By Tess Pennington for Ready Nutrition
Part of my research to become self-reliant is learning how to use the items I have on hand and adapt my cooking style to reflect those changes. A question that has pondered me lately is what would I do when my wheat stores are depleted. How will I make bread and baked goods without wheat? Well, here’s the zinger – you don’t need wheat to make baked goods. Those who have gluten-free diets have proved that. I have plenty of dry goods on hand – oats, popping corn, rice and beans that can serve this purpose.
Now, I’m not going to jump on the gluten free diet bandwagon just yet. In all honesty, I like wheat just as much as the next guy, but I do want my family to have more diversity in their diet and incorporating different grains and legumes daily will serve us better in the long run. That said, I’m starting to get creative in finding ways to add them into our diet. Aside from making soups that had different legumes and grains, I have started making alternative flours – and the kids don’t even realize they are eating healthier.
Not All Flours Are Created Equal
Alternative flours have different textures or what I like to call “personalities.” The one downside to making alternative flours is to know which flour to use in each dish. For instance, baking with nut flours give baked goods a delicious nutty flavor but requires using more eggs to provide more structure. Rice flours tend to be the all-purpose flour that many turn to, but can be very dense. Therefore, you need to understand how these ingredients work together. To get the desired effect, cooks usually combine flours. On a side note, you would be amazed at the diversity in flavor using different grains to make flour is. And because there are so many ways to make flour, you can change up the flavors whenever you want!
For an all-purpose flour you typically want to combine 40% whole grains (oats, quinoa, corn, brown rice flour, etc.) and 60% starches (potato, rice, corn starch, tapioca flour, etc.) The Gluten Free Girl has some excellent recipes for making alternative flours.
What To Use in Place of Gluten
Gluten, which comes from the Latin word for glue, provides elasticity and strength to traditional wheat-based doughs. Without this rubber band-like protein, gluten free bread dough is lacking the essence of what gives bread structure. Many gluten free cooks use xanthan gum as an alternative to gluten. Gluten free cooks consider this the Holy Grail of baking. When I started using alternative flours, I steered clear of this ingredient, because, frankly, the name freaked me out. It’s also highly processed, so I try to avoid that altogether. I looked for alternatives to xanthan gum and found a few that I have grown to like. Chia seeds are a nutritional powerhouse and can either be sprinkled into baked goods or can be ground and used in conjunction with other flours. Gelatin is another ingredient to use in lieu of xanthan gum. When gelatin is combined with water it creates a gel-like substance which can be used in baking to make dough stretchy and retain moisture in baked food. Teff flour is another wonderful ingredients that adds stretchiness to dough.
Make Use of Your Grinder
Your grinder can be a wondrous thing and can be used for more than grinding wheat berries. I have used my grinder to grind whole beans, lentils and an different grains to make Ezekiel bread. Here are some suggestions for delicious alternative flours and recipes on how to make them.
1. Rice Flour
White and brown rice are one of the more popular flour alternatives. These small grains can be ground to make rice flour, a tasty alternative to wheat flour. The flavor of the rice flour is very mild and adaptive to many dishes. Sweet brown rice has a higher fat content than regular rice flour which means the flour mix won’t require as much of the extra gums or flours to help it bind.
2. Bean Flour
Beans are a very versatile prep item and even be used to make flour. Not to mention, bean flour is a great way to add protein to your baked goods, and can easily be ground into flour using a hand mill. Popular beans to use when grinding into flours are garbanzo beans, navy beans, pinto beans and lentils. Bean flours are excellent thickeners and are very popular in soups. White bean flours can be used to make cream-based soups. Simply add 1/3 cup white bean flour and 2 cups of stock and any additional ingredients you want.
To make this flour simply add dry beans to your grinder and grind until you get the desired flour texture. An added bonus to grinding beans is you can make refried beans in 5 minutes! This would be excellent to have on hand for an off grid emergency or if you are low on fuel.
Instant Refried Beans
■3/4 cup pinto or black bean flour
■1 cups water or stock
Allow water or stock to come to a boil. Add bean flour and stir in until incorporated. Cover pan for 5 minutes.
3. Corn Flour
Corn flour has many applications, but is commonly used to make breads, used as a soup thickener or for baked goods. Corn flour and cornmeal can easily be made with your grain mill using popcorn kernels or other dried corn kernels. To make the flour less course, you may need to run it through the grinder a few times.
4. Oat Flour
Oat flour has many purposes. It can be used in baking recipe, as a thickener or breading, or it can be used to add some whole grains into a recipe. I add oat flour to my smoothies as well as in soups.
When making oat flour, use old fashioned oats. Simply place 1/2 cup-1 cup of oats in the blender and pulse on high until it has a flour consistency. Use a spoon to move the flour around and pulse it again on high to ensure that all oats are ground.
5. Almond Flour
Almonds can be blanched and ground (skins removed) to use in baking. The fat and moisture from the almond will be transferred to the baked goods to prevent that dried out taste. It’s best used in sweet baked goods such as brownies, cookies and cakes. To make almond flour:
Place 1/2 cup blanched almonds in a food processor or grinder and pulse several times until a medium-fine textured meal forms. Then, add the ground almond meal to a clean flour sifter and sift. Place any large particles of almonds back in coffee bean grinder and pulse again. Sift remaining almond meal.
Tip: If you over process the almond flour, it will turn into almond butter, a delicious spread to add to your breads.