Thursday, May 29, 2008

Flours to replace wheat

I was aware first off of the use of rice flour, oat flour, and barley in wheat recipes. I'd also come across spelt and Kamut and rye and buckwheat. But I felt confined to rice and oats. Even barley goods gave my toddler a rash. The first products I made with rice flour were grainy and dry. I then learned that rice flour works best when combined with other flours or starches. I've also learned that ingredients to add moisture, texture, and flavor help, such as applesauce, banana, chocolate, xanthan gum, etc. I have learned more about ingredients that complement rice flour, and have been opened to a whole array of possibilities in baking satisfying products for my kids! I'm amazed at the nutritive value of several alternate flours. Go to for articles on alternative flours and nutrition facts.

I highly recommend checking out from the library Jones' The Allergy Self-Help Cookbook(2001) for learning about alternate flours. She has an easy to read, informative discussion on flavor and color, breading, thickening, and baking performance, as well as tips and recipes for utilizing roughly 20 different types of flours, including high-protein and nutrition-packed quinoa, amaranth, and buckwheat flours, as well as flours made from nuts or seeds. I'm excited to experiment with these flours.

Another book to utilize is The Complete Food Allergy Cookbook, by Marilyn Gioannini, 1997. She steps the reader through the process of adapting recipes to be free of common allergies. She has overviews on non-wheat flours as Jones does. As far as learning about adapting recipes goes, her book was more overwhelming, at first, then Jones, because things aren't organized in tables as well as Jones. But she has a wealth of valuable help if you're interested in learning to adapt recipes on your own. If you'd like to just try specific recipes already developed by an experienced cook, Gioannini has several for several different types of flours.

If you're more interested in having recipes that can be followed exactly, it might help to know that Gioannini and Jones have a good variety of recipes utilizing a wide variety of alternate flours. Jones does seem to gravitate towards combinations of amaranth, buckwheat, and quinoa. She's not afraid of more pricey flours, it appears, but these flours are highly nutritious(and they give more flavor than rice does). : ) If you want to cook with very basic and less expensive ingredients, I recommend checking out from the library The Kid-Friendly Food Allergy Cookbook by Leslie Hammond and Lynne Rominger. It is the point of these authors to have recipes which you can make without needing to go to specialty health food stores. They use rice flour in their baked goods. In skimming their recipes, I don't even see tapioca starch or xantham gum being used. Ener-G egg replacer or tofu are the only specialty foods I see in the baked goods recipes.

Now, if you're going to try out alternate flours other than the basic rice flour, where do you start? I get overwhelmed pretty fast in wanting to try out several types of flours at once. The Complete Food Allergy Cookbook, by Marilyn Gioannini, 1997, gives some basic recipes that use simply one or two alternate flours at a time, allowing the baker to try the flavor and texture of a new grain. I found making waffles helped me explore new grains. Gioannini has recipes for oat flour pancakes or waffles, quinoa pancakes/waffles, and buckwheat, rye, and spelt pancakes or waffles, each separate recipes, using one grain per recipe. This author also has simple yeast breads, with several recipes only using one alternate flour. If you want to explore bean flour, I suggest garbanzo-oat waffles( And you can interchange various legumes in place of the garbanzo. Try red or green lentils, they're mild and grind easily in a blender. Both Gioannini and Jones give descriptions of flavor and texture of several flours.

As a rule of thumb, a combination of a few alternative flours works best for replacing wheat flour in baked goods. Jones mentions how much of each flour, proportion-wise, she would use in a recipe. For example, she suggests 30- 50 percent brown rice flour in a recipe(she doesn't even use white rice flour, by the way, brown rice has more nutrition. I rarely use white rice flour anymore as well. I like the nutrition and flavor of brown rice flour-it's kind of nutty like wheat). 50 percent rice and 50 oats or 30 percent oats, rice, and barley each are combinations she mentions. With some experimenting, I've discovered I like either a basically 50/50 rice and oat combination(I add 1-2 T. tapioca and 1/2 tsp. xanthan gum into each cup of oats, so there is a little less oat than rice); or I follow a basic 1/3 oat, 1/3 brown rice, and 1/3 of a bean/cornstarch type mix, using home-ground lentils. Basically I just put some cornstarch with the lentil flour(maybe 2 T. cornstarch with enough lentil flour to make 2/3 cup), and put some tapioca with the oat flour, or I just use a little less than 1/3 ratio of lentil bean flour and use more rice flour in its stead. The tapioca starch/xanthan gum add-ins go into the oats measurement. The bean/cornstarch type mix idea I got from a garbanzo bean/cornstarch-based gluten free mix by souldog. It would probably be helpful to try out that mix, then see if you want to use lentils instead(I do because it's so cheap and easy to grind them at home).

It might help to know which flours are related to wheat, and which are not. Scientifically, wheat, corn, rye, oats, barley, millet, rice, wild rice, sorghum, and teff are in the same food family(Gioannini, p. 16). Kamut and spelt are ancient types of wheat, but can sometimes be tolerated by those allergic to wheat. (Note: They should be avoided by people with celiac disease(Jones, p 5) I do read from "Understanding and Managing Your Child's Food Allergies, " by Scott H. Sicherer, M.D.(2006), that spelt is usually treated by the immune system the same as wheat is. So I would take caution if you try this variety of wheat. He also cautions that buckwheat has been associated with severe reactions. I've gotten the idea from several sources that buckwheat is tolerated by many that are allergic to wheat, it's not a member of the grain family. So, I guess try it out if you want, but be cautious. Maybe ask your doctor for his advice. Most often people allergic to wheat can enjoy grains from the same family, and then other non-related foods such as quinoa. Discovering which grains or alternate foods is the trick, I guess. Anyone have a list of the most often tolerated grains for those allergic to wheat? I do read that rice is the very least allergenic of the grains(Jones, p 9). Dr. Sicherer cites that oat and rice both are not immunologically strongly related to wheat(Understanding and Managing Your Child's Food Allergies, p. 64).

Oats, rice, wild rice, barley, rye, and millet are commonly in grocery stores. Gioannini says that experience has shown rye and barley to be most likely to cause reactions in this group of common grains. I have found most all the flours mentioned in this post in specialty stores including Whole Foods Market. Often grocery stores have most all the grains mentioned, in the Bob's Mill brand.

Amaranth, arrowroot, buckwheat, legumes(including soy), potato, quinoa, and tapioca are ground into flour and are not related to wheat. Nuts and seeds also can be ground into flour, and be used for up to 25 percent of grain flour, says Jones(12). Check out for information about cabernet flour, which is from grapes! Look into coconut flour, ground teff, sweet potato flour- there's a whole new world of possibilities to explore!

Consider buying xanthan gum. It's pricey, but is used in very small amounts. It helps make up for lack of gluten. Several non-wheat flours don't contain gluten, or have it in very low amounts as compared to wheat. Gluten binds flour molecules together, helping reduce crumbliness and giving structure to enable leavenings(yeast, baking powder, etc) to work effectively(to make the baked goods rise). The xanthan gum, then, acts in the stead of gluten, reducing crumbliness, helping baked goods to retain moisture, and helping the product to keep a good texture longer on the shelf or in the freezer. Caution: too much xanthum gum can make your product gummy. A general rule of thumb:

1/2 tsp. xanthan gum per cup of flour for cakes, cookies, muffins, quick breads.
1 tsp xanthan gum per cup of flour for yeast bread, pizza dough, other yeast products.

As an alternative, Marilyn Gioannini(The Complete Food Allergy Cookbook, 1997) doesn't use xantham gum in her recipes, she says it often creates problems(such as gumminess). She's experimented to get just the right combinations of leavenings for her recipes. She uses psyllium seed husk, flax seed, and arrowroot powder, sometimes together, sometimes not.

Here is a link that reviews several different all-purpose baking mixes you can make at home that are gluten-free. I know there are several good all-purpose gluten-free baking mixes available in stores. But I want to know how to cook baked goods from scratch, and I think they could get quite a bit more expensive than if I find cheaper ways of getting non-gluten flours. (Buying non-gluten flours is pricey and may not be much less than buying the mixes is, I haven't compared enough to know, but in home grinding rice flour, oat flour, and bean flour, the cost is really reduced).

When adapting recipes, it will help to know which alternate flours contain gluten, and which are "essentially gluten free." Jones gives a list of each(p 5). I do not know if the "essentially gluten free" is safe for people with celiac disease. Contain gluten: spelt, wheat, kamut brand, rye, oat, barley. "Essentially gluten free," amaranth, arrowroot, brown rice, buckwheat, chickpea, legumes, nut and seed flours, potato, potato starch, quinoa, soy, tapioca starch, teff.

Some of my experience so far with baking with alternate flours:

After trying a couple rice flour recipes and finding them grainy and dry, I steered clear of rice flour recipes, at least where rice was the only or main flour. but I just recently decided to give a second chance to baking with rice flour as the main flour in my recipes. I tried out various cookie and cake recipes. I conclude that rice flour, even, as the only flour in a recipe, can make decent goods. I do still agree with Jones that rice flour recipes are best when combined with other flours or starches. I made a rice flour/applesauce drop cookie from The Kid-Friendly Food Allergy Cookbook that was surprisingly pretty good. But it was a little grainy, and the cookies crumbled easily. They were, however, delicate and moist, and the flavor was okay. Adding raisins helped disguise the fine grainy texture, where chocolate chips did not. Substituting 1/4 c of arrowroot flour for rice flour(where 1 c rice flour was called for), resulted in a more bland cookie, which was still a little grainy, and was too "starchy."

I made some cookies calling for large proportions of potato starch with the rice flour, and these were delicate and rich. Only a little grainy, if at all. A little starchy, but still, quite impressive. Just not my preferred type of cookie. They were very rich(lots of butter-flavored shortening, in my case, rather than butter), and they were very sweet. Actually, one type, "Just like Nilla Wafers," (found in The kid-Friendly Food Allergy Cookbook by Hammond), seemed to get better after sitting out two or three days. They are growing on me. They have a crunchy, yet not grainy, consistency like Vanilla Wafers do. My toddler really likes these cookies. I'm interested in trying the recipe with half the sugar and half the fat. But potato starch is quite expensive, and it doesn't have the nutrients that several other alternate flours boast.

I prefer cookies to be more wholesome, nutritious. I usually prefer them for a snack rather than for a dessert. I am not a butter cookie fan! I like cookies made with about 1/2 the fat called for. I love zucchini-oatmeal cookies made with part whole-wheat flour. I enjoy banana oat cookies. I do love chewy chocolate chip cookies, especially with coconut.

As for the rice cake recipes I recently tried(The Kid-Friendly Food Allergy Cookbook, Hammond), I was impressed that the texture was moist and NOT GRAINY! I tried a chocolate cake which was quite good, and a carrot cake, which was not so good(lacked flavor). Though the chocolate cake had good chocolatey flavor and a good texture(if a little "wet," it was at least moist and not grainy), it's flavor was flat. I like the "nutty" flavor of wheat, and intend to find flours that provide flavor with depth. And I'm very interesting in exploring flours that good nutrients that mimic or surpass wheat. I'm also interested in recipes that utilize the "cheaper" grains. I can grind my own rice flour out of brown rice. I can grind my own oats and legumes. Even spelt and rye are cheaper than buying potato starch or quinoa or amaranth. I want to have some good basic recipes that are mostly rice flour or oats or beans, and then experiment with the more expensive alternate flours that provide extra good nutrition(the quinoa, amaranth, and buckwheat specifically). Then, I can make some of my baked goods out of cheaper flours and some out of more expensive, more nutritious flours.

I've successfully made banana cookies and oatmeal scones with only oat flour(which I make simply by grinding oats in a blender), but the products are heavy. If I recall correctly, the cookies and banana bread I have baked only with oat flour or with large amounts of oat flour, had a texture that would "gum" to the top of my mouth a little as I chewed. Oat flour and rice flour combined with some starch(and flax seed for a little more flavor and better texture)is a good mixture, but I'm always looking to improve the taste and texture of what I'm making. It tends to make a better product to use several flours in combinations.

A couple months ago, my mother sent me a newspaper article from her local paper. It highlighted a Gluten-free restaurant in Poughkeepsie, N.Y, called Soul Dog. The restaurant shared it's recipe for Gluten-Free Baking Mix. See
It used mostly chickpea, or garbanzo flour(also gram or ceci). I had never heard of baking with bean flour! Garbanzo flour actually is a staple in India, I've learned. Awareness of this use of garbanzos has opened up an exciting door for enjoying baked goods. I first tried cookies which were featured in the newspaper article. Also online at
Besides being sweeter and more salty than I personally prefer, they were as good as wheat -based cookies! I altered the recipe to be less sweet and less salty and a little less fattening, and they were almost just like the cookies I grew up on! Dough made from garbanzo flour has a disturbing flavor, I think(and it's not good for digestion to eat raw legumes anyway), but once cooked, the flavor is mild. I search for garbanzo flour recipes on the internet from time to time. Garbanzo-oat waffes are moist and seem to have egg in them, when they do not! This is an amazing recipe, I think. The recipe can be found at

I've found that I like muffins and banana bread with 1/3 part Dog's GF baking Mix(consists mostly of garbanzo bean flour), 1/3 part rice four, and 1/3 part oat flour to replace the wheat four called for. In experimenting with blueberry muffins from Better Homes and Gardens New Baking Book, I found that muffins made only with the soul dog GF baking mix garbanzo mixture had great flavor and moist texture, but were a little compact, not as fluffy or airy as most muffins(Note: I did use applesauce in place of oil or egg (I don't remember which), and I do wonder if that contributed to the density). The muffins made only with rice and oat flour rose pretty well, but were pretty flavorless. I figure I could add salt and flax meal or fruit juice or spices, but the combination of garbanzo mixture with the oat and rice had good flavor and good texture.

I then used 1/2 garbanzo mixture and 1/4 of each rice and oat flours. It tasted a lot like a part whole-wheat muffin! I tried this combination of flours in an oatmeal scone recipe, a banana bread recipe, and a banana muffin recipe, and have been really impressed. I'll post the recipes I've developed so far. they are in progress; what ever I post will likely be tweeked in some way or another in future trials. As a warning, it takes our bodies awhile to get used to eating large amounts of legumes. If you're not used to eating many beans, you may want to start with smaller proportions of bean flour to other flours in the recipe.

The last round of goods that I made with garbanzo flour had an off-taste, and I used recipes that I had used earlier and really enjoyed. I think the flour was not fresh, and it seems to matter that it is kept fresh. I had kept the flour in the freezer, but maybe it was on the shelf in the store too long.

I've looked into home grinding garbanzos into flour, but Jones doesn't recommend it because unsoaked, uncooked beans ground for flour can be rough on the digestion system(Jones, Allergy Self-Help Cookbook, p 12). I've also read that the beans can dull the blades of a blender. My mom has suggested that I might cook the beans, then dry them out with my food dryer, then grind them in the VitaMix. My VitaMix might be okay with them, but I hesitate to try it out. My Magic Mill grain grinder says that dried garbanzos are okay to mill in it, but chickpeas are "questionable". Most sources use the terms garbanzo and chickpea interchangeably as if they're the same thing, but the Magic Mill company says it depends which region you're in. Anyone succesfully made their own garbanzo bean flour? Do you understand how to figure which type of legume you have, whether it's a safe-to-grind garbanzo bean(as Magic Mill says) or a chickpea?

Marjorie Jones relates that yellow split peas and lentils, especially red lentils, don't need soaked before cooking. So they should be okay to home grind raw. They grind easily and into fine flour in my VitaMix, and they also grind in a blender(how fine of flour you can get would depend on how good of a blender you have). I use lentil flour a lot in gluten-free baking.

As far as grinding the beans other than lentils or split peas, I've seen various sources that don't mention a problem about digestion. I'm thinking that as long as you thoroughly cook baked goods containing raw bean flour, you should be just fine. What have you heard?

Emergency Essentials has an article online about using bean flour:
This source suggests replacing up to 1/4 the amount of flour in a recipe with the bean flour. Besides adding a texture and mild flavor that I like, using bean flour, whether garbanzo or other, really adds some nice nutrition. Eating beans with grains is a good combination for getting complete proteins. I do hear that if you're not used to eating beans, it's good to start in small amounts and gradually increase(otherwise you may have gas). The body adapts.

Another source discusses grinding beans into flour:

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