There is such a variety of flours available today to cook/bake with that its sometimes hard to know which one to use, or what properties a certain flour has, so here I have done my best to summarise a few points on the ones I am familiar with.
Now this is probably the most commonly used flour, it can be easily found in many processed food & is often fortified as the white version (outer bran removed) is most popular, however the wholegrain-whole-wheat version is higher in fibre so therefore more filling, healthier and doesn’t spike energy levels as quickly as the white version. While this flour is readily available, it is not suitable for those who cannot have gluten and so these people should try some of the gluten free (GF) options below.
Spelt flour can be confusing as it is from the same family as wheat however, it does not contain wheat but does contain gluten. Although there is still gluten in this flour, some people with digestive issues can still consume spelt products without much or any discomfort as the gluten in it breaks down easier than other grains. I use spelt a lot as it provides the benefits of wholegrain but is not as coarse as wholewheat flour so delivers a smoother texture. I love using it to make healthier scones.
I have used this one to make a sourdough and the taste/texture isn’t too far off whole-wheat flour (but is finer) so it won’t be much of a shock to those who haven’t used it before.
Here is a link for a spelt flour brownie recipe that uses only naturally occurring sugars-enjoy!:
A misnomer. This flour does not contain wheat; it was simply named like this due to it being similar in looks to wheat when it was first discovered. Buckwheat is naturally gluten free (GF) but may have been contaminated with gluten via the growing process so double check the labels to be certain. Buckwheat is one of my favourite flours, it has a nutty flavour to it and works really well as a pizza base. However it may have a slight after taste so in recipes that don’t have strong flavours throughout it e.g pancakes, scones etc it’s best used in a 50:50 ratio with other flours eg spelt, rice or ground almonds. I also use a buckwheat based pasta which is awesome!
Rice flour is GF and so can be used by those suffering from coeliacs disease. Again, as with wheat, the white version is more popular but the wholegrain variety is healthier & with more fibre. However, be careful where you source your rice flour from (and other rice products) as this grain can be high in arsenic depending on where it was grown. Those originating from Europe and America tend to be higher than those grown in India, although this may change with the varying weather climates & global warming, therefore always try to check before you buy. It’s best to do your research on your rice products before buying. This should get better as the years go on as the brands are lowering the acceptable limits more and more, the UK has tried to do this recently so hopefully this will improve the matter.
Here is a link to a brief discussion with Dr Meharg on his work on arsenic in rice.
A GF, low carb flour that it filled with fibre and healthy fat. However, it can be a bit dry if too much is used which is easy to do as it absorbs more moisture than normal flours but it’s good for thickening up mixtures. Coconut flour differs from shredded coconut as the flour has had most of the fat removed to make it lighter/fluffier, the same applies to almond flour but double check the pack as some brands don’t do this yet still call it a flour when it’s actually just finely ground coconut/almonds. Tip: when using this flour, be careful how much you use when compared to a normal recipe as it absorbs moisture at a rapid rate so you usually need about a third of the amount that the recipe suggests unless it is a recipe specifically for a fat reduced coconut flour in which case this will already have been considered.
|The look & texture of coconut flour
Quinoa (pronounced “keen-wah”) is rapidly growing in popularity and now the flour version is available, again it is GF, high fibre and a good quality protein as it contains all 9 essential amino acids. However, personally I wasn’t fond of the flavour it provided, but everyone has their own taste.
(FYI-quinoa is actually a seed, not a grain, the same applies to buckwheat)
A low carb, GF flour which can be easily incorporated into recipes, as can ground almonds although the flour version is usually better value for money and is fluffier/less dense than ground almonds if some fat has been removed (check the pack carefully as some brands don’t do this). Almonds are packed full of nutrition as is the flour, so is a great option to use and ground almonds provide a good “breadcrumb” texture to dishes.
Rye flour contains gluten in small amounts but is wheat free and often used for sourdough recipes. It has a nutty flavour to it but the colour is a little grey so if you are using it for buns or a fun recipe then I’d advise adding some colour into your recipe along the way to stop the final result looking a little sad.
AKA gram flour, this is a yellowish flour that’s great for making grain free pancakes etc with and has good fibre content so great for keeping the tummy full.
Cornflour is GF and quite popular for adding texture and bulk to sauces and recipes, polenta is a dish made with cornflour and makes quite nice, lighter chips from my experience in certain restaurants.
There are other flours out there such as millet etc however I have not used these myself. As you can see, depending on your taste/diet issues there are a whole host of flours available to choose from that are far more healthy than the usual plain white flour so I encourage people to be adventurous and begin trying a few. Maybe even getting some friends to do the same, with each of you trying to bake with a different flour and bringing the result into work/uni, that way you can find the flour that’s right for you without breaking the bank =)
My spiced squash loaf using fat reduced coconut flour