Successful Wheat Free Cooking:
How To Choose The Most Nutritious and Delicious Wheat-Free Flours
If you’re avoiding gluten or looking to pack a greater nutritional punch in your daily cooking and baking, you’re not alone. Many people are breaking out of the flour box these days.
Alternatives to wheat flour range from traditional alternative grain flours such as rice or oat, to those made from legumes, nuts, and even fruits. Each flour has its own advantages and benefits, as well as unique flavors, textures, and interactions that come through in your cooking and baking. To chose the right flour, you’ll need to first understand what you want that flour to contribute to your recipe. After reading this article and doing some experimentation of your own, you’ll learn a few tricks to get the most delicious result.
Here are a few of the heaviest hitters when it comes to baking with alternative flours, as well as tips on choosing when to use them for the best result:
A dried and powdered form of coconut, is a highly nutritious option that holds up well in thickening sauces, for breading, and mixed with other flours for baking. The high fiber and protein content, as well as the comparatively lower calorie count, make this a popular choice among the health conscious. Coconut flour also offers a very healthy fat profile that can be helpful in managing blood sugar and supporting a healthy metabolism. With a slightly sweet flavor, coconut flour is a great choice to blend into a baking mix for cookies and can be mixed with eggs to make pancakes.
Rice flour is available in brown, white, and sweet varieties, each with its own characteristics. You can mix rice flour with other flours as a part of a baking mix or use it on its own for thickening sauces. Brown rice flour adds more nutritional value, while sweet rice flour is useful for the binding qualities it adds to baking. Rice flour tends to be a bit grittier than some varieties, so it is best to mix it with other flours for most uses. When baking, you can also mix it with the wet ingredients and then allow it to sit in the refrigerator for 30 minutes before baking. This will allow a better saturation of the flour prior to baking.
Made from ground garbanzo beans, this flour adds its own unique flavor to savory dishes. It can be useful for thickening soups and sauces, as well as in savory biscuits or flat bread. It also provides a nutritional punch with a higher protein and fiber content than many flours.
Both almond flour and almond butter can be very helpful in baking small treats, such as cookies, scones, and muffins. While almond butter might seem like a strange choice as a flour substitute, it can be used to replace both the flour and the fat in many recipes, making a delicious and easy gluten-free, nutrient dense substitution.
Baking Mix Extenders
While not as nutrient dense, potato starch, soy flour, and tapioca flour can be useful in combination with the flours above to provide a texture and taste that is closer to traditional baked goods. I also like to add a mild vanilla flavored protein powder to many baked recipes, including cookies and pancakes. As the binding properties of these flours are different than wheat flour, it is helpful to add an additional egg, cornstarch (combined 1-to-1 with water), or even xanthan gum as a binding agent. You may also want to try making smaller baked goods, such as muffins or rolls instead of bread and lowering the baking temperature while extending the baking time.
Gluten-Free And Wheat-Free Baking
If you are avoiding gluten, you already know that wheat flour is loaded with this protein, but you should also avoid barley and rye flours, as well as any oat flours that are not labeled gluten free. While oats are technically gluten free, the processing of oats results in gluten contamination that can trigger a reaction in sensitive individuals.
Additionally, when you choose your flour, understand that the texture, density, and flavor of individual flours will vary. This means that you may need to use more or less of a flour if you are substituting it for a wheat flour. Kids with food allergies offers an excellent website with more tips for substituting flours, along with the weights of flours for substitutions.
You can also add additional leavening, such as baking soda or even an extra egg. Don’t be afraid to experiment with smaller quantities and using the flour initially in more forgiving options such as pancakes, muffins, or as a thickening agent to become familiar with its unique flavors and qualities.
These flours might be new to you, but after you start baking with them you can learn to work with their unique properties. Have fun experimenting and enjoy the process!
About the writer: Joli Guenther is a certified personal trainer, yoga instructor and clinical social worker practicing in and around Madison, Wisconsin. Learn more about Joli.