Whether you have to bake for someone who needs a gluten-free diet, or you just want to experiment with new kinds of flour, there is a whole world of nuts, grains, and cereals to discover. All flours have their own set of properties for you to use in your baking and offer a completely different cake, bread or muffin. Some flours are better suited to different baked goods, but it’s ultimately up to you to choose the flour you want to use. With the rise of more people experimenting with their baking, and more people enjoying a gluten-free diet, we thought we’d provide you with a bit more information on some of the most popular alternatives to wheat flour.
Semolina is used for a variety of baking and food production processes and is the purified and coarse wheat middlings of durum wheat. It is used throughout Europe, the Middle East and some parts of Africa to make a variety of sweet and savoury dishes eaten at all times of the day.
You may wish to use semolina to flour your baking surface as a way to prevent sticking. If you’re making bread, a small amount of semolina added to your bread flour will produce a particularly tasty crust that’ll impress anyone who tries it.
Closely related to common wheat, spelt is seeing a revival in popularity as a health food and a product in organic farming, as it requires less fertiliser. Spelt flour is becoming ever increasingly available, offering a slightly sweet and nutty flavour when used in bread baking. Before you buy spelt flour, you may want to buy some spelt bread, biscuits, crackers or even pretzels to see and taste the effect it has on baking.
Almond flour is made through the grinding of blanched, or skinless, sweet almonds. It has a relatively coarse texture, more similar to corn meal than wheat flours.
Almond flour is most often associated with pastries and confectionery. Sweet pastries, including almond macarons and cake and pie fillings such as Sachertorte, all use almond flour. Almond flour is also one of the key ingredients in marzipan and almond paste. The French traditional galette des Rois cake relies on almond flour to make the frangipane, the cake's traditional filling.
Almond flour will provide you with a rich nutty taste when used in baked good, and is good in terms of offering moisture. It’s ideal for people who’re on a low carbohydrate diet; although items baked with almond flour will be high in calories.
Hazelnut flour or hazelnut paste is used not only to make confectionery such as pralines but as a key ingredient in making tortes, multi-layered cakes that are filled with a variety of additional ingredients, such as fruits, mousses, buttercream, whipped cream or jam. Hazelnuts, along with sugar, eggs and possibly flavourings provide the base to the cake, rather than flour.
Whilst you may not be able to use it as an entire substitute, hazelnut flour is a great ingredient to experiment with once you have your confidence with baking at a high level.
Coconut flour is far more absorbent than wheat flour, so very little is needed for a successful recipe. You’ll need to use more eggs with coconut flour than you would with wheat flour, about six beaten eggs and additional coconut milk for every cup of coconut flour.
Coconut flour tends to be clumpy, so to produce a fine-textured product at the end, you need to ensure it’s thoroughly beaten with other ingredients before baking.
Coconut flour is a rich source of fat, fibre and protein, making it extremely filling. It also contains lauric acid which promotes healthy skin, and manganese which supports bone growth, thyroid health and optimal blood sugar levels.
Rice flour is a good alternative to wheat flour when making cakes and muffins. It’s commonly used to make sweetbreads as well. Due to the properties of rice flour, it’s often used as a thickening agent, so you may want to use an electronic whisk. As the properties of rice flour can vary from wheat flour, it’s always best to follow specific rice flour- based recipes, rather than trying to adapt recipes using wheat flours.