published: Wednesday, November 28, 2012
What is your favorite flour?
Now, y'all know I don't think baked goods are terribly necessary for anyone to be eating (I've said it before, that none of us needs another muffin!), but there are times when you do need to use flour. By now, we all know that white flour isn't an optimal choice for good health, but with so many options on the shelves, which one do you choose? And when?
First thing's first.
Let's talk about a flour we're all familiar with - wheat flour.
Made from ground wheat, wheat flour is a big step above white flour if you have not adopted a gluten-free lifestyle for your family. It can be difficult at first to make the switch to whole wheat (always look for whole wheat not just wheat!) so I recommend gradually replacing white flour in a recipe with whole wheat until you're used to the consistency and difference in flavor.
Now what's all this about gluten? Wheat flour contains gluten. Gluten is a protein that makes bread chewy. It also helps dough to bind through the baking process. Gluten, however, is a problem for those suffering from celiac disease, wheat allergies or non-celiac gluten sensitivity.
It's estimated that 10 precent of people are walking around with some form of gluten sensitivity, and every day more and more people are stating to discover that gluten is the source of many different problems from digestive issues to bloating.
If you don't care about the gluten content of the foods you eat, but you'd still like to spice things up with your flours every now and then, give spelt a try.
Spelt is a cereal grain in the wheat family, but it is considered a wheat-free flour. It contains some gluten and it bakes very similarly to wheat flour, but it has a very nice nutty, sweet flavor. Spelt is easier to digest than wheat, but it is lower in fiber. Important to note: The gluten in spelt is broken down really quickly, so it's important to not over mix it or you'll end up with a product that crumbles into oblivion!
Luckily, there are more gluten-free flours available now than ever before. Keep in mind, though, that there is no true substitute for wheat flour in terms of texture and taste. You can't replace all of the whole wheat flour in a recipe to an alternative type of flour and expect the same results.
Quinoa flour - There's much debate surrounding the question of whether quinoa is paleo friendly. Whatever it is (and you can decide for yourself!), it's a very good source of essential amino acids, fiber, folate, iron, magnesium and zinc. This flour is excellent in muffins, banana bread and other baked goods. However, go easy on it. The nutty flavor of this flour can easily take over a dish, so substitute only about a quarter of the total flour volume of a recipe with quinoa flour.
Rice flour - Made from milled rice-kernel hulls, rice flour contains lots of Vitamin B6, calcium, iron, fiber and other trace nutrients. Rice flour is great for baked goods, homemade crackers and pastas. You can also use this gluten-free flour to thicken sauces and gravies. Easy does it on the rice, though, because the FDA is still trying to figure out how safe it is for us to be eating! (Link to arsenic rice article)
When it comes to flour, gluten-free does not always equal primal or paleo-friendly. There is a difference. The following flours are gluten-free and primal.
Primal gluten-free flours
Most of these alternatives have many more minerals and vitamins than white or wheat flours do so it won't hurt to incorporate them into your cooking whether you're a primal eater or not.
Almond flour - Almond flour is made from blanched almonds that have been beaten into submission into an unrecognizable product! In the store, you may have trouble finding almond flour, so look for almond meal. Or, buy your own blanched almonds and grind them into a powder with your coffee grinder or food processor. Almond flour tastes best in baked goods, grain-free granolas and "flourless" cakes.
Coconut flour - This yummy flour is made from pulverized meat of the coconut. It has a sweet, mild flavor ad is used frequently in paleo cooking in everything from pancakes to muffins.
Arrowroot powder and tapioca starch - These flours are controversial because of their starch content, but lots of primal eaters use them. Arrowroot powder is awesome for thickening sauces without changing the taste of the dish. It gives baked goods and pancakes a nice, light texture. Tapioca is similar, but it also lends some elasticity to a dish.
What is your favorite flour? http://www.facebook.com/savingdinner
Leanne Ely is a New York Times bestselling author of 'Body Clutter' and the Saving Dinner series. The Dinner Diva syndicated newspaper column appears in 250 newspapers nationwide. Learn how to cook great and save significant money with the Dinner Diva;s menus, recipes and shopping lists at www.savingdinner.com.
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