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You may have noticed from your social media feed that pandemic life sent droves of people into the kitchen to bake up a storm. And it wasn’t just the all-purpose stuff being used to whip up banana bread and chocolate chunk cookies. The flour aisle in stores is ballooning nearly as fast as Jeff Bezos’ bank account. Manufacturers are grinding up everything from coconut to green bananas to quinoa to even dried crickets to make powders with modern-day appeal. Many of these new flours offer exciting flavor nuances and nutritional perks – and they make it way easier to bake with dietary restrictions.
There’s never been a more exciting time to tap into your inner Martha Stewart and fashion a flour-dusted apron. We sifted through the options and put together a list of the best flours you should start using, all of which will guarantee your next stack of waffles or cookies rise above the rest.
1. Teff Flour
If you’ve eaten the spongy flatbread injera at an Ethiopian restaurant, you’ve been exposed to this flour. Malty-tasting gluten-free teff flour is produced by milling one of the world’s tiniest grains indigenous to Northeast Africa. Because teff’s bran and germ – which are the most nutrient-dense parts of any seed grain – make up such a large percentage of the total volume of teff, it’s particularly nutritious.
Teff contains more energy-boosting, anemia-nixing iron than nearly any other flour on the market. Having healthy iron levels in the blood may be very important for better aging and longevity, researchers recently reported in the journal Nature Communications.
In the Kitchen: Teff flour can star in a range of breakfast favorites and baked goods including waffles, pancakes, muffins, cakes, cookies, brownies and tart crusts. It’s particularly great in any recipe using cocoa powder. You can also try it in flatbread recipes. A good rule of thumb is to start by substituting teff for about 25 percent of the regular flour called for in a recipe and then experiment from there.
Best Buy: Bob’s Red Mill Stone Ground Teff Flour
2. Tiger Nut Flour
This newfangled option comes neither from nuts or felines. Instead, tiger nut flour is made by grinding up a roasted marble-sized tuber called chufa nuts or earth almonds. These nuts get their name from the stripes on their exterior. Those with nut allergies as well as anyone adhering to a grain-free, gluten-free or paleo diet can enjoy foods made with this flour. It has a mild, nutty flavor with the slightly sweet and earthy essence of a root vegetable.
And tiger nut flour is so fibrous it makes All-Bran worried: a quarter cup has a whopping 9 grams of fiber. That means anything made with the stuff will result in a more subdued blood sugar response and also be more filling. Some of this fiber is in the form of resistant starch, a unique type of non-digestible carb that bacteria in our guts work on to produce health-hiking compounds like short-chain fatty acids.
In the Kitchen: You can try using tiger nut flour in gluten-free or grain-free cookie, muffin and other baked good recipes. Or, start by substituting this alternative for ¼ cup of the flour called for in your favorite recipes like pancakes. You may need to add a bit more liquid to your recipe to keep things tender as the abundance of fiber can soak up liquid up like a sponge. Use it as a binding ingredient in veggie burgers and other savory dishes; it also works as a breading. You can even stir tiger nut flour into oatmeal or blend it into smoothies for a fiber boost.
Best Buy: Pamela’s Organic Tiger Nut Flour
3. Garbanzo Bean Flour
This flour might be relatively ignored in most American households, but it’s a common ingredient in Indian, Middle Eastern, Asian and European cuisines. Also called besan flour, it’s made by simply grinding up dried chickpeas into fine, yellow-tinged powder with only a hint of beany flavor.
Due to its legume origins, garbanzo flour is a notable source of plant-based protein (5 grams in a ¼ cup serving), fiber and a range of micronutrients including magnesium, copper, bone-benefitting phosphorus and folate, a vitamin tied to lower inflammation and diabetes risk in adulthood. All of these are nutrition areas where chickpea flour reigns supreme over the wheat variety.
In the Kitchen: Garbanzo flour can star in a host of savory recipes like falafels, crackers, flatbreads, crepes, and pizza crusts. You’ll want to try it in socca pizza – you’ll be impressed. It’s a good binder for fritter, meatloaf and other recipes and can also be used as a thickener for stews, gravies and sauces. Some bakers will also sneak it into muffins, chocolate chip cookies and scones. As with all unfamiliar gluten-free flours, it’s best to start with a recipe that specifically calls for the chickpea variety to see how it behaves.
Best Buy: Just About Foods Organic Chickpea Flour