Five Alternative Flours Worth Trying
There's never been a better time to experiment with flours made from almonds, spelt, or gluten-free blends.
With most of us spending more time at home and leaning heavily on pantry staples during the coronavirus pandemic, baking is having a bit of a renaissance. As a result, all-purpose flour has become almost as sought-after as disinfecting wipes—and it's almost as difficult to find. If you're struggling to find baking supplies at your local grocer or favorite online supplier, we suggest contacting a local restaurant or bakery, many of whom purchase in bulk and might be willing to sell you goods by the pound. This is also a great time to go beyond the all-purpose variety you're used to working with and instead experiment with alternative flours made from whole grains and other ingredients.
Below, we've highlighted a few of our favorite flours to incorporate into everyday baking. Read on to find out which ones you can sub into your quarantine loaves and what you should bake with the others.
Of all the flours listed here, this is the one that you'll have the best luck using as a one-to-one substitute for your trusty all-purpose variety. That's because it's specifically formulated to account for what naturally gluten-free flours are missing—gluten, of course, the protein that helps bind the ingredients together in a standard leavened bread recipe. These blends usually combine a gluten-free grain, like rice or oats, with one or more binding agents, like cornstarch, potato starch, or tapioca flour. If you follow the package instructions, you should be able to use them in any recipe, though the texture will likely be different to what you're used to. Our test kitchen's favorite gluten-free flour blends are Cup 4 Cup Gluten-Free Flour Blend ($10.99, target.com ) and Bob's Red Mill Gluten Free 1 to 1 Baking Flour ($13.40, walmart.com). Try them in our Gluten-Free Pie Crust or our Pumpkin Bread.
You already know that quinoa is a nutritional powerhouse thanks to its high concentration of protein, fiber, and essential vitamins and minerals. Remember what we said about how protein works as a binding agent? This fact is what makes quinoa flour uniquely suited for baking. You can substitute it one to one for wheat flour in most cake or cookie recipes, and replace up to half of the flour in many others. Just be aware that the taste is on the stronger side—using quinoa flour will give baked goods that "healthy" vibe, which can be great as long you're expecting it. You may want to pair it with stronger ingredients like cinnamon or molasses to offset this, as we've done in this Quinoa Apple-Pear Crumble.
First of all, be careful not to confuse almond meal—which is made from coarsely ground skin-on almonds—with almond flour, which is made from almonds that have been skinned and blanched before being ground into a fine powder. Now that you're sure you've got the right ingredient, it's time to get excited; this flour adds a moist texture and a delicious, nutty flavor to baked goods. Due to its high fat content, it's best in recipes that don't require leavening and can hold up to its denser texture, like muffins or quick breads. We especially like it in something like our Zucchini-Almond Cake. You can also use it to make French macarons, which might be just the escapist project you need right now.
A favorite of Martha's, spelt flour acts similarly to a whole wheat flour in baking, with a sweet, nutty taste and a slightly more tender crumb. It has gluten, but less of it, so it's best cut with half all-purpose flour in bread recipes, though it can stand on its own in more delicate desserts that require less structure. We swear by it as a secret ingredient in Dark-Chocolate Spelt Brownies, and it also makes a mean Oat-and-Spelt Shortbread.
You've surely encountered rye on a deli sandwich (or in a glass of fine aged bourbon). It's a hearty grain with a distinct, pungent flavor, and it's best in a simple leavened loaf or soda bread. Since it contains a lower amount of gluten, it's another flour that's best cut with all-purpose, and it only needs to make up about a quarter of the total amount of flour for its flavor to come through. For a recipe that takes out the guesswork for you, try our take on classic Rye Bread or darker, sweeter Pumpernickel Bread. It's also ideal for making our rye pastry, which you can then use to make a leek-and-goat-cheese tart.