Eli5: what happens in baking if i use, say, almond flour instead of wheat flour?

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Ive been thinking, recipes like pancakes and cookies want you to add flour but say to not overmix or else youll overdevelop the gluten. If i used a substitute that does not contain gluten would i no longer have to worry about over mixing? Does flour have something in it that non-gluten flours dont that would prevent these recipes from forming in the same way?

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>Does flour have something in it that non-gluten flours dont that would prevent these recipes from forming in the same way?

Well, the answer to that is gluten. If you’re doing short development cooking like pancakes or some cookies, I’ve found that you can cook them pretty confidently as if you had properly mixed a glutenous mix.

Wheat flour contains gluten, that’s the difference. Non gluten flours will not rise like gluten flours, and will fall flat and/or remain raw on the inside. You can definitely bake with non gluten flours, but the recipes and dough/batter will be considerably different.

I haven’t played with almond flour enough to give you any strong recommendations about how to use it. However, I will say that if your objective is to reduce the chewiness caused by gluten to get a softer end result, there are ways to do that with wheat flour. You can purchase flour with different amounts of protein in it. Low protein flowers, usually sold as “cake flour” will form less gluten. It’s still a good practice not to over-mix. This kind of flour is often found in premade mixes for cakes and other cake-like baked goods, which can often be cheaper in grocery stores than plain cake flour for some silly reason. On the other end of the spectrum, if you want a nice chewy roll or pizza dough, you can buy high protein flour, sold as “bread flour”.

Also, increasing the fat in the recipe will limit gluten production, and resting the dough/batter for a couple minutes before baking will allow gluten that has formed to relax somewhat, giving you a softer end result.

The gluten in the wheat flour serves as a sort of glue that helps to hold the food together. When you substitute a gluten free flour, you lose that ‘glue’ and your food items tend to be a lot more crumbly. The moisture absorption properties of what you are making can also change. I haven’t used almond flour before because some family members are allergic, but I suspect that it won’t absorb moisture as well as a regular wheat flour. If you directly substitute almond flour, you may end up with a runnier batter. We use oat flour for a lot of baked goods and it absorbs more moisture then regular flour.

Unless you are okay with your first attempt at making something flopping, I would suggest looking up recipes for what you want to make, because the best results will likely require more adjustments then just swapping the flour.

Gluten holds things together. The less gluten the more it falls apart as you eat it. It can get messy.
You can use a binding agent like xanthan gum if you go totally gluten free but don’t need it if you’re trying to cut down the gluten