A Few Words About Flour
Playing with different flours in your favorite recipes can create new flavors, aromas and textures. Try using a little of another kind of flour in recipes that call for refined white flours; aside from having less flavor, white flour has been stripped of most of its fiber, minerals and vitamins. For people with wheat sensitivities, there are quite a few non-wheat flours.
Substituting For Wheat
While all grains can be ground to make flour, they are not all interchangeable with wheat. Each grain has its own personality, and flours have textures that range from silky to grainy. When experimenting with substituting them for white flour, do so a little at a time. For instance, if a recipe calls for 1 cup of wheat flour, substitute 1/4 cup of another variety. See how that works, and then add more or less alternative flour depending on the success of your results.
Make sure to store flours in a cool, dark place, preferably the refrigerator or even the freezer. Allow flour to come to room temperature for accurate measuring.
Gluten Levels And Why They Matter
It is important to keep in mind that all wheat flour contains a high amount of a protein known as gluten. Gluten is responsible for the stretchiness of dough, which allows it to hold air bubbles during rising, producing light and shapely baked goods. If using a large amount of non-wheat flour for baking, you may need to add wheat gluten (basically wheat flour without the starch) in order to produce uniform, well-risen baked goods. In recipes where rising is less of an issue (for coatings or pancakes, for example), there is no need to add gluten.
Let’s go over the varieties flour varieties available.
Amaranth: A strong, spicy, nutty-flavored flour. Best used as an accent flour in waffles, pancakes, cookies or muffins. No Gluten.
Bran (Unprocessed): The outer layer of the wheat berry. Add small amounts to cereals and baked goods to increase fiber. Keep refrigerated. High Gluten.
Buckwheat: The edible fruit seed of a plant related to rhubarb. It is not related to wheat or other grains. High proportion of essential amino acids; close to being a complete protein. Commonly combined with wheat flour in pancakes, waffles, blintzes and pasta. Low Gluten.
Cornmeal (Blue): Higher in protein than yellow cornmeal. Turns lavender in color when cooked. Use in muffins and corn tortillas. Kids love purple pancakes! No Gluten.
Cornmeal (Yellow): Rich and buttery in flavor. Use for polenta, cornbread and muffins. No Gluten.
Gluten: Gluten flour is white flour mixed with concentrated wheat protein. Add to bread dough to increase rise: 2 tablespoons per cup of flour in whole grain bread: 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon per cup of flour in white breads. Also add to breads with extra bran, raisins or nuts. Increase kneading time to activate extra gluten. High Gluten.
Graham: Hard whole wheat flour with a course and flaky outer bran layer, and finely ground germ. Most famously used in crackers, but adds texture and nutty flavor to all baked goods. Low Gluten.
Oat Bran: Contains soluble fiber, which can help lower blood cholesterol levels when eaten as part of a low cholesterol diet. Add oat bran to muffins or breads. Use as a coating for chicken and seafood. Low Gluten
Rye Flour: Yields baked goods that are moist and dense. Combine with caraway seeds in crackers and breads. Due to its low-gluten content, it is often mixed with whole wheat flour to increase its rising ability. Low Gluten
Semolina: Durum flour with the bran and germ removed. Never bleached. Used to make high-quality “white” pasta. Adds extra flavor and texture in some bread recipes. High Gluten
Soy: High in protein, it is often used as a protein booster. Usually combined with whole wheat flour to increase its rising ability. No Gluten.
Spelt: An ancient grain gaining popularity today as a wheat substitute. Similar to high protein wheat. If substituting for wheat in a recipe, reduce the liquid by 25%. Low Gluten
Teff: Rich in calcium, protein and iron; sweet malty flavor. Use in quick breads, pancakes and waffles. Use to thicken stews, soups and sauces. Teff is a major crop in Ethiopia, where the flour is used to make the typical spongy flatbread infera. No Gluten
Wheat Germ: Vitamin and mineral-rich layer of the wheat berry. Excellent source of vitamin E. Available toasted and untoasted. Add to cereals, pancakes and baked goods, as well as meat or vegetable loaves. Refrigerate to prevent rancidity. High Gluten.
Whole Durum Wheat: From very high protein wheat with less starch than other wheat flours. Makes a tough dough that can stretch and expand – perfect for whole grain pasta. Nutritional profile similar to whole wheat. High Gluten.
Whole Wheat: Ground from entire wheat berry. Full-bodied flavor and course texture. Generally produces baked goods that are denser, with less rise than those made with white flour. Adds rustic, hearty qualities to baked goods. High Gluten.
Whole Wheat Pastry Flour: Ground from soft wheat berries. Higher in starch and lower in gluten than regular wheat flour. Use in non-yeast baked goods such as cookies, pancakes, muffins, quick breads and cakes. Medium Gluten.