Flour Vs Starch
One of the most confusing things I found when I started eating and baking gluten free was which item I needed to buy as a flour vs starch when I was baking at home. It is confusing enough when you start out trying to bake GF and all of a sudden you went from white flour to having 20 different flours to combine! You then remember you need potato something and find there is both potato starch and potato flour sitting on the grocery store shelf. What to do!?
Depending on what baking ingredient you are talking about, this can either matter a ton or not at all. Helpful, right?! The two major players here are Tapioca and Potato, which are both available as starch and flour. The short story is that tapioca flour and starch is the same thing while potato flour and starch are different.
Why does it matter?
How each of these is processed determines what each item is. Especially in gluten free baking, where we are trying to replace the unique structure of gluten, we want to be specific about finding the correct item.
Potato “Flour” is made from the whole ground up potato. This means there is additional fiber and other components included. Whereas Potato “Starch” is just the isolated starch from the potato, and is just pure starch. If you used starch in place of flour in this case you would end up with a gummy product that was never quite done.
Tapioca starch and flour is the same thing, though. Some recipes rely heavily on tapioca starch – like these waffles – because it is used more like a flour. The words are used synonymously by manufacturers. Why is this? That is a great question I don’t have a great answer to! Without knowing everything involved, my guess would be there is not much else that can be gained by processing the root in a different manner and so we have what we have. The nice thing is that now some manufacturers are starting to help us out in this regard. Bob’s Redmill now has their packages clear labeled as saying “Tapioca Flour also known as Tapioca Starch”.
To sum up:
Potato Starch and Potato Flour are different things and bake very differently. Tapioca starch/flour is the same thing and is interchangeable. If you are shopping and get overwhelmed, remember to stop and take a deep breath. Google is your friend, and even just take a look at the packaging and what the product actually looks like. Starch and flour have a tendency to look different. Also, don’t be afraid to ask someone, they can probably help.
Remember getting stressed over the wrong ingredient will do far more damage long term than having a recipe turn out poorly. Enjoy life and enjoy learning to bake gluten free!
Make it a tasty week,