Friday, 30 October 2009

Baking Tips 1: Flour

Whatever flour a recipe states, I tend to substitute a different one! This is mostly because I try to turn rather decadent baking offerings into something that can be as healthy as possible whilst still remaining delicious. I very rarely use plain old white flour when baking. Nor do I use self-raising flour as I prefer to add a good quality gluten free raising agent myself. Stoneground wholemeal spelt is my staple - see Ingredients are the Key. It's about the healthiest wheat flour you can get and can often be eaten by those who don't normally fare too well with wheat. However, I will often use a combination of flours depending on what I have to hand and what I feel like using at the time.

The best flour I have ever used was ground less than 1/2 an hour before I used it for baking bread - it was the most delicious bread I think I've ever eaten. Sadly, for most of us our flour is unlikely to be that fresh.

For most cakes I will use half wholemeal spelt and half white spelt as this gives a lighter texture than straight wholemeal. However, I often substitute some other flour for some of the white - buckwheat works particularly well as it is a very fine flour. These are the flours I use on a regular basis. All are, of course, organic.
  • Wholemeal Spelt - see Ingredients are the Key
  • White Spelt - used on those rare occasions when nothing but white flour will do. More often I mix it with wholemeal to lighten a cake or biscuit mixture.
  • Wholemeal - I grew up using only wholemeal flour and until I discovered Spelt, just over a decade ago, this is what I used for all of my baking.
  • Gluten Free - I use this if making cakes for anyone who is wheat or gluten intolerant and sometimes use it for lightening the wholemeal.
  • Quinoa - a white fairly grainy flour which has a particularly high protein content, is meant to be easy to digest and is gluten free.
  • Buckwheat - a very fine grey flour which works really well added to cakes and is also gluten free. Ysanne Spevack is more informative than I am on the subject.
I have just booked onto Baking for a New Food Culture with Andrew Whitley - the Real Bread guru - at Shumacher College in a few weeks time. I'm terribly excited about this and am hoping I will learn heaps more about flour and the best flours to use (as well as bread making of course).

The main thing is not to worry too much about what flour the recipe states, just use whatever you have to hand. If you've never tried using anything but traditional white, you could just try substituting a tbsp with an alternative flour the next time you are baking. See how it goes and if all is well, build on that.

15 comments:

  1. These are great tips Choclette, I will be trying this in my own recipes. My sister is gluten intolerant so I am always looking for ways to substitute the flour. I normally use ground almonds but this can result in a dense sticky texture when a lighter texture would be preferred. Thanks, Kath (The Ordinary Cook)

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  2. Thanks Kath - let me know how you get on.

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  3. Your cookies look great! Love the idea of using different flours, so thank you for the really useful info. I've been using spelt flour recently with good results and like you, try to use organic wherever possible. Will be a regular visitor to your blog!

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  4. Thank you Lili, it's good to know others are trying out different things. Do hope you visit again and hopefully hearing from you from time to time.

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  5. This is great! It's good to see a round-up of different types of flour, people all too often just rely on plain and self-raising, when there are loads of different types to experiment with.

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  6. I like the way you alter cake recipes to make them healthier. I do that too: less sugar and using non-wheat flours. It was useful to hear you rated spelt best, and to hear about white spelt.

    One question. Re: "Nor do I use self-raising flour as I prefer to add a good quality gluten free raising agent myself." What raising agent is that? Bicarb? Not sure. Thanks for explaining.

    Lovely to hear your shout-out for Ysanne Spevack - she proposed my joining the Guild of Food Writers and I am grateful.

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  7. Hey, great post. Could you tell me if you need to adjust the amount of baking powder when converting a cake receipe that calls for white flour into wholewheat (spelt) flour?
    And what kind of ratio of baking powder/soda do you use when you substitute wholemeal flour for self-raising flour? Thanks so much.

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  8. Choclette,
    That baking course looks fantastic. I really envy your opportunity and will read any posts reporting on it with great interest.
    It's nice to see "normal" bakers experimenting with non gluten containing flours. You might like to try millet flour which also works really well - it does have quite a short shelf life but you can store it in the fridge or freezer to extend the life.
    Hope you enjoy the course!
    Kate

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  9. In answer to questions about raising agents, I tend to use a mixture of 2 parts cream of tartar and 1 part bicarbonate of soda. Sometimes I use a bought gluten free baking powder.

    My baking is not an exact science by any means. I use exactly the same amount of baking powder if I'm using wholemeal or white but will vary the amount depending on what I'm making. Mostly, I use 1 tsp baking powder to 4oz flour.

    Thank you to all for your comments and thanks for the tip about millet flour Kate.

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  10. What a lovely blog! Sue suggested I come here to see your version of Dan's chestnut chocolate biscuits as I was wondering what to do with the tin of chestnut puree in the cupboard and how interesting what you write about flours :) Have you tried Shipton Mill's emmer flour in your cakes, it's another old variety? I quite like it. Also wondered if you have ever made Dan Lepard's rye and apple cake? You might like that one too. See you soon again I hope. Zeb

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  11. Hi Zeb - thank you for your kind comment about my blog. How interesting to hear about emmer flour - it's not one I've come across before. I've used Kamut as a whole grain but never as a flour. Also not tried DLs rye and apple cake - sounds interesting too - I'll add that to my list. As for chestnut puree, I've used it in four recipe recently on the blog and it's added a special quality to all of them - couldn't tell you which was my favourite. Hope to hear from you again.

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  12. I am a bit short on the memory front sometimes. I have left you a message at Celia's blog the other day about flour. And as I left it, I thought I have seen your name before only I couldn't place it. Sorry for the repetition, forgive me, getting old :) How was the bread course? Zeb

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  13. Hi Zeb - the course was great. Have you been on an Andrew Whitley course? It sounded as though you had from your rye sourdough comments on Celia's blog. Here's the post I did about the course --http://choclogblog.blogspot.com/2009/12/bread-schumacher.html

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  14. No I haven't met Andrew Whitley, I did a day in the Forest of Dean with Simon Michaels (Wild Yeast Bakery) which started me off and then a day a year or so later with Dan Lepard in London and have had loads of help and advice on Dan's forum too. Both good and you learn so much with hands on learning.... You can't learn it all from a book! Love those blackbottomed cupcakes by the way :)

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  15. Jo - Andrew is famous for his Russian rye starter that he got over in Russia 25 years ago and always gives to those attending his course. I read on Celia's blog that you'd got something similar - hence assuming you must have done one of his courses.

    Keep thinking I should join Dan't forum - it does look useful. It's just one more thing to try and pack in though.

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