Web Only ArticleOctober 13, 2010

Flour Power!

Boost the protein and fiber in your gluten-free baked goods with bean flours.

There’s more to gluten-free baking than rice flour and tapioca starch. Much more. From beans and grains to tubers and seeds, there’s a rich and wonderful array of delicious and nutritious flours waiting for you.

Baking gluten-free requires using a mix of flours. If you’re new to gluten-diet baking, start with one of Living Without’s standard blends or purchase an all-purpose commercial blend at your local natural food store. When you’re comfortable with the nuances of a basic gluten-free blend, try introducing new flour varieties slowly into your repertoire. In time, you’ll be able to customize recipes to your individual preferences.

Knowing the properties and uses for alternative flours sets you on track for selecting the ones best suited for each baking application. Once you learn how to use these flours, you can continue making your favorite foods without compromising taste and texture. In fact, you can add essential vitamins, minerals, protein and fiber to your baked goods, fortifying your diet in flavorful ways.

Baking with Bean Flours

Bean flours are some of the most nutritious flours you can toss into brownies, cakes and pancake batter. They are high in protein, fiber and calcium. Varieties include chickpea (garbanzo), bean (navy, pinto and red) and soy. Garfava flour is a blend of flours made from garbanzo, fava beans and Romano beans. These flours work best with heavier foods, such as breads and spice cakes. Store them at room temperature or in the refrigerator.

How to use: Try mixing bean flour with tapioca flour, cornstarch and sorghum flour for a hearty, nutritious blend that lends structure and texture to your baking. Use these flours as less than 30 percent of total flour blend. A small amount (¼ to ½ cup) added to pie crust or wraps makes these items more elastic and easier to roll out.

“Bean flours adds richness and complexity to baked goods, but they’re mild enough that items won’t taste bean-y,” says Matt Cox, a gluten-free specialist at Bob’s Red Mill. Cox suggests starting by replacing ¼-½ cup of the flour a recipe calls for with bean flour and see if you like the results.

“Garbanzo, fava and white bean flours are best for use in light-color baked goods because they don’t alter the color,” Cox advises. Try darker bean flours, like black bean, in chocolate baked recipes.

Watch out for: If you’re soy allergic, don’t use soy flour. Certain bean flours, particularly garfava and chickpea, impart an aftertaste that some people find unpleasant. Offset the taste by using less than 30 percent in a flour blend in recipes that contain brown sugar, molasses, chocolate or spices. Bean flours are not well suited to delicate baked goods, like sugar cookies.

Try this Gluten-free All-Purpose Flour Blend by Matthew Kadey, RD: Combine ½ cup brown rice flour with 1½ cups sorghum flour, 1½ cups potato starch or cornstarch, 1 cup tapioca starch/flour and ½ cup bean flour. Blend ingredients together. Store in a tightly sealed container until used.


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