Let’s start with a little Flour 101 here.
Traditional white flour that our grandmothers have used for centuries is made from wheat grain kernels. The kernel itself has three layers: the bran, the germ and the endosperm. The bran contains fibre, the germ - nutrients and fats and the endosperm contains starch. Back in the days when all flour was ground by stone mills, it was good for you because slow grinding ensured that all three layers of the grain are eaten together.
Nowadays, however, we use steel roller mills, which remove the bran and the germ, leaving us with nutrient-poor flour made from the starchy endosperm. It’s not only removing the outer layers that make white flour bad for you but also bleaching it with chlorine oxide later to improve colour, the gluten and subsequent baking quality. Bleaching flour may also produce dangerous byproducts like alloxan, essentially a poison that can cause diabetes.
Here are some healthy alternatives to white flour that you can easily use in place of white flour while baking. A word of caution, though: in many baked goods you can't simply replace the flour 1:1 because it may dramatically alter the texture and flavour.
Whole wheat flour
Unlike its refined counterpart, whole wheat flour contains the bran, the germ and the endosperm. This composition ensures that all nutrients like calcium, magnesium, potassium and vitamins are preserved. Health benefits of whole wheat are plentiful: it helps to control weight, improves metabolism, prevents diabetes, reduces inflammation and ensures a healthy lifestyle. However, baking with whole wheat flour frequently produces drier and coarser texture products. To avoid it, try the following tips:
- When baking with whole wheat flour, let the batter rest and hydrate before baking: it will become softer.
- Leave the finished product overnight: it will let the product become moister and ultimately taste better.
Buckwheat flour has actually nothing to do with wheat, rather it’s an ancient grain that is widely used in traditional eastern European cuisines. Buckwheat is high in protein, fibre, as well zinc, copper, potassium and manganese. Gluten-free, it can be used to make delicious pancakes and crepes. Due to its unique texture and flavour, however, it cannot be substituted easily for white or whole wheat flour.
Almond flour is made from very finely ground almonds and can be used for baking cakes, muffins and even bread! It’s gluten-free, low in carbohydrates and high in fibre and protein. Dense in nutrients, It also boasts iron, riboflavin, magnesium, potassium and calcium. In almost all recipes you can replace 25 percent of the flour called for with almond flour.