Extracted from the dried roots of the Cassava plant, tapioca flour is white in color, usually slightly sweet in flavor and very high in starch. Tapioca flour is used throughout the world as a thickening agent. This type of flour also is popular as a grain-free, gluten-free baking ingredient.
Tapioca flour is most commonly used as a thickening agent in sauces or desserts or as a component in baking. The flour itself is a superior binder, and it possesses a fairly bland and neutral flavor by itself. It often is substituted for cornstarch or arrowroot starch, although each of these starches affects cuisine differently. Tapioca flour is particularly gummy and becomes translucent and shiny when cooked.
When one is baking, tapioca flour should not be substituted directly for wheat flour. If tapioca is desired as a gluten-free flour substitute, it usually is combined with potato starch, xanthan gum and then an additional gluten-free flour such as rice flour. Such a combination is necessary to obtain all of the desired textural elements of most baked goods.
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