Boy, you should be some kind of pleased we don't hve to go through the hassle of obtaining flour or cornmeal as our forefathers did!. It really wasn't that long ago that we depended on water powered grist mills before we could do ANY baking. But one bit of solace for the children and housewives were
the mill stones many homes had "back in the day". Many families wouldn't think about moving into the rural areas of New England without taking with them their family mill stones, regardless if it weighed only a couple hundred pounds or a thousand. With a smooth base stone and a curved top stone, grains and dried corn was slowly poured into the center hole and when the top stone was turning, the ground product would follow a carved "shoot" that forced the finished product out the sides.
Of course the children or wife would be relegated the distinct pleasure of turning the top stone, but many communities built a grist mill as the first order of business in town.
My father always told me HIS father could gauge how good of a worker my Dad was but how steady Dad could turn the grind stone.
With baking season in full swing among us in the colder climates and the ever increasing threat of celiac disease, understanding our choices of flour is a great way to shake things up in the kitchen. Without rambling on, let's take a peak of choices you may not have thought of, beginning with the standby:
All purpose flour is blended using both hard and soft wheat. You may have also noticed it comes in bleached or unbleached. Simply put, bleached means that it has had edible bleaching agents introduced to make it white, while unbleached(although it is still bleached)has been whitened naturally. Between 8-11% protein(gluten), all-purpose flour is the most easily attainable and widespread utilized flours.
Almond flour, which is gluten-free, has just a touch of almond flavor and should take up no more than a third of the entire amount of flour in any recipe, when combined with other flours. It is great with pies, pastries and sweet breads. It comes in a variety of colors as well, from white to dark brown. You can also make your own flour by using skinkless, blanched almonds. IN a food processor, pulse 1 cup to make 1 cup flour. But only use 2 cups at the most at a time. You don't want to run your processor any longer than needed or you will end up with almond butter.
Amaranth flour has low gluten and is used in the same ratio as almond flour. It has even more protein than wheat flour. Did you know that amaranth seeds were responsible for almost all energy needed by the pre-Spanish conquest Aztecs?
Barley flour, which is also low-gluten and is simply made by grinding barley, contains 4x the fiber of all-purpose purpose flour, so use it as a substitute for up to a quarter of your total content of white flour the next time you make bread. This flour is a tremendous asset to your favorite pancake recipe as well.
Bread flour has more structural strength than all-purpose because of its' higher levels of protein, making it superb for.....well, yeast breads.
Buckwheat flour is gluten-free and has a nutty flavor. It has long been a staple in old Yankee kitchens, especially in pancakes.
Cake flour is much finer than all-purpose and has a high starch content. Lower in protein, you wouldn't think it gives structural substance but because it is chlorinated, it is great for recipes that need to hold their height such as sweet breads and muffins. If you don't hve cake flour but want to try it before you buy it, simply blend 1 cup all purpose flour with 1 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch.
Chickpea flour is aka gram and garbanzo flour. Super low in protein, it is simply made by grinding chickepeas and is traditional in Mid-East cooking. You can substitiute the total flour content of a recipe by half with chickpea flour without damaging the end result in the way of texture. This type of flour is essential in Indian cooking and is available two ways, using roasted gram beans or raw. I highly suggest looking for roasted because it has much less of a bitter flavor. Did I mention that it is gluten-free?
Corn flour is also gluten free and comes in white or yellow, so that the North and South don't start fighting again. It is most welcome in recipes that need help in the binding department, such as crab cakes and croquettes.
Millet flour has a slight sweet flavor and should be used no more than a quarter of the entire flour content of any given recipe. And talk about the health benefits of millet...take a minute and look it up! But also be warned that new studies have shown that too much millet in your diet has adverse effects on your thyroid.
Oat flour is just that, oats that have been ground to a flour. I make this all the time at home because, let's face it, who doesn't have rolled oats laying around? Simply pulse it in a blender or food processor for a minute and there you go. A great partial substitution to all breads.
Pumpernickel flour is also low gluten and made from a combination of rye flour and whole rye berries that have been pulverized. It IS available in its pure form however. If you like old world charm and taste, you have it all in this flour.
Quinoa flour is gluten-free, a great 1:1 mix with all-purpose flour in recipes, but tends to be expensive.
Rice flour can be found in varying colors because it is made from varying rice grains. From white to wild, you can make this at home s well. And as for oat flour, I dare say every single one of you have rice at home that has been sitting up in the cupboard for ages. Take it, pulse it and use it. It's Just That Simple!
Rye flour comes in so many colors it is hard to get any information in one small paragraph. I use white rye in a recipe or two here and there, but this flour can be used by those of you who suffer diabetes because it is low in gluten.
Semolina flour is expensive. That is why most of the time when you see semolina, it is already used in pasta. It has the highest protein of all flours.
Sorghum flour is gluten-free and a superb substitution for whole wheat in bread recipes. This nutritonal powerhouse prvides 50% or your fiber needed for a day in just 1 cup. It is one of the few that is processed using 100% whole grain kernel and is considered one of the top 5 cereal crops grown today. Sorghum blends are also available and widely popular.
Soy flour is gluten-free and can be found in varying levels of fat. REmember that the more fat content of the soy flour you buy, the higher the chance that you will have to keep it refrigerated between uses. Choose wisely when using in any sweet recipe and never use more than a quarter of the entire flour content of any recipe.
Spelt flour is low in gluten and very popular lately because of its nutrional content, fat soluble protein and sweet flavor.
Tapioca flour is gluten free and known as tapioca starch. It is one of the very few flours that actually improves the texture in baked goods when sticking with a gluten-free recipe. It is a superior thickening agent in puddings, fruit pies and desserts.
Teff flour is also gluten free, igher in protein than wheat and is abundant in calcium and iron. Very high in fiber, it is thought to help regulate blood sugar levels, making it a winner with people suffering from diabetes. Athletes are now discovering the "energy properties' of adding teff to their diets.
Whole-wheat flour is low in gluten and also called graham flour. This flour is so-so among all flours and not extraordiary by itself. A good partial substituion for all-purpose flours, however, because it cuts down on the gluten levels of other flours.