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What non-wheat flours and grains can be used in breads?
There are a number of non-wheat flours that can be used as substitutes for wheat flour in breads. Wheat-free flour can also be used in breads made with wheat flour to enhance the flavor and provide unique texture.
Non-wheat flours and grains that can be used in breads:
Amaranth seeds have a strong, sweet, wild grassy flavor. Amaranth flour is finely ground raw or toasted whole amaranth. Amaranth flour works well in combination with high-protein wheat flour in yeast breads and can be used interchangeably with teff flour to add a distinctly peppery taste to baked goods. It is also excellent in quick breads such as muffins, pancakes, and waffles.
Barley Flour has a chewy texture and a mild, sweet flavor. Hulled pearl barley is ground into a low-gluten flour with a grayish color which gives breads a soft, almost cake-like texture.
Buckwheat Flour is high in protein, but low in gluten, which makes for a tender baked product with an assertive, slightly bitter flavor. Traditionally used to make pancakes, it is best used in combination with other flours to produce full-bodied and tasty multi-grain breads.
Cornmeal comes in several grinds, from fine to coarse. The medium grain is known as polenta and the fine grain as cornmeal. For bread making, cornmeal needs to be combined with white flour since it contains no gluten. Polenta and cornmeal add a sweet flavor and attractive yellow color to the dough. Blue and white cornmeals can be used in the same proportions as yellow cornmeal. Cornmeal is used for sprinkling the pans to prevent sticking. Try these corn bread recipes.
Millet is a tiny, round yellow grain that is a common addition to multi-grain mixtures. It has a slightly mild nutty taste, a fluffy texture, and is very easy to digest. It is used in breads in Europe and Russia to give added texture.
Oatmeal is gluten-free so it needs to be combined with wheat flour for bread making. Whole groats are hulled, steamed, and flattened into flakes. They may be ground into oat flour or cut into pieces to make either fine, medium or coarse oatmeal. All of these ingredients can be used in multi-grain breads to provide a rich flavor and texture. Oatmeal can also be used as a topping on breads and rolls.
Rolled Oats can be added to bread doughs to give a chewy texture and nutty taste, or use as a topping for an attractive finish on rolls and breads. The mild, nutty flavor and moist nubby texture of oats is a favorite in breads that often call for spices, honey, nuts, and dried fruits.
Oat Bran is the outer casing of the oat kernel. It is high in soluble fiber. When using oat bran, you may need to add a little extra liquid to the dough.
Quinoa (pronounced KEEN-wah) has the highest protein content of any grain (about 17 percent). When cooked, the disk-shaped sesame-like grains are translucenter. You can use it as a substitute for cooked rice.
Rice Flour is a non-wheat flour that is perfect for people with gluten intolerances. It can be ground from brown or white rice. Whole, cooked brown and white rice are an excellent addition to breads, adding texture and moisture. Wild rice is not a true rice, it is the seed of an aquatic grass. It can be added to provide beautiful texture and flavor. Ground rice and rice flour are milled from rice grains. Ground rice is more granular, similar to semolina. Either can replace some white bread flour in a recipe to add a sweet flavor and chewy texture to the bread. They can also be used as toppings.
Teff is a member of the millet family and is known for its high pleasantly sweet, almost molasseslike flavor, with the brown variety being the richest in flavor. It is very high in protein, and contains seven times more calcium and iron than wheat. A small proportion of this non-wheat flour combined with bread flour makes delicious light-textured bread with an earthy color and almost malt-sweet flavor.
Specialty non-wheat flours
Specialty flours can be used to make a variety of yeast breads, flatbreads, and quick breads. They lack gluten so they must be used with wheat flour for a traditional textured yeast bread.
Chestnut flour is ground from dried chestnuts and is sweet and nutty in flavor, yet silky in texture. The flour is beige to taupe in color. It is highly perishable so it must be stored in the refrigerator or freezer for freshness. It doesn't contain any gluten and therefore must be used in a small proportion with wheat flour to make a delicate yeast bread.
Chickpea flour is ground from beans that are first lighly heated and gently toasted under radiant heat. This type of flour can be found in natural-food and Indian grocery stores.
Potato flour is finely ground from dehydrated starchy potatoes. The starch, also packaged as potato starch flour, is a very fine white flour that is excellent for baking breads, muffins, pie crusts, and cakes when combined with other specialty flours and gluten flour. Potato starch flour is an important addition to gluten-free breads when combined with other flours such as rice flour, tapioca starch (or cassava flour) or arrowroot. Mealy-textured, high-starch potato varieties, marketed as Idaho or russets, are the best for the mashed potatoes called for in breads.
Soy Flour (shown in the photo) is derived from the soybean seeds (Leguminosae). It is another non-wheat flour that is tolerated well by most people. Soy flour has very little starch, but is extremely high in protein. It is considered a complete protein for the human diet. It is used only as supplement to breads to increase the nutritional protein as it is low in gluten.
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Tips for using non-wheat flours in bread:
- For the best flavor, look for fresh stone-ground corn meal and store it in the freezer.
- Include 1 to 2 tablespoons of millet in a multi-grain bread, or even in a simple basic white loaf.
- For bread making, use the old-fashioned rolled oats rather than the "quick oats".
- Rice flour is gluten-free so only use a small percentage of it with the bread flour.
- Use a one-to-four or one-to-five ratio, or one cup specialty flour to four or five cups wheat flour.
- Potato flour is quite dense and cannot be substituted for potato starch.
- Baked products containing soy flour tend to brown more quickly, so it may be necessary to shorten baking time or lower the temperature just slightly.
What types of non-wheat flours do you use?
Do you enjoy using a special flour or technique? Share how you use wheat-free flours in your bread making.
Hensperger, Beth. Bread Made Easy - A Baker's First Bread Book. Ten Speed Press 2000.
Hensperger, Beth The Pleasure of Whole-Grain Breads. Chronicle Books 2000.
Shapter, Jennie. Bread Machine - How to prepare and bake the perfect loaf. Hermes House 2003.
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