Beyond Wheat and Rice
Earlier generations thrived on a single barrel of flour. But supermarkets nowadays provide us with endless options beyond the traditional rice flour or wheat flour. The diversification of the baking industry is one of the many reasons for this.
Flour is the finely-grounded, sifted meal of grains, nuts, seeds, legumes or certain vegetables. Every flour has its own nutritional benchmark along with cooking or baking qualities.
Gluten-free bread mixes are mostly made from flours of non-wheat grains or plant sources. For instance, one gluten-free baking mix contains garbanzo bean flour, potato starch, tapioca flour, white sorghum flour and fava bean flour. There are many other multiple gluten-free dishes and food ingredients available, details of which are available in the website www.firsteatright.com.
Despite the bulk options being available for some flours, most of them are sold in pre-packaged quantities as appropriate storage increases the flours’ shelf lives. Whole-grain flours (with oil from the germ) and nut flours may turn tainted over time. The best way to preserve these flours is to refrigerate or freeze them in airtight containers to retain their powdery quality. Don’t forget to bring the flour to air temperature before using it.
Whatever your purpose of use maybe, health trends, culinary interest or ethnic cuisines, be aware of the information stated below before you explore the different flours available in the market.
Almond meal/flour: Obtained from blanched almonds, this flour is low in carbs and high in protein content. Every ¼ cup contains: 6g protein, 3.5g fiber, 60mg calcium and 14g fat, nearly all unsaturated. Almond flour can be used to add moisture and elevate the nutty flavor in pastries, baked goods and dessert filling. This flour cannot be used to replace the flour in yeast.
Amaranth flour: Ground from an ancient seed, amaranth flour is full of complete protein, including lysine and has a slightly sweet, nutty flavor. This flour is used in baked goods for up to 25 percent of flour content and serves as an excellent thickener for sauces, gravies and soups. GF
Soy flour: Made from milled soybeans, this flour is high in protein and low in carbs than all-purpose flour. Each ¼ cup of low-fat soy flour contains 10g protein, 8g total carbohydrates and 3g fiber. This flour is a good source of calcium and an excellent source of iron and magnesium. Soy flour can be used to thicken sauces and as a wheat flour substitute in quick breads and cookies (use 1 part soy flour to 3 parts all-purpose flour). This flour helps to reduce fat absorption in frying batter or dough. Add nutty flavor to your dish by lightly toasting the soy flour in a dry skillet over moderate heat. GF
Rye flour: Heavy, dark flour made from rye. Every ¼ cup of whole-grain medium rye flour contains 4g fiber. Contains less gluten than all-purpose flour or whole-wheat flour. Rye flour produces heavy, dense bread and can be blended with a higher protein flour for better rising. This is available as medium rye flour, light and dark rye flour. Pumpernickel flour, one variety of dark rye flour, is made from whole grains and is used to make bread. WG option.
Buckwheat flour: This flour is made from buckwheat, a cousin of rhubarb (not a wheat varietal, nor technically a grain). Buckwheat flour can be combined with other flours to add a hearty, grassy flavor and color to bread. Good to make pasta and pancakes. While whole buckwheat flour has a stronger flavor and more nutrients, white buckwheat is milder and has fewer nutrients. GF, WG option
Rice flour, brown: This flour is made from unpolished brown rice. Each ¼ cup contains 2g fiber in brown rice flour compared to 1g fiber in white rice flour. Having a nutty flavor, rice brown flour is used just like white flour, but with a grittier texture in baked goods such as cornbread and pound cake. GF, WG
Potato flour: As the name suggests, potato flour is made from whole, dried potatoes. Each ¼ cup of potato flour contains 2.5g of fiber and 400mg potassium (12 percent Daily Value). This can be used as a thickening agent for smooth, creamy sauces, soups, gravies and frozen desserts. For baking, adds starch to dough, which attracts and holds water; makes bread moist and extends freshness when ¼ cup of potato flour is used per loaf of yeast bread (rye, white or whole-grain). Potato flour can also be used in meat, chicken, fish and vegetable patties to extend, bind and retain moisture. GF
Flaxseed flour or meal: Made by milling whole flaxseeds, making omega-3s available. Two tablespoons of flaxseed flour contains 4g fiber. This flour is used as a fat or egg substitute in baked goods. GF
Oat flour: This flour is made from oat groats. Oat flour is used to replace some flour in various recipes. Oat flour adds a rich, nutty flavor and denser texture and must be combined with other flours in baked foods that need to rise. GF, WG
Barley flour: Made from pearl or whole-grain barley. This flour adds fiber to baked foods and serves as a good thickening agent in soups, stews, sauces and gravies. Every ¼ cup contains 4g fiber. Barley flour contains gluten, but not good enough to make it rise. WG option
Sorghum flour: Ground from ancient grain sorghum. This flour is mild in flavor and high in antioxidants. Each ¼ cup pf sorghum flour contains 2g fiber. Sorghum flour is used in cookies, pancakes, cakes, brownies, breads, pizza dough, pastas, cereals and waffles. GF, WG
Spelt flour: Spelt, an ancient grain and cousin to wheat, is used to make spelt flour. This has increased quantities of protein than wheat flour. Each ¼ cup of spelt flour contains 4g protein, 4g fiber and 1.5g iron (8 percent Daily Value). Spelt flour has a mellow, nutty flavor and can be substituted for wheat flour in baking. Caution is required before consuming this flour as it may cause reactions in wheat-allergic people. Both refined and whole spelt flour are available. WG option
Non-Wheat flours Legend:
GF: gluten free; WG: whole grain
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Dietitian & Nutritionist Dr. Nafeesa Imteyaz.