The COVID-19 pandemic has sparked interest in many domestic hobbies, but baking has come to the top. Sourdough starters have become a staple in the kitchen, and close-ups of homemade banana bread have had their Moment on Instagram. Then there was a spring run on baked goods—when staples like wheat flour and bread were running out, Many Cooks turned to alternative flours like oats and Quinoa.
But it can be hard to stick the landing on your homemade baked goods with something like rice or coconut flour. Non-wheat options have different nutritional profiles than wheat flour and most do not contain Gluten. It’s a great selling point for anyone on a gluten-free diet, but it has a huge impact on texture. Gluten gives the dough its pasty, helps it stretch and rise, traps air bubbles and makes the finished product hard and fluffy. Do not get upset—as long as you know how your choice can affect density, texture and moisture, you can do good things with alternative flours.
Whether you want to experiment due to shortage, gluten intolerance or culinary curiosity, here’s a helpful guide to the alternative flour landscape.
You can buy oatmeal in the store or make it yourself by grinding oatmeal in a food processor or blender into a fine powder. Elliott Prague, chef at the Institute of Culinary Education in New York, explains that oatmeal absorbs more liquid than other flours, resulting in drier and denser baked goods. It’s great in cake crusts or granola bars, but you need to add a little more liquid or fat for moisture. If you make bread, cakes or anything that is supposed to be fluffy, you can not use only oatmeal—the dough or dough does not rise. However, if you still want to add flavor and crumbly texture, mix three parts of all-purpose flour with one part of oats.
A quarter cup of oatmeal has a nutritional profile similar to that of all-purpose flour. These are mainly carbohydrates-22 grams-with four grams of protein and two grams of fat. It also contains three grams of mainly soluble fiber that dissolves when mixed with liquid, slows digestion and reduces LDL cholesterol (the wrong type).
While traditional wheat flour is mostly carbohydrate, almond flour is mostly fat: 15 grams in a quarter cup of 170 calories. It has less carbohydrates and more protein than traditional flour, with six grams each, and it is overall more caloric. The high fat content keeps things moist, but can also weigh on things. Prague recommends teaching their recipes with ingredients that add sugar, such as eggs or baking powder, as well as supplements that can help add structure, such as bananas. Almond flour is aromatic and is therefore ideal for a dense, nutty cake or a sweet Quickbread.
Coconut flour has an even stronger flavor than almonds, so Prague recommends using it in recipes with complementary flavor profiles like pineapple cake or banana bread. While its slightly high fat content-four grams per serving-makes baked goods denser, they are still mostly carbohydrates. Eighteen grams of carbohydrates add softness and strength, so you can always get a crumb of cake when baking with coconut flour. Just be prepared to experiment with additional leavens like eggs, baking soda or baking soda. A 120-calorie quarter cup serving has four grams of protein that adds a little chewing. One thing to keep in mind: all fats are saturated, which Dietary Guidelines recommend that Americans limit to no more than 10 percent of their total daily calories. This is about 22 grams for people who eat 2000 calories a day.
Chickpea flour is traditionally used in Mediterranean cuisine to prepare carbohydrate-rich dishes like Socca, a chickpea pancake. Nowadays, people use it to make all kinds of baked goods-including a gluten-free medium pizza crust. Its high starch content helps to bind dough and pasta, unlike crumbly oatmeal or almond flour. With 120 calories, one gram of fat, 21 grams of carbohydrates and five grams of protein, a quarter cup serving is almost identical to all-purpose flour in terms of calories and macronutrients, but it has the added benefit of five grams of fiber, which is excellent for digestion and overall health.
Kimberly Hansan, who wrote an entire cookbook on rice flour, explains that it has always been a staple in Eastern cultures-it is booming in western cuisine thanks to the rise of gluten-free diets. Rice flour has almost no fat and only two grams of protein—about half of what is contained in all-purpose flour. It is rich in starch, with 24 grams of carbohydrates per quarter cup serving, which means it can bind pasta together and produce a viscous texture. While rice flour is traditionally used in dense and flat recipes such as shallot pancakes or pasta, it is also suitable for cooking because it is almost tasteless and rises easily. Just use baking soda or soda to create and capture air bubbles.
Although Quinoa has been an important part of South American cuisine for centuries, the idea of grinding it into flour didn’t really last until gluten-free diets became popular. It has a little more fat than all-purpose flour-two grams per quarter cup of serving-but is otherwise similar, with most of its 105 carbohydrate calories. Prague explains that quinoa flour cooks in the same way as oatmeal and produces a denser and more crumbly texture. You can try mixing all-purpose flour and quinoa flour in a three-to-one ratio to give the bread a nutty flavor without giving up that mushy, viscous texture. If you only work with quinoa flour, opt for Muffins or pancakes.