Exploring Alternative Flours
Author: Shyn Ru Looi
Photographer: Hsin Min Zee
Modern-day baking is venturing into territories that aren't so typical of our everyday conception of baked goods. There are more and more peculiar ingredients popping up in recipes, making it difficult to bake with just the regular pantry ingredients our grandmothers would have used. So what exactly are these new, peculiar ingredients?
Welcome to the world of alternative flours: buckwheat flour, almond flour, spelt flour, rye flour, and even banana flour! Whether you have dietary restrictions, want to hop on the healthy eating bandwagon, or are just curious to try something new, this writeup covers a few types of alternative flours you can explore in your baking.
Being relatively new to the world of alternative flours, I decided to opt out of recipes that completely replace all purpose flour. Instead, I wanted to see how partial substitution with alternative flours would alter the taste and texture of baked goods. I decided to test the use of alternative flours in different cookie recipes because they are relatively simple to make and lend themselves to allowing any textural changes to shine through. And besides, who doesn't like cookies? So, a tiny disclaimer here: if you are looking for recipes that completely omit AP flour, scuttle away now! But if I’ve got your curiosity tingling, scroll through to find deliciousness awaiting.
Just a quick primer on each of the alternative flours I used here:
Coconut flour is a soft, naturally grain and gluten-free flour made from dried coconut meat. Its texture resembles grated coconut but to a finer extent. It is relatively higher in protein, fibre and fat content while having a lower carbohydrate content compared to other flours. Coconut flour also contains manganese, iron, potassium, phosphorus, selenium and Vitamin B6, all of which are important nutrients and minerals for our bodies. One thing to note about coconut flour is that it actually absorbs more water than regular AP flour, so do not ever substitute it 1:1. If you’re new to alternative flours, I’d highly suggest referring to recipes to get you started.
Oat flour is gluten-free form of whole grain flour made from whole oats that have been ground into fine powder . Oat flour gives your baked goods a crumblier and chewier texture, but adding too much might cause your baked good to be denser and heavier in texture. If you are aiming for a light and fluffy texture, you might want to consider other options.
Spelt flour is stone-ground from an easily digestible ancient grain that is a primitive relative of modern wheat. Spelt is mainly comprised of carbs but it has a lot of additional nutrients like manganese, magnesium, calcium, selenium and vitamins B1, B6 and E. Because it is a relative of modern wheat, spelt flour is not suitable for people with gluten intolerance or wheat allergy. It's high in protein and has a nutty, complex flavor that's sweeter and lighter than that of whole wheat. When used in small amounts, they will give your baked goods a soft and moist texture, but too much will render your baked goods dry.
Almond flour and almond meal are terms that can be used interchangeably as they both are essentially finely ground up almond nuts. The consistency of it feels more similar to corn meal than wheat flour. Though it does not contain as much carbohydrate, because it is derived from a nut, the fat content is more than regular AP flour. Almond flour imparts a rich nutty taste and results in a slightly grittier end product. Like other alternative flours, almond flour contains a lot of different nutrients like protein, manganese, vitamin E, monounsaturated fats and fiber.
And now, it’s cookie time, folks!
Spelt Dark Chocolate Chunk Cookies
1 6/8 stick unsalted butter, cubed
1 ⅓ cups + 1 tbsp light brown sugar, packed
⅓ cups + 2 tbsp granulated sugar
1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
1 ¼ cups spelt flour
1 ¼ tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 large egg
1 tbs. vanilla extract
8 oz dark chocolate, roughly chopped
Melt the cubed butter in a saucepan on medium-low heat, stirring occasionally. Once melted, let the butter cool in a large mixing bowl. Add both sugars and whisk till combined thoroughly.
In a different bowl, whisk together all the dry ingredients except for the chocolate.
Add the egg into the sugar-butter mixture and whisk until smooth and glossy. Add the vanilla extract and continue whisking till combined.
Use a spatula to mix half of the dry ingredients into the bowl. Add the remaining dry ingredients until just combined. Fold in the chocolate chunks.
Cover the completed dough with a saran wrap and chill for 30-60 minutes
Preheat the oven to 350 F. Using an ice cream scoop or tablespoon, scoop the dough generously and roll into balls.
Arrange the cookie dough balls on a parchment-lined baking tray and bake for 9-11 minutes. About halfway into baking, take the cookie pan out for a brief moment and tap them on the counter. This allows the cookies to flatten and the chocolate to pool and melt evenly.
Remove the cookies from the oven and let them cool before consuming.
These are soft and almost melt in your mouth when eaten straight out of the oven. Once cooled, they are slightly chewy and 100% magic.
Recipe adapted from: https://www.butterandbrioche.com/home/spelt-dark-chocolate-chunk-cookies
Coconut Almond Shortbread
1/4 cup coconut flour
1/4 cup almond flour
1/4 cup sugar
½ stick unsalted butter, softened
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 large egg
Preheat the oven to 400 F. Line a baking tray with parchment paper.
Combine all ingredients in a bowl and mixed till well combined
Using a teaspoon, scoop some of the dough onto the prepared baking sheet. Leave at least 1 inch between each cookie.
Use a fork to flatten each cookie to about 1/4 inch thick, making a cross-hatch design.
Bake the cookies for 8 to 12 minutes, until just browned on the bottom. Allow the cookies to cool completely on the baking sheet before consuming
Incredible coconutty flavor in every crispy, buttery bite.
Recipe adapted from: https://www.allrecipes.com/recipe/242472/gluten-free-coconut-flour-shortbread-cookies/
Spiced Oatmeal Cookies
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
1/3 cup packed coconut sugar
2 tbsp white granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 ½ tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp cinnamon
½ tsp nutmeg
½ tsp baking soda
¼ tsp baking powder
¼ tsp fine sea salt
1 ¾ cup old-fashioned oats
⅓ cup oat flour
⅓ cup white whole wheat flour
Preheat the oven to 325°F. Line a baking tray with parchment paper.
Combine the butter, coconut sugar and white sugar and beat them together until they are fully incorporated and lighter in color.
Add the egg and vanilla and beat well, until the mixture is light and fluffy.
Add the cinnamon, nutmeg, baking soda, baking powder and salt, and blend until well combined.
Add the oats, oat flour and whole wheat flour. Use a spatula to thoroughly combine the mixture. Do not over-mix the dough.
Scoop about 1 tablespoon of dough for each cookie onto the baking tray, leaving at least 2 inches of space between each cookie.
Bake the cookies for 12 to 13 minutes, until they’re a light golden brown with slightly darker edges. The middle of the cookies might look a tiny bit shiny, but the cookies will continue to bake as they cool on the pan. Remove the cookies from oven.
Let the cookies cool completely on the pan before handling (these cookies are delicate when warm).
This is my least favorite cookie of the bunch. It’s chewy and full of fragrant spices, but if you’re looking for a crispy cookie (which I generally love), this won’t be your go-to recipe. It does make for a good breakfast cookie though!
Recipe adapted from: https://cookieandkate.com/spiced-oatmeal-cookies-recipe/fbclid=IwAR3ghmAbdBvzf8PAf4D9QXggCRftioBBhL5oJJ9cDnenDNSxy-kkM9O9X7g