Why make a gluten free biscuit recipe without xanthan gum?
I’ve never tried to be all things to all readers and gluten free bakers (or eaters!). The recipes I develop are all gluten free. But that’s the whole of my pledge to you.
The “Ingredients and substitutions” section right above the recipe card in every post I’ve written for years is an attempt to help. But it’s not a promise to solve, since each step away from the recipe as written is really a new recipe.
Every food blogger will tell you that the substitution questions can be crazy-making. But I decided to lean into the discomfort, and try to help.
What about psyllium husk?
I’ve been working on replacing “the gums” (guar gum and xanthan gum) in my gluten free flour blends for some time. So many of you have asked, over the years, about using psyllium husk.
I tried. I really tried. But I hate baking gluten free with psyllium husk! It can do amazing things for the texture of raw gluten free bread dough. But bake it, and it tastes “good, for gluten free” to me.
I started this blog for one purpose: to do my part to banish “good, for gluten free” from our lexicon. So I tried and tried, but psyllium husk was just a non-starter for me. If you insist on using it, I can’t help. I do wish you the best, though, because success as we each define it is, indeed, success!
What is konjac/glucomannan powder?
No medical advice here!
First, I am not a medical professional of any sort, and am not giving medical advice. Your dietary choices, including which ingredients to cook and bake with, and ultimately eat, are yours to make.
If baking with konjac powder makes you uncomfortable, please don’t do it. If you have comments related to baking with it that you’d like to share, please help us move forward.
If you have comments related to the health of these ingredients, please discuss those with your doctor. Comments here, in my house, will be moderated.
Back to baking
As explained by Healthline, konjac powder (also known as glucomannan powder) is “an herb … known for its starchy … tuber-like part of the stem that grows underground [, which is] used to make a rich source of soluble dietary fiber.”
In the Western part of the world, it’s (unfortunately) best known for weight loss. It’s also used in those so-called “miracle noodles,” which I personally wouldn’t eat. Baking with konjac powder calls for a miniscule amount, similar to the amount of xanthan gum in other gluten free baking.
I have bought it from nuts.com (sold as glucomannan) and from Amazon.com under the “moderinst pantry” label. They seem to be equally effective in baking.
There are so very many types of powders and flours available on the World Wide Web (emphasis on wide). I love pushing into new territory that can make even better gluten free baked goods, and I’ve gotten used to the criticisms.
But things can always be done better. And I want to do better, and at least offer you options. After all, that’s what my recipe for gluten free bread flour is all about.
I’ve found that konjac powder can replace xanthan gum as a binder in gluten free recipes without affecting the taste of baked goods. I’ve built a blend around it, and I’m sharing my first and easiest recipe with you here.
What else is in this flour blend?
I began testing this recipe with my basic gum-free flour blend, which contains about 2/3 superfine white rice flour, about 1/5 potato starch, and about 1/8 tapioca starch—and just adding konjac powder. It “worked,” but the biscuits didn’t rise as high or brown nearly as well.
Adding potato flour helps what’s called the Maillard reaction, which is responsible for some browning. That should be very blah blah blah to you, but I like to explain the “why” when I can since I think it makes you more likely to follow the recipe as written!
You must use superfine white rice flour and tapioca starch. Potato starch is more neutral, and can often be replaced with cornstarch or arrowroot.
Can I use this flour blend in all gluten free recipes?
No, I don’t recommend using this flour blend anywhere other than this recipe—for now. I’m working on a guide for using konjac powder in place of xanthan gum (or guar gum), but I haven’t yet completed my testing, so I can’t share the results yet. It won’t be the same in all types of recipes.
I’m simplifying our mock Better Batter gluten free flour blend, rather than simply replacing xanthan gum with konjac powder. Plus, konjac powder so far doesn’t appear to be a 1:1 replacement for xanthan gum in all things—especially since I’m eliminating pectin as an ingredient.
I do hope to arrive at a simpler version of an all purpose gluten free flour blend without xanthan gum that works everywhere my recipes call for an all purpose blend. It will call for varying amounts of konjac powder, though. That will make it an even more useful blend, though.
Ingredients and substitutions—and tools
You must use konjac (also called glucomannan) powder, discussed fully above, to make this recipe. The recipe is built around it. If you must avoid it, you’ll need xanthan gum, as used in our classic gluten free drop biscuits recipe.
You also must use superfine white rice flour and tapioca starch. And all the flours must be measured by weight, not by volume, for the recipe to be reliably successful.
Digital kitchen scale
When building a flour blend, the balance of individual gluten free flours must be just right. That means you cannot build one successfully using volume measurements, which are subject to inevitable human error and lack of standardization of size.
I have a digital OXO kitchen scale with a pull-out display. It’s about $50. But I do this all day every day. A super cheap Escali brand scale (which should cost about $15) works great.
You can replace dairy in this recipe the same way I recommend in our classic xanthan gum-containing 20-minute drop biscuit recipe (linked just above). For the butter, try vegan butter (favorite brands are Miyoko’s Kitchen or Melt).
For buttermilk, you can use my favorite substitute, which works with dairy or nondairy ingredients quite equally: half plain yogurt by volume, half unsweetened milk by volume.
If you can find potato flour, I urge you to follow the recipe as written, and add that bit of it. Otherwise, you can replace the potato flour with more superfine white rice flour (by weight).
Keep in mind that, without potato flour, the biscuits simply won’t brown as well.
If you can’t have potatoes, you can try replacing the potato starch with cornstarch or arrowroot.
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