The different types of wheat-free muffins are typically defined by the type of flour used to make them, including those made with alternative grains, legumes, and nuts. Each grain flour offers different taste and texture, as do legume meals. Nut meals add flavor and protein and offer the added convenience of being able to made at home. Since these muffins are also typically considered to be gluten-free, special considerations should be made for proper binding, texture, and rising. These baked goods are also defined by their main flavors and ingredients.
Wheat-free muffins are commonly made using alternative grain flours. Many of these are considered to be gluten-free, and each has a particular taste and texture. Amaranth, for example, has a sweet flavor and grainy consistency. Buckwheat tastes more robust, while millet has subtle buttery notes, and both tend to give muffins a heartier texture. Oat flour has the same signature flavor as its parent cereal grain and a particularly high oil content, moistening the muffin slightly.
Legume flours may also be used to make wheat-free muffins. Common types include bean flour made from varieties like black, white, or fava beans. White bean flour has a fairly mild taste and works well in muffins. Garbanzos add a richer, sweet flavor. Pea flour is most often used for savory cooking, but can be added for natural coloring.
Wheat-free muffins are commonly made from nut flours, or meals. Almonds, walnuts, and even coconuts add subtle flavor to baked goods. They're also very high in protein, which helps the muffin batter rise. These flours can be made at home simply by putting nuts into a blender or food processor, though some stores or markets carry ground meal, depending on location.
In wheat muffins, gluten acts as a binder and helps the batter to rise. Gluten-free baked goods using flours like these, however, often contain additional ingredients. Xanthan gum helps to bind, for instance, while increased baking soda and powder aid with rising and a light, fluffy texture. Pastry chefs also recommend mixing two or more of these flours to achieve desired moisture, density, and texture for wheat-free muffins.
As well as being classified by flour type, wheat-free muffins are also categorized by their featured flavors or ingredients. Banana-nut, apple-cinnamon, and blueberry are all traditional types that can be made without using the staple grain. Fresh or dried fruit may be used, depending on availability and desired texture, and added nuts or seeds can give another layer of taste and provide for a richer snack.