before you found out you were gluten intolerant? Is there gluten in (insert random food item)? What are some good gluten-free information resources? How did you make (insert random dish I prepared)? Where do you find (insert name of ingredient or recipe)? Etc.

So the point of this site is to have a place to answer all those questions and make them accessible to interested parties. If my story and advice is of interest to you, read, comment, subscribe. If it’s not, don’t. Gluten-free certainly isn’t for everyone (and neither is my writing, for that matter), but if you’re already there or seriously considering, I’m hoping to give you a few useful tips, advice, and maybe even some recipes that will hopefully make your gluten-free journey more enjoyable.

Thanks for stopping by, and I hope to see you back!

P.S. If you ever have any questions or requests, don’t hesitate to ask! The whole point of this thing is to give whatever non-professional advice I have to anyone who is interested.