March 8, 2009

Baking and Cooking With Various Flours

I love mixing up different flours into various recipes. We tend to eat a lot of wheat in America and it is a nice change for both our bodies and for our taste buds to mix things up on a daily basis.

Here are the flours I always keep on stock in our pantry and use weekly:

Whole Wheat flour:
You can buy either hard red winter wheat berry flour or hard white winter wheat berry flour. Hard winter wheat (either red or white) contain high amounts of the protein gluten. This makes it suitable for making wonderful whole wheat yeast breads. I tend to buy the hard red wheat flour for using in my breads. I think it has a bit hardier texture then hard white wheat flour, but either work great for me!

Whole Wheat Pastry flour: This flour is ground from a soft spring wheat. This type of wheat grain has less gluten (then a hard red or white wheat grain), making it better for whole grain cakes, muffins, quick breads (unyeasted breads) and cookies. When a recipe calls for all-purpose flour (white flour) I almost always replace 1/2 or all of the white flour with whole wheat pastry flour. It gives the recipe such a richer taste that your taste buds will not want you to go back to using all white flour!

Spelt Flour: Wonderful alternative to wheat flour. Spelt has gluten, but a different form of gluten protein then wheat. Some folks who can't handle wheat flour can sometimes do fine with spelt flour because it is easier to digest. I wasn't going to make this long, but spelt is an ancient grain and has an interesting history so I am going to ramble for a bit. (I am using two resources to help me explain spelt, "Whole Food Facts" and "Feeding the Whole Family") For hundreds of years, the Egyptians, Romans, and Greeks, as well as unplanders of central and southern Europe, grew and ate spelt. It is mentioned in the Bible (Ezekiel 4:9 and Exodus 9:31, 31). St Hildegard of Bingen of the twelfth century, credited with curring the sick, was spurred by a vision that instructed her to feed spelt to the people. Some people refer to spelt as German wheat; the Germans call it Dinkel and the French call it epeautre. As other varieties of wheat became popular, this hearty, coarse grain fell out of use and by 1900 was relatively rare.

I often replace part of whole wheat flour in recipes with whole grain spelt flour. It works great and gives our bodies a nice change and a different combination of nutrients.

Barley Flour: Barley flour is another great flour. It is a low gluten flour so I will often only replace 1/4 - 1/2 cup of wheat flour with barley flour in recipes (cookies, breads, muffins, pancakes ect..). Barley flour can be added to breads to produce a cake like product with a delightful sweetness. My experience has been that if I replace too much of the wheat flour in a recipe with barley flour I end up with a more crumbly product. So I add it in small amounts. As far as I am concerned ever little bit of variety makes a difference to our systems!

Corn Flour: What a great hearty flavor corn flour or cornmeal can give a bread or muffin. Of course there is corn bread! Corn is another flour (or in the meal form) I like to add in small amounts to add variety to our diet.

6, 8 or 10 Grain flour mixes: I love, love, love keeping these on hand. Usually they include a mix of soy flour, millet flour, brown rice flour, corn flour, kamut flour, barley flour, buckwheat flour, spelt flour, rye flour and wheat flour. What a wonderful and easy way to kick up your muffin or bread recipes. I highly recommend replacing 1/2 cup of your wheat flour with a 6, 8 or 10 grain flour mix in your next bread or muffin recipe! I am never disappointed when I do.

Brown Rice Flour: Rice flour is a gluten-free flour. If using it on its own you'll need additional ingredients to help it rise and bind within a recipe. I often just replace a 1/4 cup of wheat flour in a recipe with brown rice flour. This is my all time favorite flour to use when I am cooking gluten-free.

Oat Flour: Oat flour is a low gluten flour. The gluten in oat flour is different then in wheat flour. I have read that 4 out of 5 people on a celiac diet can tolerate oat gluten. Oat flour tends to cook up very heavy and dry. I only add it in small amounts to my baked goods. Like the brown rice flour I will replace 1/4 cup of wheat flour with oat flour in a recipe. It adds a nice settle change and our bodies welcome the change.

Xanthan Gum: I prefer using Bob's Red Mill Xanthan Gum. Xanthan gum is considered a polysaccaride derived from the bacterial coat of xanthomonas campestris.. It is made from a microorganism. It is wonderful for "replacing" gluten in a gluten-free grain/flour. It helps bind ingredients together. It is expensive, but it will last a very long time since you use just a little bit at a time.

Flours I don't use very often but you can still find in my pantry (only in smaller containers):
There are so many wonderful flours to "experiment" with. There is quinoa flour, millet flour, teff flour, soy flour, kamut flour and even garbanzo bean flour. You can find these in bulk at a health food store or packaged in small bags in the health food section of a grocery store (typically Bob's Red Mill brand). These flours are great, although realistically they can be a pain to work with. They lack the protein gluten. How I use these flours is I love to add them a tablespoon or two at a time to all different baked goods. Before I know it I have used up a pound of millet (or any other not so normal flour) within a month!

When working with only gluten free flours in a recipe additional ingredients are often necessary and it is nice to keep them on hand in small amounts. These additional ingredients may include: tapioca flour (from the ground starch of the cassava root used to help stick the dough/batter together), xanthan gum (definition provided above), potato flour, potato starch or arrowroot powder (made from the dired and ground rootstalks of the arrowroot plant and used as a thickener). All of these you can find in a health food store or often in the nutritional section of your local grocery store.

There are many wonderful recipes available for gluten alternatives and many amazing websites and blogs that share how to bake with gluten-free flours. (Not to mention endless books) The recipes you will see posted on my blog will be simpler and often without needing the "additional" ingredients I just listed above. Although, when I find a jewel of a recipe that uses all these nontraditional ingredients I will not hesitate to post it! I encourage the use of gluten-free flour for a variety in our diets even if we aren't allergic to gluten.

No comments: