June 29th, 2016
Today I bring you part 3 of our Healthy Substitutions journey!
Flour. I specifically left this part for last because, well, it seems to be the most difficult. All flours are definitely not interchangeable and to be honest, hardly any are.
As you might have noticed, I rarely bake with anything other than gluten-free flours these days, though that has nothing to do with dietary restrictions. A big reason I tend to choose these particular flours is because you know exactly what is going in them. They start out as whole foods that you could grind into flour yourself if you wanted to – which is actually what I do in the case of oat flour!
I choose not to use any sort of white flour because of how they are produced and the lack of nutritional value they provide. Here’s the short version: typical “enriched white flour” is made by processing the grain, which essentially strips it of all nutrients, and then restoring the “nutrients” with synthetic vitamins. The theory is that the enrichment process returns flour back to its nutritional status before being refined, but this theory doesn’t really work because our bodies know the difference between what is real and what is artificial, and it truly just doesn’t respond the same. White flour is also then bleached to produce the white color we all know so well. Sounds appealing right?
Interestingly enough, “whole grain” foods are also very rarely made with 100% whole wheat and tend to be mixed with white flour as well. As always, I challenge you to read the labels before putting items in your cart, to truly see what you are putting in your body.
1. Blanched Almond Flour: I consider almond flour rather easy to work with. Granted anything gluten free can be more difficult, but in general almond flour just acts like a heavier wheat flour, though closer in consistency to corn meal. Unblanched almond flour includes the skins of the almonds, whereas with blanched the skins are removed prior to being ground up. Almond flour works best in recipes such as muffins, and breads that allow for a denser consistency.
2. Oat Flour: As you might have noticed, I love using oat flour with almond flour because of the lighter consistency it produces. By just grinding up oats, you can produce something very similar to wheat flour – though once again, there is no gluten so it won’t bake quite the same. Oat flour is great because it’s high in fiber without the fat content that almond flour has. Use oat flour to lighten up recipes with a heavier texture, in cakes that should be light and airy as well as in cookies!
3. Coconut Flour: While I do love coconut flour (used in one of my favorite cupcake recipes here), I definitely consider it one of the harder gluten free flours to use because of how absorbent it is! Generally, a lot more eggs are needed with coconut flour which is why I don’t tend to recommend it for vegan baking. Since it is so absorbent compared to most any flour, you can’t switch it out 1:1. But that being said, a little coconut flour can go a long way (often you’ll only use 1/4-1/2 cup for a recipe), which can be really nice on your wallet. Coconut flour is rich in protein, fiber and fat which makes it a great choice for gluten free baking. It also produces a delicious flavor!
4. All Purpose Gluten-Free Flour: Whether homemade or store bought, an all purpose gluten-free flour is ideal for any recipe, as the conversion is generally 1:1. All purpose flours such as this are created using a variety a gluten free flours to produce the best mix for any recipe. Verify the flour includes xantham or guar gum (which helps create a similar result to gluten) or just add the recommended amount and, as the title states, you’ve got an “all purpose” flour to use! Once again, I prefer this type of flour because you know exactly what is going in it (and into your body!).
5. Spelt Flour: Spelt flour is a whole grain, but wheat-free, flour. While spelt flour is not gluten-free, it has a very strong nutritional profile, being lower in calories and high in protein, and can very easily replace wheat flour 1:1. With a mild yet sweet flavor, it is a great option for those looking for a more nutritious whole grain flour.
Bonus #6. Protein Powder: While I don’t generally recommend switching out flour 1:1 with protein powder, technically you can in some instances (it works perfectly in mug cakes!). Protein powder has the right properties and reacts similar to flour, although I don’t consider the texture of the end result ideal. What I do like to do, is add a couple scoops of my favorite Perfect Fit Protein Powder to muffins and breads for an added protein boost (don’t forget to decrease the amount of flour as well).
So now that I’ve touched on all of my favorite flours, tell me, what’s yours?