All-purpose flour. A wonderful flour that can be used for all purposes. Hence the name. Someone worked hard at the marketing table for that one. Anyway, it was a main ingredient in my kitchen. Panic ensued when I ran out. No, really. I used it a lot. I had a 20 gallon tub where I stored my flour. It went fast at my house. I bought two or three 5-pound bags at a time. It is fairly inexpensive. Not as inexpensive as it once was, but inexpensive enough that it has never made me cry.
Now, how about those gluten-free all-purpose flours? Expensive. Made me cry? Yes. And which one to use? There are so many choices. Do we need to use an all-purpose flour anyway?
I am going to tell you what I do, and keep in mind that I am still very new at all of this.
Over the past year, I have invested in cookbooks and scoured the internet for all kinds of recipes. In the beginning, I wanted recipes that were easy and resembled a lot of my favorite foods. Many of those recipes used an all-purpose flour. I purchased a couple of them and brought them home for serious reading. One cookbook, that shall remain nameless for now, suggested I invest in a “high quality” gluten-free flour. What the heck was that? The cookbook made suggestions, and I went to Amazon to see what I could find.
Holy Cow! This flour was $25 for 5 pounds. I know you can do the math, but $5 per pound? Are you kidding me? I am not going to pay that kind of money for an all-purpose flour. I have a kid going to college this year, and it seems that we make more money than I thought we did. I am trying to cut back. I don’t even have a cell phone plan, for goodness sake! I am not paying $5 per pound for flour. This means that I can’t comment on the expensive all-purpose flours. I am cheap. I am looking for something that is manageable for my budget.
So now what? There is, of course, Bob’s Red Mill All-Purpose flour. Probably the easiest one to find. Even my tiny commissary carries it. $2.65 for a 22-oz bag. That works out to roughly $1.92 a pound. That price doesn’t make my respiration increase. Ok. I found one that I can afford, but how does it taste?
Bob’s Red Mill flour is made mostly from garbanzo bean flour. While this flour doesn’t have a gritty feeling like rice flour, it definitely has a beany taste if you are looking for it. I successfully use this flour whenever I have to coat my chicken, make a quick roux, or need flour in something that I am going to cook (not bake). I have never tried this flour in my baking. (I will do that soon and report back.) I do use this flour a lot, and my family can never tell the difference.
The other all-purpose flour that I have tried is King Arthur’s All Purpose flour. It is a bit more expensive. At $4.65/box at my commissary, it makes my heart flutter a little faster. Roughly $3.10/pound. I am lucky that I can purchase it at my commissary, but I know that King Arthur will send coupons and have specials if you subscribe to their email newsletters. King Arthur makes their flour with mostly rice flour. It doesn’t say on the box, but I am pretty sure that it is white rice flour. White rice flour, if not super fine, is going to give your baking a bit of a gritty taste. I used the King Arthur flour recently to make a candy/cookie for Christmas, and my entire family complained that it was too gritty to taste well. Which tells me that it isn’t as interchangeable as I was hoping it would be. However, you aren’t going to have the beany taste as you would with Bob’s Red Mill. Gritty or beany? I guess it is a personal preference when choosing between these two flours.
Truthfully, I think we are paying for convenience with these all-purpose flours. Even for the expensive ones. That is about it. We could make the mixes ourselves. This is exactly what many cook books do. But sometimes it is nice to reach for an all-purpose when you just need 1/4 cup of flour. It is handy to have one box to grab rather than 4 or 5 different flours, especially when you are in a hurry.
There is one last thing I want to mention about these flours. When I first started eating gluten-free, a friend of mine who had been gluten-free for years told me that I really need to watch my fiber and whole grain intake. We have to work a little harder to make sure that we are getting our whole grains and fiber. If you use a lot of white rice flour, you aren’t getting much nutrition. Sure, it tastes better than a lot of flours, but there is no fiber and it is high in carbs. The beany all-purpose is higher in fiber, lower in carbs (not much, but still) and higher in iron. I don’t pretend to be the queen of healthy eating, but it is something to think about when grabbing for your flours.