Revolutionize your grain and gluten free baking
What is it?
Arrowroot is a fine, white powder that crunches like snow when compressed. It is made from the underground growing stem (rhizome) of the tropical plant by the same name. The rhizome is high in starch and this is the part of the plant that is extracted and pulverized to make arrowroot flour/starch.
This flour is grain free and gluten free. It is similar to, but not the same as tapioca flour. But you could be forgiven for confusing the two, as they are both starchy white powders and are commonly interchangeable in cooking. To complicate matters further, arrowroot is sometimes used as a generic term for any starch.
Compared to other grain free flours, it is relatively inexpensive. But because the production process is more complex with arrowroot, it is more expensive than potato flour or tapioca flour. Both of these flours are commonly interchangeable with arrowroot in baking.
Cooking with arrowroot
Arrowroot is pretty much tasteless and this makes it a great candidate to add to any recipe as a binding and softening agent in your baking.
This starch is best used when mixed with other grain and gluten free flours. It’s not usually used on its own. Use up to 50% arrowroot of the total flour mix to lighten and soften the texture of cakes and breads. Because many grain and gluten free flours are so heavy, the protein free arrowroot acts to counter balance this.
Beware, however, that too much arrowroot in a baked recipe can give your baked result an ‘elastic’ quality. While this is a really good thing in balanced amounts, overdoing it is a bit like chewing on a wad of uncooked bread dough.
It is also a perfect substitute for corn flour in thickening sauces. Unlike corn flour, it does not cloud the mixture but dissolves clear. This makes it perfect for glazes.
Where arrowroot is called for in recipes on this website, it is interchangeable with tapioca flour.
While arrowroot will revolutionize your grain free baking, it couldn’t be more devoid of nutrients than if you were eating cardboard. Arrowroot is 100% starch. That makes it pure carbohydrate. It contains no protein, no fat, no significant quantities of vitamins or minerals. It is also low in calories.
So while it will make the use of all the other grain free flours in the kitchen easier and more manageable, it won’t contribute in any way to your health or your nutrition.
It is, however, extremely easy to digest. For this reason, it was historically fed to children and people with fragile digestive systems.
6 worthwhile pointers
1. It does not mix well with dairy – results tend to get a slimy effect.
2. It thickens at a lower temperature than other starches. Mix with a cool liquid before adding it to a hot mixture. Don’t overheat, or heat for too long, or it will start to thin.
3. Because it thickens as a clear gel, it is ideal for glazes, but not so good for gravies and some sauces where a cloudy look is more appealing.
On the plus side:
4. Arrowroot freezes and thaws well both as a powder and dissolved in a mixture.
5. Its thickening power and taste are not affected by acidic ingredients
6. It has a neutral taste, so will not interfere with the flavor of the dish.
Like most flours and powders, the shelf life of arrowroot is lengthened when stored in an airtight container in cool, dry conditions. Kept in these conditions, arrowroot can last for years. Over time, arrowroot starch does not go rancid, it just loses its thickening ability and effectiveness.
Where do you get it?
You will find arrowroot in the baking section of some supermarkets, at health food stores and some specialty food stores.
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