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substituting different types of flour for white?

  • m

i've been experimenting with substituting oat/wheat/soy flours in recipes that call for all-purpose white flour. i've had terrible results in sweet things like cookies when i use too much soy; it gives things a funky odor. in muffins, it's ok as long as i keep the amount low.

do you think there's anything i can do in cakes? i know white flour gets the best results in terms of texture and flavor, but i'm trying to 1) make cholesterol-fighting treats and 2) lower the carb content.

sounds more like i'm concocting a medication, but if you have any suggestions (specifically for pumpkin cake), let me know.


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  1. As you may be aware, the problem you face in baking is that wheat flours have fairly specific protein-gluten characteristics that are not found in non-wheat flours, and thus are difficult or impossible to replicate with the latter. Anthing that requires a structure to trap air pockets is much more readily accomplished with wheat flours, because the gluten in wheat can work miracles in the regard compared to any other flour.

    I don't understand how substituting other flours for wheat flour would lower the carb content, though. All flours are full of carbs. Some just have better protein profiles than others; wheat is actually one of the better ones in this regard (particularly harder wheats, the ones you use for bread rather than cake).

    2 Replies
    1. re: Karl S.

      You should check out any good basic bread baking book for the formula for "Cornell Triple Enriched Bread" . This is a recipe for bread developed by a nutritionist at Cornell University, enriched with soy flour, and I think dry milk and wheat germ, to increase the protein content and nutritional value. The recipe also tells you how to do this for anything you bake. Basically you replace some of each cup of flour in the recipe with specific amounts of these three things. I haven't done it, but I think they tell you it won't affect the taste or texture.

      1. re: ruth arcone

        Here's a link to the recipe for Cornell Bread:

        Link: http://cuinfo.cornell.edu/Campus/Info...

    2. c
      Caitlin McGrath

      Cakes that need a fine crumb to be "right" to many people - namely butter cakes and their relations, like pound cakes and chiffon cakes, will not get them without white flour. But if you can deal with a "heartier" texture in things like muffins and quick breads, I suggest whole wheat pastry flour. It is more finely milled than standard whole wheat flour and has a lower protein content, so it behaves much like AP flour. It has a milder wheat taste than plain WW flour, but is not entirely "neutral" vs AP. Unfortunately, I think the only way to really lower carbs from baked goods in your diet and still eat palate-pleasing food is just to eat baked goods less frequently.

      1. i actually just bought a sack of whole wheat pastry flour (arrowhead mills) and i think i'll mix that in with oat and AP flour in the pumpkin bread/cake.

        after looking at the cornell bread recipe, i can see why my own muffins and cookies (made with soy flour) taste kinda weird--i use much higher proportions of soy to regular flour. i guess there's only so much you can substitute with soy because of it's heaviness and beany odor.

        any experience with oat flour? it's supposed to be pretty light too, but i haven't tried it in a recipe by itself...

        2 Replies
        1. re: m00ncakes

          Hi! I used to get the same oat flour package with the excellent pancake recipe on. the new packaging doesn't have it, and I never saved it. Do you still have it by any chance? Please?

          1. re: m00ncakes

            WW pastry flour is the answer if you are baking. You could sneak in some oat flour without too much disturbance in taste and texture.

          2. I've had good results lowering cholesterol with the help of oat products,and especially with oat bran added whenever I can sneak it in. Arrowhead Mills oat flour (can't get it at Bristol Farms anymore--Wild Oats still has it) has a good pancake recipe on the package. (I slip some of the bran, available at Trader Joe's, into the recipe & lots of fruit--frozen blueberries, etc, and buttermilk). They are delicious, nothing medicinal about 'em. Food shouldn't be punishment! Oat flour is also good in waffles.

            I agree with the others about whole wheat pastry flour--I finally got a pretty good whole wheat pizza dough using it, after frustrating results w/ regular whole wheat flour. I also use it in cookies: recently made choc. chip cookies for a bakesale which were a hit. And home made whole wheat bread can't be beat, using the regular grind. Not only is it more nutritious than white, I love the flavor.

            Cheese, however, is still a weakness for me. Can't abide the lowfat cheddars, etc. & so far can't give up cheese.

            I agree that the soy flour is hard to use & can be pretty unpalateable.

            There are supplements which may help: guggul, from a tree in India, folic acid, etc.

            And don't forget, a glass of wine or beer can be a good thing!

            4 Replies
            1. re: Babette

              if you have a minute, would you mind sharing your recipe for choc. chip cookies w/whole wheat flour?

              1. re: m00ncakes

                Whole Wheat Chocolate Chip Cookies

                (This is basically a variation on the toll house recipe on the package, and you will probably want to experiment to suit your preferences).

                Combine in a small bowl:

                2 1/2 c. whole wheat pastry flour
                1tsp. baking soda
                1tsp salt

                Combine in mixing bowl:

                1 c. butter, softened (some people prefer to melt it)
                1 1/2 c. organic sugar, or use half brown sugar and half organic sugar--or use all brown sugar for a more butterscotchy flavor
                2 tsp. real vanilla extract, some people prefer more
                2 eggs
                2 c. chocolate chips (experiment to find what kind you like--I don't think Nestles are that great but they will do. Trader Joe has some which aren't bad. There must be some really great ones out there--anyone?)
                1tsp milk (optional-supposed to make more tender)
                (I don't use nuts)

                Combine all ingredients & drop by rounded spoonfuls onto nonstick pan. Bake at 375 degrees or till done, 10 or so minutes. Remove & let cool very briefly before removing from pan, then cool on rack.

                I have to caution that I am using a 1920's Chambers fireless gas oven, so temperatures are approximate here--the gas flips off when the "specified" temp is reached. I just have to watch things, or if it's crucial for meat, I'll use an oven thermometer. Needless to say, things don't always come out exactly the same every time around here. This last batch was nicely crispy.

              2. re: Babette

                dear sir,i want the names of all types of flour.and their colour.

                1. re: roshan

                  Not the original poster, but we use millet flour, quinoa flour, buckwheat flour, garbanzo flour, amaranth flour, sorghum flour, etc. We grind all but the last ourselves. They range from off-white, to yellowing, to tan. We have also used teff flour which is darker brown. I'm gluten-free which is why we use alternative flours.

              3. I too have pondered these questions...but last week we bought Shirley Corriher's book "Cookwise" on Amazon.com and most of our questions are answered. For years I have bitched at my wife for the lack of reference material on the "whys" of cooking and baking. At last, Eureka!

                1 Reply
                1. re: Jim H.

                  In the six years since this reply was written Corriher has written another book, "Bakewise" I think, which will surely also address these issues.

                  It is worth noting that not only does the type of flour matter greatly, but in the case of most baked goods it also matters whether the flour is bleached or unbleached. Short answer---use bleached flour for cakes, not unbleached. Corriher explains why--has to do with the effect of the bleaching agents on crumb development and thus texture.

                2. Have you considered adding Hy-Maize? It is resistant corn starch, you don't digest it so it helps lower the carbs in baked goods. They sell it on the King Arthur website, where they explain it better than I can. It is fairly expensive but you only use a small amount in each recipe. It is sold as an additive for diabetics but the result is the same for anyone.

                  1. the cake recipes in my gluten free kitchen cookbook call for potato starch. that's not going to be lower carb or fight cholesterol, though, unfortunately.

                    1. Has anyone here tried using rice flour? If so what are your thoughts. Baking, breads, crackers other...

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: Sal Vanilla

                        sal, sorry to leave you hanging. i thought i responded to you earlier, but i guess i forgot to click on "post" before i went off to do something else.

                        i have used rice flour in a few breads and cakes, generally mixed in with bean flours to help retain the moisture. otherwise, it loses its pliancy very quickly after it cools. certain breads like iddly (a south indian breakfast muffiny thing) are often made only with rice flour and the result can be delicious -- very light and fluffy if you steam it properly.

                        crackers i've never made, but there are a lot of commercial rice crackers out there, which makes me think the results could be pretty good at home.

                        1. re: Sal Vanilla

                          We use brown rice flour in combination with other flours like millet, quinoa, buckwheat, etc. for bread, muffins, pizza dough, and cookies. One needs to use xanthan gum, in most cases, to hold things together.

                        2. I think the query is soliciting ideas for baking, but I have subsituted whole wheat flour as a thickener in ingredients that call for white flour (like some stew type dishes), and also I use it as a base for gravies and roux. It even makes a nice bechamel type sauce.

                          1. It takes a special mix to duplicate the things that wheat flour does. If you don't have to cut it out of your diet (like I do) then I would still use some in your baking.
                            That being said you can substitute with a mix of other flours. For baking I mix different proportions of rice (white and brown), amaranth, quinoa, tapioca, and soy flours.Also mixing in some different starches as well. Save the bean and teff flours for things like bread where you want t 'heartier' taste.
                            If you are serious about cutting out the wheat flour it can be done - but search out some gluten free/wheat free recipes to teach you the basics. Also make sure to add some xanthan or guar gum to help keep things together and you will need to add something extra to help with the lifting/chewiness that these flours don't naturally have (gelatin, eggs baking powder, etc)
                            Good Luck!

                            1. King Arthur's White Whole Wheat Flour is NOT a blend of white and whole wheat. It is whole wheat flour ground differently - check their site for details - which removes some of the strong, bitter aftertaste that regular whole wheat can have. I routinely swap it in for a third to a half of the regular white all-purpose (bleached or un) in virtually all recipes. Some things don't rise as much, but it's not a big difference and does improve the nutritional value somewhat. For cookies, I use just the white whole wheat. Better flavor, I think.

                              2 Replies
                              1. re: greygarious

                                The white whole wheat isn't ground differently; rather, it is ground from a different variety of wheat (white, vs. the hard red wheat used fro most WW flours).

                                1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                                  An obvious suggestion, but if you are not specifically avoiding gluten, you can substitute some of the wheat flour in a recipe for your favourite substitute (barley, soy, buckwheat, chestnut, etc.) but add back some wheat gluten (about 10 - 14% by weight for the flour you substitute). This compensates for lack of gluten in the non-wheat flour.

                              2. for a fruit cobbler, I substituted fine ground cornmeal mix with, as one might expect, unsatisfactory results and no I won't be attaching a picture. will stick with muffins or use as breading for fried fish and chicken.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: mebox

                                  Most non-gluten flours require either some xanthan gum or guar gum to hold things together, since that's the function of gluten in wheat, oats, barley, rye, spelt, and triticale.