baking, Holiday Baking, Uncategorized

Going Against the Grains

The holidays are upon us and I’ve got a sudden itch to get in the kitchen and start baking stuff. Of course, I’ve been trying to avoid white flour and white sugar, and, I’m aware of all the people out there with gluten sensitivities, so I want to bake items that can be enjoyed by everyone.

There are so many different types of flours and grains out there, and I find it very confusing. I thought it might be helpful for you (and for me) to have a breakdown of some of the different types of flours and grains that are available. Hope this helps make your holiday baking stress-free!

Wheat Flours
Wheat flours contain gluten so if you are baking for someone with Celiac disease or a gluten sensitivity, you’ll want to steer clear of these four flours.

1. Whole wheat flour has a pronounced earthiness with raw-sugar overtones and a bit of bitterness similar to that of red wine or coffee. Whole wheat flour is great for hearty chewy breads, cookies, and brownies.
2. Whole wheat pastry flour is a more finely ground flour that tastes just regular whole wheat flour. It’s best used for tender crusts, cakes, and pancakes.
3. Graham flour is a coarsely ground flour from hard red wheat berries. It has a rustic taste with faint honey notes. It’s an excellent flour for crisp crackers and pie crusts.
4. Spelt is a terrific one-to-one substitute for all-purpose flour. It has a sweet and mild taste, reminiscent of toasted walnuts. Spelt flour can do anything that white flour can do, so if you’re trying to avoid the white stuff like I am, spelt is a great alternative.

Hearty Grains
Barley and rye are probably the most commonly-known flours (next to white flour) and boast a rich, malty flavor. Both have small amounts of gluten, so again, if gluten is not your friend, these will not be your friend either.

1. Barley flour has a caramelized nutty taste similar to that of browned butter. Barley flour can be used to make smooth and buttery cookies, cakes, quick breads, and crusts.
2. Rye flour is milled with the germ, bran, and endosperm, and then sifted. The taste echoes that of malted milk. The darker the flour the stronger the flavor, so it’s best to think about what you are baking when choosing your rye flour. Rye flour can be used for breads, crusts, cookies, scones, waffles, and pancakes; so as you can see, it’s a very versatile flour.
3. Oat flour has a milky, mild sweetness and is great for chewy muffins, cookies, scones, biscuits, pancakes, and waffles, and works best when it’s combined with other grains or white flour. If you are baking for someone with just a mild gluten sensitivity, mixing a little oat flour with your white flour might be okay (but you’ll want to check with them first).
4. Buckwheat flour is ground from fruit seeds related to sorrel and rhubarb. Buckwheat has a nutty taste that may make you think of mushrooms or red wine. When mixed with wheat flour, it can make amazing griddle foods like pancakes, crepes, and waffles.

Ancient Grains
Technically, these aren’t all that old, but they have been dubbed “ancient grains” recently; probably by all those marketing gurus out there. These grains can be used in baking when combined with other flours, such as wheat or white flour.

1. Amaranth is a fine, powdery grind from the seeds of a leafy plant. It has a distinct grassy taste that is an acquired taste for some. It’s great for making denser baked goods like muffins, cookies, cakes, pancakes, and waffles.
2. Quinoa is not just for salads and porridge, it can also be used for baking, again, when combined with other flours. It has a hint of toasted sesame that adds a rustic, hearty flavor to baked goods such as moist and chewy cookies, muffins, cakes, and quick breads.
3. Millet is a finely ground grain with a mild and sweet taste. It’s best used for more delicate baking like cakes and cakey cookies.

There you have it, your go-to grain guide for holiday baking! Hope it helps!

While we’re here, please allow me to take a moment to wish you all a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday. You can be sure when I count my blessings this year, I’ll be counting all of you twice!

Take care of yourself, be nice to yourself, and be well, and until next time – veg in, don’t veg out.


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