Baking is an art, neigh, a science, in the kitchen. The different flours and raising agents react in a way that sometimes even an expert can’t comprehend. As an eager baker myself, I find myself constantly looking for alternatives to flour, especially for my friends who are on a gluten-free diet. While I’ve discussed before the need for a gluten-free diet, I never quite went into the details of baking gluten free. Although I’m all for the refined carbs that are plain/cake/self-raising/Hong Kong flours, I often wonder about other alternatives to flour that can pack in twice the amount of nutrients and flavour as regular white flour, regardless of being gluten-free.
Buy From: NTUC
Flaxseeds are popular in many diet food salads, but they need to be ground in order for the body to absorb the minerals from the seeds – otherwise the seeds just pass through. A quarter cup of flaxseed meal is rich in protein and omega 3 fatty acids, which are great for your heart. Flaxseed is also a good vegan substitute for animal fat in baking.
Buy from: Gluten Free Store
If you’re expecting this flour to taste like bananas, you’re in for a surprise. Banana flour is made by grinding up dried, unripe green bananas. The unripe bananas haven’t had an opporutnity to develop sugars yet, hence will not have that distinct banana flavour that we are used to. The flour can taste more like bran. Although this flour contains no sugar, it is rich in potassium, and indigestible starch that can lower the risk of colon cancer. This flour, because of its reasonably tasteless nature, its great in transforming all your regular cakes and bakes into gluten-free treats. You can also use a tablespoon or 2 of this flour as an added booster in your morning shake, too.
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Dried coconut meat is ground into a fine powder to make this sweet flour. Coconut flour does contain a relatively high volume of saturated fats, but it more than makes up for this with its fibre content – this essentially means you get full on lesser food! When cooking with this, remember that coconut flour absorbs extra liquid, so add more water or milk in baking or pancake/waffle recipes. While I wouldn’t advise replacing the entire flour content with coconut flour (as that will change the dimensions of the recipe quite drastically), try incorporating it into your regular recipes to see how you like the taste.
Black Bean Flour
Buy from: Organiclife.sg
Powdered black beans with an earthy flavour. After the recipe for Black Bean Chocolate Cake from Haylie Duff, black beans have been getting quite the press. Although Haylie used canned black beans which were soft and could therefore be blended, this powder is made with the dried variety. Just like the coconut flour above, black bean flour can help fill you up faster, with its high fibre and protein content. If you have up to one serving of black beans a day, you can help lower cholesterol by 5 percent. Black bean flour is pretty easy to use – mix it with water and treat it as a dip! If you’re looking to use it for baking, black bean flour makes a mean brownie, or chocolate cake. The chocolate masks the earthy taste of the beans, while the heady flavour from the beans helps to amp up the chocolatey-ness of your baked goods. Its what I’d call a very good relationship.
Brown Rice Flour
Buy from: Organiclife.sg
Whole rice kernels are crushed into powder to create this flavourful flour. This gluten-free staple has twice as much fibre as white rice flour, but the same amount of calories. its also packed with B vitamins and manganese which helps the functions of your brain and nerves. Brown rice flour is relatively easy to use, in muffins, biscuits and even pancakes. A good combination to remember would be to mix brown rice flour with tapioca or corn starch – this helps avoid a grainy texture.
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Protein rich soy flour is usually obtained by pulverising heat treated soy beans and then placing them through a fine mesh. Each cup of soy flour contains up to 73% potassium and 72% magnesium, and 2% total saturated fat. Soy flour can be substituted in a 1:1 ration in baking, especially in recipes that call for baking powders and sodas. However, soy flour browns easily in the oven, so reduce the temperature in the oven by at least 30 degrees when baking. Also, watch the cake/muffin like a hawk – soy based goods cook at least 10 mins faster. Its best to store soy flour in the refrigerator, as the oil content in the flour can make it go rancid sooner than other flours.