Thomas Keller has jumped on the gluten-free bandwagon. Everything that Chef Keller touches turns to gold, so it is no surprise that his new flour has created quite the buzz among the gluten-free community. And the TV food world, too: Here he is cooking on Martha Stewart's show this morning:
Cup4Cup was created by French Laundry R&D chef Lena Kwak in an effort to accommodate diners with dietary restrictions. The flour is a blend of cornstarch, rice, milk powder, tapioca, potato starch, and xantham gum. It is being sold at Williams-Sonoma and Bouchon Bakery for $19.99 per three-pound bag.
Most gluten-free bakers make their own flour mixtures, blending different ratios of ingredients for different types of baked goods. I was excited yet skeptical to hear the company's claim that this one product could replace all-purpose flour in most recipes.
I tested the flour using a very basic pancake recipe, something that most people could relate to. I made two batches, one substituting Cup4Cup in place of the flour and one using Pamela's Gluten-Free Baking Mix (available for $15 for a four-pound bag at Whole Foods).
Neither mix performed exactly like traditional wheat flour would. The batter made from the Cup4Cup was a little gummy when wet and was slightly more difficult to blend together. The Pamela's batter mixed together easily, but had a gritty texture that nevertheless disappeared when cooked.
The pancakes made with Pamela's were lighter and fluffier, while the Cup4Cup brand was denser and chewier -- just slightly closer to a version made with wheat.
Both pancakes turned out well and are excellent alternatives for anyone suffering with gluten intolerance or Celiac disease. To say that you won't notice the difference at all, though, would be a bit of a stretch. The proteins in gluten that cause an allergic reaction in some people are the same proteins that give bread and pastries their distinctive, chewy bite. Gluten-free products have come along way and it is great that there are alternatives like this available, but there's no need to rush out and spend the extra money on gluten-free flour unless it is a necessity.