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Chefs’ Voices | 03

Sam Butarbutar

Third Culture Bakery

San Francisco, U.S.A.

From a business standpoint, I find Japanese rice flour appealing because a lot of my customers are either allergic to gluten or completely intolerant to gluten, so Japanese rice flour is a great substitute for wheat flour. From a culinary standpoint, I find Japanese rice flour appealing because of its fine mill size.

The biggest challenge in making gluten free products is the lack of gluten. It sounds very obvious and simple, but the presence of gluten in wheat flour makes batter and bread cohesive and stick together. Gluten-free breads also tend to dry out a bit quicker in the oven (while it’s baking) and out of the oven (after it’s done baking & cooling off), so the baker must know how to compensate for that.

Other domestic rice flour in the US are often too big and too rough for baking. The fine milling size of Japanese rice flour creates finely textured, soft crumbs in cakes and breads that are very pleasant. The flavor of Japanese rice flour is also sweet and mild, and it does not leave any floury flavor residue.

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There are many suggestions I have for bakers attempting to use rice flour.

First point is moisture absorption. Rice flour vs wheat flour has completely different water absorption. While wheat flour absorbs water instantly upon mixing, rice flour does not absorb much. The absorption capability of rice flour activates when heat is introduced (in other words, it absorbs liquid mostly while being cooked in the oven! Think of rice being cooked in a rice cooker). So, if you’re planning to substitute rice flour for wheat, try to find recipes that have a lot of moisture content (such as cake batters) or minimal moisture content but high fat (such as cookies). Second point is texture. Rice flour will always tend to be crumbly since it does not have gluten. So, as a baker, you need to find a way to compensate for this. One trick is to replace any butter with oil for any cakes; vegetable oil (such as avocado oil or sunflower oil) will provide more moisture content than butter. Another trick is to add chocolate in your recipe. This can either be melted chocolate or chocolate powder, which will provide more fat and will create a fudgy texture in your cakes. And last point is cooking time. Rice flour-based pastries will require a bit more time to cook than wheat flour, so adjust your time accordingly. However, make sure you do not overbake since it will dry out fast once it is done. Rely on your senses and keep checking your baked goods after the halfway baking point.

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A video of the workshop can be viewed below.​