Guide To Alternative Flour

Guide To Alternative Flour

Guide To Alternative Flour

Guide To Alternative Flour

Guide To Alternative Flour

When it comes to alternative flours the aisles are overflowing, from nuts to grains to pulses, whatever you can think of has been milled down into a flour for us to use instead of refined plain white flour. While this initially was driven by the need for options for those with coeliac disease or gluten sensitivity, they are also great options for those wishing to add a little more fibre, protein or micronutrients into their diets. The big questions are how can we use these to create our delicious bakes in a more nutritious, gluten-free way, do we need to adapt recipes to be able to use them properly, and are the nutritional values of some better than others? 


The baking basics

First off, we may see the term ‘ancient grains’ used when describing these flours so let’s see what that means. Ancient grains are any grain that has remained largely unchanged over the last few hundred years while modern wheat, which is continually bred and changed for higher yields, is not. We can take from this that it is a more natural, often more nutritious grain.


What can you expect with gluten free and alternative flours? In traditional wheat flour gluten provides the stretch and flexibility most noticeable in bread dough, as when you knead the mixture it develops gluten, creating a more malleable dough through the process. In gluten-free baking you won’t necessarily achieve the same texture dough, and bakes tend to be slightly denser, albeit delicious nonetheless. You can use alternative flours in traditional plain flour recipes however due the differing protein and fibre content you may need to adjust the liquid content and we’ve noted that for you below.


Best for bread

Chickpea flour: A brilliant flour to have in your cupboard if you’re looking to increase your protein intake! These are finely ground chickpeas, and provide a slightly savoury flavour so lend themselves towards savoury goods such as bread. Gluten free, grain free, nut free.


Einkorn flour: Produced from the grains of an ancient species of wheat, meaning this is not gluten-free or coeliac friendly, however the effect of this slow-releasing starch may make it less of an issue with those with gluten sensitivity. In general, bake times and processing times for bread are both shorter with einkorn, and recipes will require between 20 and 50 percent less water. Try adding ½-1 tbsp coconut flour to absorb some of the excess moisture. This grain also provides an extra boost of vitamin A. Nut free.


Best for muffins, cookies and cakes

Almond flour: This is made from blanched, skinless and ground almonds. As a nut, it has a higher fat content than many other flours, lending itself well to cakes and biscuits. You can substitute it 1:1 for all purpose flour in dessert recipes and it will provide a deliciously moreish flavour. With this flour you get an added boost of the fat-soluble vitamin E. Gluten free, grain free. 


Chickpea flour: Give your sweet baked goods an extra protein boost by blending chickpea flour with almond flour, this will also balance out the flavour. Gluten free, grain free, nut free.


Coconut flour: This high fibre flour absorbs a lot of moisture baking it great for banana bread or vegetable cakes, however for dry breads it’s best to blend it with another flour that retains less water. Gluten free, grain free.


Millet flour: A tiny, grain-like seed with a modest fibre and protein content. This doesn’t have a punchy flavour so blends well with other flours to enhance the taste of your bake. Gluten free.


Best for pasta

Buckwheat flour: While other recipes call for buckwheat to be blended with another flour, buckwheat noodles can be kept pure and simple. An ideal flour to mix with water and roll out your own soba noodles for a soup or stir fry. Gluten free, nut free.


Best all-rounder

Amaranth flour: This has a similar profile to quinoa, as they are both pseudo-grain, that can be milled into an unusual flour as a rich source of protein and fibre. However, unlike quinoa, it is a very heavy flour with an earthy flavour and is best blended in small quantities (up to 25%) with another flour to lighten the bake. Gluten free, grain free, nut free.


Brown rice flour: By finely grinding brown rice we create this high-fibre flour, that is light and powdery similar to white flour. Making it ideal for baked goods. This is possibly the best option for people who are new to alternative flours as it’s easy to work with, has a texture we recognise and doens’t possess a strong flavour. Gluten free, nut free.


Buckwheat flour: Providing an earthy, nutty and slightly bitter taste, buckwheat is widely used in gluten-free bakes but it’s best to mix it with another flour to avoid an overwhelmingly bitter taste. This is a slightly darker flour than others so beware baked goods may leave the oven looking a little on the dark side, perfect to eat but perhaps less pleasing to the eye. Buckwheat provides the added boost of B vitamins. Gluten free, nut free.


Cassava flour: The cassava root is a starchy, high carbohydrate tuber and its mellow flavour makes it a great substitute for plain flour, you can use the same quantities as plain flour and there’s no need to adjust the water content of your bake. Gluten free, grain free, nut free.


Quinoa flour: An extremely versatile flour, best used blended with others as it doesn’t hold its shape quite as well. Quinoa is high in fibre and a complete protein, therefore giving your baked goods that nutritious kick. It works well in cookies, non-yeasted breads, muffins, cakes and pancakes. Gluten free, grain free, nut free.


Red lentil flour: A low glycemic index, high protein flour, packed with vitamins and minerals that is extremely versatile, this is a store-cupboard staple. It works well in breads, muffins, pancakes, sauces, and pasta, and provides an aesthetically pleasing pink/red hue to whatever you choose to make. Gluten free, grain free, nut free.


Spelt flour: Another wheat-containing grain that is not gluten-free however it is a great substitution for better blood glucose control and packs a good amount of protein and fibre. This is a simple flour to work with, and yields a fluffy texture when substituted 1:1 for plain flour in most recipes. Spelt does have a lower absorption rate meaning you should reduce the liquid in your recipe to 75%. Nut free.


Tapioca flour: This is also made from the cassava plant, however it only uses the starchy part of the root, therefore lending itself well to thickening up sauces and providing a thick, chewy texture in baked goods. Gluten free, grain free, nut free.


Teff flour: An ancient grain that is rich in protein and fibre with an earthy, nutty flavour ideal for non-yeasted breads and muffins. Nut free.

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