Four Wheat Flour Alternatives You Need to Bake with Today (and the recipes to prove it!)
Want to incite some passionate debate at your next neighborhood potluck? Try mentioning wheat. Who knew the pantry staple we all grew up with would become capable of stirring such rhetoric? Whether you love it or loathe it, wheat has become passé, which is particularly troublesome for those of us who love to bake.
There are a host of alternative flours available, but not all lend themselves well to baking. While you’re on the hunt for perfect alternative baking flour, there are a few things you should keep in mind.
First, keep an open mind. The taste and texture of alternative flours differs dramatically from traditional wheat flour, so it’s often unreasonable to expect your alternative choice to mimic wheat flour’s characteristics. Don’t think of alternative flour as a substitute, but as a versatile flour in its own right, with its own flavor, texture, and baking characteristics.
Second, start slowly. Try coating your organic chicken of sustainably harvested fish before sautéing. If you’re more adventurous, start out with a recipe designed specifically for the alternative flour you want to use instead of substituting your alternative flour in a tried-and-true recipe featuring wheat flour.
When you’re brave enough to start substituting in your alternative flour, do so in small increments until you become accustomed to the texture and behavior of the flour. It’s also important to note that though mild, alternative flours differ in flavor from wheat flour. If you’re not a coconut fan, for instance, coconut flour might not be the right alternative flour for you.
Third, keep your nutritional needs forefront. If gluten is a dietary no-no, be certain that your alternative flour is gluten free – not all of them are. You must also ensure that your flour was produced in a gluten free facility to avoid any cross-contamination.
Keep these basic rules in mind, and your search for the perfect alternative flour is half done.
Now, since I’ve never had the willpower to save the best for last, I’ll start with my personal favorite.
Organic Coconut Flour – Just the aroma of this stuff conjures images of sandy beaches and blue water. Ah, bliss! This flour is ground from dried, defatted coconut meat, and that alone should give you an indication of how delicious it is. It’s also a great addition to your diet if upping your fiber intake is a priority. Coconut flour contains five grams of fiber in a two tablespoon serving. If you’re watching your carbs, here’s more good news: that same two tablespoon serving comes with only 8 grams of carbs. It’s also paleo friendly and gluten free. This flour does take some getting used to, however. When substituting, you’ll have to increase your liquid content considerably to avoid a dense, grainy result.
Feeling game? Here’s a chocolate chip cookie recipe from The Detoxinista that’s one of our family favorites. Since I don’t follow a paleo diet, so I substituted coconut palm sugar for the maple syrup, and the result was delicious. Since I’m also very pro-chocolate and think it should make everyone feel good, I use only organic fair trade dark chocolate chips. The alternative would be to chop up a bar of your favorite organic fair trade chocolate bar (dark is best) and toss it in. The recipe:
Organic Almond flour – You’ve seen those gorgeous, mouthwatering stacks of pastel colored French macarons, right? I bet you didn’t know that those French delicacies are made using almond flour! Like many alternative flours, almond flour has gained in popularity of late. It’s produced by grinding the blanched, skinless almond down to a fine powder. This differs from almond meal, which is ground with the skin intact. If you’re interested in baking, the rule of thumb is that the finer the grind, the better your results. Almond flour has many of the same advantages as coconut flour in that it’s paleo friendly and gluten free. It’s also loaded with protein and dietary fiber to the tune of 21 grams of protein and 10 grams of fiber per 100 grams. It also imparts a lovely, mild flavor to your baking.
Hop over to Elana’s Pantry and try her delicious banana bread recipe!
Whole grain, organic spelt – though this amazingly nutritious grain isn’t gluten free, it has one dramatic advantage over wheat flour – spelt has never been hybridized. What that means for you, the consumer, is that when you buy spelt, you’re essentially getting the same nutritionally and flavorfully intact grain that’s been consumed for centuries. My favorite aspect of baking with spelt is that it can be substituted for white flour, cup for cup. The consistency is similar to whole wheat flour, and yet spelt bakes up lighter and more flavorful. Another bonus? Spelt is also easier on the digestive tract than wheat. High in fiber (four grams per 1/4 cup,) this flour is also a good source of iron and manganese.
Who doesn’t love fresh-from-the-oven bread? Try this recipe for spelt bread from Dove’s Farm and spread on some organic butter while it’s still warm. You’re welcome.
Organic Barley Flour – There’s nothing like a steaming bowl of soup, packed with barley, to warm you from the inside out, but did you know that this versatile grain also grinds down to create a surprisingly nutritious flour? We’re talking molybdenum, manganese, dietary fiber, and selenium, not to mention copper, vitamin B1, chromium, phosphorus, magnesium, and niacin. What that means for you is lower cholesterol, immune system support, and regulated blood sugar. Barley flour has a nutty flavor that’s much more complex and pleasing than wheat flour. You can add it to your baked goods by substituting it in place of some of your wheat flour (try swapping out a 1/3 cup portion to start.) Some recipes, like this one from The Whole Grains Council, use only barley flour. It produces a fluffy, delicious biscuit that’s likely to become a favorite in your house. Serve it with a vegetable barley soup for a double dose of barley nutrition!
Barley Flour Drop Biscuits
1 cup barley flour 2 Tbsp. butter
1 tsp. sea salt 1/3 cup buttermilk
2 tsp. baking powder 1 egg
Sift the dry Ingredients together and cut in the butter with a pastry knife. Beat the
buttermilk and egg together and mix lightly with the dry ingredients. The dough
should be soft, but thick enough to hold its shape when dropped from a spoon onto
a greased baking sheet. Bake at 400° F for about 10 to 15 minutes.