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Foods

Flour, nonwheat
Why Eat It
Varieties
Availability
Storage
Preparation
Nutrition Chart


Why Eat It

There are many reasons to cook with flours made from plants other than wheat--other grains, seeds, tubers, and roots, including buckwheat, chick-peas, tapioca, and potatoes. For people who are allergic to gluten (the protein formed when wheat flour is made into batter or dough) or to wheat itself, these flours offer excellent alternatives. Nonwheat flours also have their own merits aside from their lack of gluten: Some are particularly high in protein, or in amino acids that wheat lacks. Some contain more dietary fiber than wheat, or offer phytochemicals that wheat does not. Some types of flour add unusual flavors, or are especially good at thickening liquid mixtures, such as sauces or soups (arrowroot and tapioca are in this category).

There are some obstacles to deal with when nonwheat flours are used for baking. Because they produce little or no gluten when mixed with liquid, these flours need special treatment in order to form a workable dough or batter that will rise, hold its shape, and have a pleasing texture. If a wheat or gluten allergy is not the problem and the other flour is being used to boost flavor or nutrition, a suitable proportion of wheat flour can be added: As a starting point, use one 1 nonwheat for each 4 parts wheat flour.

Varieties

Amaranth flour: Milled from the seeds of the amaranth plant, this flour boasts a higher percentage of protein than most other grains, and has more fiber than wheat and rice. It is also higher in the amino acid lysine, which some food scientists believe makes it a more complete protein than flour made from other grains. Amaranth flour can be used in cookies, crackers, baking mixes, and cereals. However, it can be expensive and is not widely available.

Arrowroot flour: The rootstalks of a tropical plant are the source of this flour, often used as a thickener for sauces and desserts; the finely powdered arrowroot turns completely clear when dissolved (giving gloss to sauces), and adds no starchy flavor. Because of its easy digestibility, it is also an used as an ingredient in cookies intended for infants and young children.

Barley flour: This mild-flavored flour made from barley grain contains some gluten.

Besan: (see chick-pea flour, below)

Buckwheat flour: A common ingredient in pancake mixes, buckwheat flour is also used to make Japanese soba noodles. It is available in light, medium, and dark varieties (the dark flour boasts the strongest flavor), depending on the kind of buckwheat it is milled from. You can make your own buckwheat flour by processing whole white buckwheat groats in a blender or food processor.

Chana:(see chick-pea flour, below)

Chestnut flour: This tan flour is made from American chestnuts, the meaty, lowfat nuts that are often served as a vegetable. The flour is a little sweet and is traditionally used in Italian holiday desserts.

Chick-pea flour (also called chana, gram flour or besan): This protein-rich flour is made from dried chick-peas (garbanzo beans). This flour is used commonly throughout India, and in parts of the Mediterranean as well, in pancakes, pizzas, dumplings, soups and stews. Make your own chick-pea flour by grinding lightly roasted dried chick-peas in a blender.

Corn flour: This is made from whole cornmeal, ground to a floury consistency. You can make corn flour from cornmeal by processing it in a blender.

Cornstarch: This silky ingredient is made from only the endosperm (starchy part) of the corn kernel. It is used to thicken sauces and to create baked goods with a particularly fine texture.

Garfava flour: This flour is a blend of chick-pea flour and fava bean flour and can be used like chick-pea flour.

Gluten-free flour mix: Some health-food stores carry this three-grain mixture of rice flour, potato starch, and tapioca flour. It can be substituted for 100% of the wheat flour in many recipes.

Millet flour: This yellow flour is high in protein and easy to digest. It may make baked goods somewhat coarse-textured and dry. Substitute it for no more than one-fifth of the wheat flour in a recipe.

Oat flour: Milled from either the entire oat kernel or the endosperm only, oat flour is frequently used in ready-to-eat breakfast cereals. You can make your own to use in baking by grinding rolled oats in a food processor or blender (1-1/4 cups rolled oats will yield 1 cup oat flour).

Potato flour (potato starch): Steamed potatoes are dried and then ground to a powder to make this gluten-free flour, which is commonly used in baked goods for Passover (when wheat flour may not be used).

Quinoa flour: Higher in fat than wheat flour, quinoa flour makes baked goods moister. You can make your own quinoa flour by processing whole quinoa in a blender; stop before the flour is too fine--it should be slightly coarse, like cornmeal.

Rice flour, white: This very fine-textured flour is made from polished white rice.

Rice flour, brown: Because it contains the bran, brown rice flour contains more fiber than white rice flour.

Rye flour: In combination with wheat flour, rye flour, which contains some gluten, is most commonly used in breads. Light, medium, and dark varieties (with dark having the strongest flavor) are available. Light rye flour may be labeled "bolted," which means the flour has been sifted to remove the bran and germ. Dark rye flours are often "unbolted," and so contain a good deal more fiber. When adding rye flour to bread recipes, use less of the dark flour than you would of the light flour, or the flavor will be too dominant.

Sorghum flour: Sorghum is a cereal grain that is little used for human consumption in the U.S., although it is a staple grain elsewhere in the world. Sorghum flour works well in breads when combined with bean flours.

Soy flour: See Soy flour,

Tapioca flour: Milled from the dried starch of the cassava root, this flour thickens when heated with water and is often used to give body to puddings, fruit pie fillings, and soups. It can also be used in baking.

Triticale flour: A hybrid of wheat and rye, triticale is higher in protein than other non-wheat flours but still needs to be combined with a wheat flour to produce a satisfying texture. A close relative of wheat, it should not be eaten by those with wheat allergies.

Water-chestnut flour (water-chestnut powder): This Asian ingredient is a fine, powdery starch that is used to thicken sauces (it can be substituted for cornstarch) and to coat foods before frying to give them a delicate, crisp coating.

Availability

Any of these products that you can't find in your supermarket can be bought in a specialty shop, which may be a health-food store, gourmet shop, Asian grocery store, or through mail-order sources.

Storage

Potato flour, arrowroot, tapioca, water-chestnut flour, white rice flour, and corn flour can be stored at room temperature for 6 to 12 months in a tightly covered container. Any whole-grain flour keeps for less than a month at room temperature, so store it in a tightly covered container in the freezer; it will stay fresh for up to a year. You can use the flour directly from the freezer.

Preparation

Amaranth Flour: Amaranth flour lends a slight peppery flavor to baked goods, pancakes, and waffles. Substitute amaranth flour for up to one-fourth of the amount of wheat flour in any given recipe.

Arrowroot Flour: Fine in texture, arrowroot can be used to make delicate cookies. Use in the proportion of 2 parts flour to 1 part arrowroot. To use arrowroot as a thickener, mix with twice the amount of cold liquid before stirring into hot sauce. Stir without boiling until thick. It has twice the thickening power of flour. Once thickened, do not boil or sauce will thin.

Barley Flour: Aside from being used in baked goods, barley flour can also be used as a thickener, much like flour, for people on a wheat-restricted diet. It can be substituted for up to half the wheat flour called for in a baking recipe.

Buckwheat Flour: Buckwheat flour is low in gluten. It can be substituted for up to half the flour in any baking recipe.

Chestnut flour: This slightly sweet flour can be used to replace up to one-fourth of the wheat flour in baked goods. It is also used along with potatoes and wheat flour to make chestnut gnocchi-- a pasta-like dumpling.

Chick-pea flour: Gluten-free, chick-pea flour needs to be combined with wheat flour if making baked goods, but can holds its own in pancakes, crepes, and panelle (an Italian dish similar to polenta). Chick-pea flour pancakes are made by stirring water into the flour along with seasonings (no eggs or oil are necessary). The batter needs to sit for 30 minutes before using. For lump-free panelle, combine chick-pea flour and a little cold water to dissolve. Stir mixture into a pot of boiling salted water and cook, stirring all the while until thickened. Add cheese if you like. Pour into a pan or onto a work surface and let firm up. Cut into wedges and saute in olive oil. Serve as a side dish alongside meat or poultry.

Corn flour: Corn flour is much finer than cornmeal. Use it in baked goods or as a coating before sauteing.

Cornstarch: Cornstarch may be substituted for a small amount of flour in baked goods such as fine-textured cakes and shortbread. If a recipe calls for cake flour, and you don't have any on hand, replace 2 tablespoons of flour with 2 tablespoons of cornstarch for every cup of flour called for. Cornstarch is also used as a thickener. Dissolve cornstarch in cold water before adding it to a pan of simmering liquid or sauce. Cook 1 to 2 minutes, stirring all the while until lightly thickened. It has twice the thickening power of flour.

Oat flour: You can purchase oat flour in may health-food stores, but it's easy enough to make your own. For a particularly nutty tasting oat flour, toast 1-1/4 cups of rolled oats in a 350°F. oven for 7 to 10 minutes until golden brown. Cool to room temperature then grind in a food processor. You can either finely or coarsely grind the oats. Use to replace up to one-fourth of the flour in breads and cookies; adding oat flour to cookie doughs makes the cookies thicker and moister.

Potato flour: This fine textured flour may be used like cornstarch for coating and thickening or to replace some of the flour in baked products. If you can't find potato flour, but can find instant potato flakes, simply grind them in a food processor. Potato flour will impart a slightly potato flavor, but will not overpower. Potato flour can also be used like flour to thicken sauces. Blend with an equal quantity of fat or cold liquid before adding to sauce. Once thickened, do not boil as sauce will thin out.

Quinoa flour: Replace up to half the wheat flour with quinoa flour in general baking recipes, and up to one-fourth of the wheat flour in yeast breads. It will however impart a slightly "green" or raw flavor if too much is used.

Rice flour (white or brown): Use rice flour to coat vegetables, fish, poultry or meats before sauteing as you would use flour or cornstarch to seal in juices. Both white and brown rice flour can be substituted for one-fourth of the wheat flour in general baking recipes. In yeast bread recipes, 7/8 cup of white rice flour can replace 1 cup of all-purpose flour; brown rice flour can replace one-fifth of a wheat flour. Rice flour absorbs more moisture than wheat flour, so more liquid may be needed. Rice flour can also be used for thickening sauces.

Rye flour: Rye flour has a hearty flavor. Both dark and light rye are somewhat denser in texture than wheat flour, so bread made with rye will take longer to rise than bread made with all wheat flour. You may also find that it needs a little more salt than a wheat bread.

Tapioca flour: Made from the cassava root, tapioca makes a delicate coating for sauteing fish, vegetables, poultry or meat. Tapioca flour also makes a clear thickener for puddings and pies.

Triticale flour: Triticale flour can be substituted for half the wheat flour in yeast breads, but the dough should be kneaded gently and given only one rising.

Nutrition Chart

Amaranth/1/2 cup

220
Total fat (g)
3
Saturated fat (g)
0
Monounsaturated fat (g)
--
Polyunsaturated fat (g)
--
Dietary fiber (g)
4
8
Carbohydrate (g)
38
Cholesterol (mg)
0
Sodium (mg)
0
Iron (mg)
14

Buckwheat flour/1/2 cup

201
Total fat (g)
1.9
Saturated fat (g)
0.4
Monounsaturated fat (g)
0.6
Polyunsaturated fat (g)
0.6
Dietary fiber (g)
6
8
Carbohydrate (g)
42
Cholesterol (mg)
0
Sodium (mg)
7
Magnesium (mg)
151
Manganese (mg)
2
Zinc (mg)
1.9

Rye/1/2 cup medium

181
Total fat (g)
0.9
Saturated fat (g)
0.1
Monounsaturated fat (g)
0.1
Polyunsaturated fat (g)
0.4
Dietary fiber (g)
7.5
5
Carbohydrate (g)
40
Cholesterol (mg)
0
Sodium (mg)
2
Manganese (mg)
28
Selenium (mcg)
18

Triticale/1/2 cup

220
Total fat (g)
1.2
Saturated fat (g)
0.2
Monounsaturated fat (g)
0.1
Polyunsaturated fat (g)
0.5
Dietary fiber (g)
9.5
9
Carbohydrate (g)
48
Cholesterol (mg)
0
Sodium (mg)
1
Thiamin (mg)
0.3
Vitamin B6 (mg)
0.3
Copper (mg)
0.4
Magnesium (mg)
100
Manganese (mg)
2.7
Phosphorus (mg)
209
Zinc (mg)
1.7

Oat/1/2 cup

182
Total fat (g)
3
Saturated fat (g)
0
Monounsaturated fat (g)
--
Polyunsaturated fat (g)
--
Dietary fiber (g)
6.1
8
Carbohydrate (g)
30
Cholesterol (mg)
0
Sodium (mg)
0
Thiamin (mg)
0.3


Date Published: 04/20/2005
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