Rice flour great for gluten-free baking (and onion rings)

Wondering if you can substitute rice flour for all-purpose flour?

Yes, with some consideration.

Rice flour is ground from regular white rice or from brown rice.

Rice flour is used in many recipes, including baked goods, because it's gluten-free. Don't confuse rice flour with glutinous or sweet rice flour, which is made from high-starch short-grain rice. Sweet rice flour is used to thicken sauces and desserts.

Baked goods made with rice flour can be crumbly, so you will need to add some arrowroot or other thickener. Also, because rice flour absorbs more moisture, according to www.foodsubs.com, more liquid may need to be added to the recipe.

If you don't add more liquid, the site recommends substituting only 7/8 cup (14 tablespoons) of rice flour for each cup of all-purpose flour.

Rice flour can be blended with other nongluten or nongrain flours and other gluten-free ingredients to make up a baking mix that will act like flour.

I found this recipe for a gluten-free baking mix that calls for rice flour in "The Gluten-Free Gourmet: Living Well Without Wheat" by Bette Hagman (Holt , $18).

The recipe makes 3 cups:

Mix together 2 cups white rice flour, 2/3 cup potato starch and 1/3 cup tapioca flour. Use, cup for cup, in place of wheat flour. When using in recipes, you will need to add extra protein or leavening - such as egg whites, milk powder, gelatin or egg replacer - depending on the recipe.

Now, how about those onion rings? I found a recipe from the Food Network's Tyler Florence and one at www.about.com for making onion rings with rice flour to make them crispier.

Here's what you'll need: 3 large onions , 1 cup rice flour (plus about 1/2 cup more), 1 teaspoon baking powder, 1 teaspoon garlic powder, 1 egg, 3/4 cup water and oil for frying. Peel onions and cut them into 1/8- to 1/4-inch-thick slices. Separate into rings and remove the thin membrane between the layers.

Heat oil in a deep skillet or saucepan to at least 350 degrees.

In a large bowl, sift the 1 cup rice flour, baking powder and garlic powder together. Mix in the egg and water until the mixture is smooth. In another dish, place more rice flour and season, if desired, with salt and pepper.

Coat each onion ring in the flour, then dip in the batter, and shake off excess batter. Place in hot oil and cook until golden brown, about 3 to 5 minutes. Remove from the oil and drain on paper towels. Serve warm, seasoned with salt if desired.

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