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An alternative to white flour

Hello Hounds,

Reading Michael Pollan's excellent new book convinces me, as if I needed convincing, that I have to stop using as much white flour as I do. As he says, our bodies regard white flour as no different than sugar.

In our house, white flour means various pies and tarts in any given week, and pancakes for breakfast twice a week.

Pancakes first. They have to be light and fluffy for my fussy eaters, so what alternative to white flour do I have, that won't turn my pancakes into lumps of edible lead?!

Next, pate brisee. Whether for pies or tarts, my pastry involves white flour. With pastry I am less nervous about going over to wholewheat flour, but I would welcome any advice on types, varieties, etc.

Thank you!


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  1. I make whole wheat pancakes all the time -- I actually prefer them to ones made with white flour! Way more flavor. I use flour milled in my kitchen that is VERY fine, but you can use white whole wheat or whole wheat pastry flour. Before I used freshly-milled flour I just got ordinary whole wheat or buckwheat flour and was satisfied with the results. You might bump up the leavening by 20% or so when using whole wheat, or you can beat the egg whites separately and fold them in. Honestly though, I find whole wheat pancakes to be heartier, tastier, and much more adaptable to add-ins. Shredded apples and toasted walnuts are my favorite additions.

    There are SO many more options these days with whole wheat flour. I'm guessing that in your situation, white whole wheat (which is made with "soft white wheat" rather than "hard red winter wheat") and whole wheat pastry flour are going to be your best friends.

    Good luck!

    2 Replies
    1. re: LauraGrace

      Thank you Laura. I have both in my pantry now, and will start with the pancakes first thing in the morning.

      I am impressed, by the way, by your home-milled flour! Now that is walkin' the walk!


      1. re: LauraGrace

        Use applesauce in place of some or all of the milk in your flapjack batter. It makes them light and tender. I use white whole wheat flour in place of AP flour in just about everything.

      2. Whole wheat pastry flour is a good alternative when you want lightness. For heartier baked goods, I use half white whole wheat and half unbleached white flour. It still tastes really good and I believe moderation in food is good. You should watch the video of Michael Pollan on the Colbert Report talking about how he was buying cocoa puffs for his son at a Berkeley co-op and the looks he got for it. We don't need to cut out everything, just have it in smaller amounts.

        Oh, and rather than converting traditional recipes to whole grain ones, I get much better results using recipes that originally call for ww. I highly recommend the King Arthur whole grain cookbook. The brownies in it are the fudgiest brownies I've ever made.

        3 Replies
        1. re: chowser

          "rather than converting traditional recipes to whole grain ones, I get much better results using recipes that originally call for ww"

          Agreed. My "More With Less" (mennonite) cookbook is full of WW-based recipes for everything, and I always have good outcomes with them.

          1. re: LauraGrace

            Agreed on More with Less. Several recipes for ww bread, plus ww cookies, muffins, and pancakes (haven't tried the pancakes, b/c I typically only eat them when I go out).

            BTW, the "sister" book (Extending the Table) is one of my desert island cookbooks, mostly for the spirit in which it was written. Very beautiful, very moving (and this is coming from an agnostic!)

            1. re: nofunlatte

              Of all the cookbooks I own, MWL and Extending the Table are the ones I recommend most, both for the recipes and for, as you said, the "spirit" behind them. Beautiful philosophy of food as a gift, a blessing, a joy to be shared.

              Do try the pancakes though, they're so delicious! :)

        2. I'd consider using whole wheat pastry flour as other posters have mentioned. You can also substitute some almond flour/meal for the flour as well. Google how to adjust recipes for it's inclusion because of the lack of gluten when you make your baked goods.

          1 Reply
          1. re: taiwanesesmalleats

            If you find that your results using whole wheat pastry flour are still too heavy for your family's taste, try spinning the flour for about 30 seconds in a food processor fitted with the metal blade. It will lighten it considerably. I always do that for cakes and even pie crusts.

          2. I'd suggest that you start your transformation gradually, making things like pancakes with part whole wheat flour and part white. Maybe 1/4 whole wheat pastry flour the first few times, then graduallly increase the amount as you and your familly become more accustomed to the difference.

            1. I agree with the others who have recommended whole wheat pastry flour. I have been surprised with how well it works in most recipes.

              The only thing I want to add is, make sure it's fresh, because whole wheat flour spoils much more rapidly than white. Your best bet would be to buy it from a place that sells bulk and does a brisk turnover. And keep it in the fridge or freezer once you get it.

              2 Replies
              1. re: visciole

                That is great advice, thank you.

                We have a new Wholefoods across the Park from us on Columbus, and they sell bulk flour. I go through a pound or more a week, so keeping it fresh is not a problem.


                1. re: aguy239

                  I'm a big fan of hi-maize-- you sub 1/4 to 1/3 of the flour with it, and you can get the fiber without the taste and texture of whole wheat. For muffins and quickbreads and such, the final product is almost the same-- I think it would be with pancakes too. I haven't tried pie crust because I can't get them right anyway and don't want to make it any harder.

              2. I use a lot of a variety of whole wheat flour called "white whole wheat." It's easier to find in large, affordable quantities ( I buy from a co-op) than WW pastry flour, but I don't suspect its very much different. King Arthur even sells it.

                From Wiki:

                hite whole wheat flour is flour produced from soft white wheat varieties. Instead of being made from red wheat, the most common type in the United States, like most whole wheat flour, white whole wheat is made from white wheat, more common in the United Kingdom. The difference is that soft white wheat has a lower gluten content as well as lacking the tannins and phenolic acid that red wheat does, causing white whole wheat to appear and taste more like refined red wheat; it is whitish in color and does not taste bitter. Whole wheat flour has high protein and protein absorbs more water
                White whole wheat has almost the same nutrient content as red whole wheat. However, soft white whole wheat has a lower gluten content and contains a lower protein content (between 9% and 11%) when compared with harder wheats like red (15%-16% protein content) or golden wheat"

                1 Reply
                1. re: Beckyleach

                  I use that flour, and the results are indistinguishable from white flour. I kind of prefer the 50/50 kind that has more nutty, whole wheat flavor. For some purposes, that doesn't work very well though (like gravy).

                2. Thanks to all, particularly those who explained the difference between soft and hard wheat, which was very useful. I am now using 1/3 WW with 2/3 AP, just to get started, and everything is working fine. I even made delicious crepes last night (Shrove Tuesday, aka pancake Tuesday) with this mix. And they were very good.

                  Apologies, too, for missing a major thread on this topic, so double thanks to those who responded so thoughtfully.


                  1 Reply
                  1. re: aguy239

                    One more thought: in baking it often works very well to substitute either oat flour, quick-cooking oatmeal, or almond meal for some of the flour. It gives more texture, and, in the case of almond meal, can improve taste and moistness.

                    And also I often use buttermilk recipes which make the dough lighter. Buttermilk biscuit dough made with all ww pastry flour makes a great cobbler topping. And it's a must in pancakes!

                  2. I gave white flour up and needed to replace my every weekend pancake craving.
                    Started with "bob redmill's grain pancake /whole grain mix. works great.
                    now i buy my own multi-grain flour (add no white flour) and add the baking power/eggs etc.

                    same flour is used for pies/tarts.
                    working on the cake mix. ( i still add white flour to it )
                    if someone can suggest a homemade standard cake mix with multi grain flour combo.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: divya

                      I see that you are in Canada, but if you visit the US or have friends here, Trader Joe's Multigrain Baking and Pancake Mix is good. It does contain white flour, mixed with whole wheat, oat bran, etc. It's like a healthier version of Bisquick.

                      A friend sends me Kodiak Kakes flapjack mix. It is 100% whole wheat, absolutely scrumptious, and convenient since you only add water. They also have a tasty WW brownie mix. It is available online from the company, but you have to buy several boxes.

                    2. Farro Flour http://www.farawayfoods.com/treasure0...
                      I've been experimenting with this flour. Homemade pasta, breads and muffins. Like the whole grain, which I love as a cold salad, this hearty alternative is healthy and imparts a nutty flavor which lends itself nicely to muffin recipes that call for chopped nuts.

                      4 Replies
                      1. re: HillJ

                        if you like farro, i bet you'd enjoy teff flour as well. it's gluten-free so you can't replace *all* the wheat flour with it, but you can use it to replace about 25% of the flour in most recipes.

                        1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                          You pegged me! While at Red Mill browsing away I saw teff flour. ghg, what's your fav way to include teff? any particular recipe recommendations? I just bought a 2nd hand copy of Red Mill's first cookbook to experiment with. Next up, fava http://www.bobsredmill.com/fava-bean-...

                          1. re: HillJ

                            well it's part of my master GF blend, so i use it in pretty much everything :) but as far as an addition to traditional recipes, i love it in pancakes and crepes, and since it has that mild nutty flavor similar to farro, it's terrific in recipes that contain nuts...muffins, quick breads, cookies, you name it.

                            a warning about the fava flour - bean flours are very "beany" so they take some finesse, and you definitely want to use them judiciously.

                            1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                              Bette Hagman's "The Gluten-Free Gourmet Bakes Bread" cookbook calls for garfava (mixture of garbanzo and fava) flour in many of her recipes.

                      2. I'm gluten-free so we use lots of different flours: we grind our own buckwheat, millet, quinoa, garbanzo, brown rice, etc flours. We buy corn meal or corn flour, teff flour, and sorghum flours. We generally use some combination rather than all of one kind. Depending on what one's making with gf flours one generally also needs either some guar gum or xanthan gum to hold things together.

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: lgss

                          gregarious -thanks- i will find a 'south of the border' friend who can smuggle the goods- as ordering online from the neighbors is unfamiliar territory for me.

                          just to clarify,
                          so with the addition of guar/xanthan gum, one can use a combo of multi grain flour to a successful cake, (assuming the addition of eggs/oil/b. powder/b.soda/sugar)

                          1. re: divya

                            My husband and I are also vegan so no eggs either, generally flax seed meal & water, occasionally commercial (Ener-G) egg replacer or some other. Cakes, yes, and cookies, and muffins, and pizza crust, etc. My husband just bought another gluten-free, vegan baking book which I'll try out this weekend.

                            I recommend "Pure & Simple: Delicious Whole Natural Foods Cookbook Vegan, MSG Free and Gluten Free" by Tami A. Benton There are a few in this one that do not call for guar gum or xanthan gum but still hold together.

                            "Flying Apron's Gluten-Free & Vegan Baking Book" by Jennifer Katzinger (this is the bakery that made our (chocolate) gluten-free, vegan wedding cake, it's here http://www.flyingapron.com/special.htm upper right picture


                            The new one we just got is "The Allergen-Free Baker's Handbook: How to Bake without Gluten- Wheat, Dairy, Eggs, Soy, Peanuts, Tree nuts, and Sesame" by Cybele Pascal.

                            There are other GF cookbooks that are not vegan and I now find it easy to "veganize" most recipes. We also sometimes use amaranth flour which we grind ourselves. If we need more than two cups of some kind we're grinding then we use the VitaMix.

                            Xanthan gum is quite expensive but most recipes only call for a teaspoon or two.

                        2. Whole wheat pancakes are great. I use Bob's Red Mill mulitgrain pancake mix because a friend gave it to me. You can make them fluffier by adding soda water or you can make them tender using buttermilk. I love the combination of WW and buttermilk.

                          1. There is a very good whole wheat pie crust recipe in The Sweeter Side of Amy's Bread, from the owners of the NYC bakery. It contains cream cheese, and is particularly tasty with savory fillings like quiche. I'd also recommend the King Arthur Flour Co. whole grain cookbook already mentioned.

                            With whole wheat pancakes, separate the egg and whip the egg whites to moist barely stiff peaks before folding into the finished batter. (You add the yolks in with the fat and milk or buttermilk.) It makes a world of difference in the texture of the pancakes, and works reliably to help lighten the somewhat thicker, more dense batter.

                            1. I'll go ahead and post the ingredients label first. Click on the link to display the product.


                              The link --> http://www.quakeroats.com/Libraries/P...

                              1. I use a number of substitutes (in addition to using recipes that call for the least amount of flour in general). White carbalose flour works very well, with some adjustments for liquids, and almond flour can sub for all or some depending on the type of product or recipe. I use nut flour exclusively for cheesecake crusts, and mixed with chopped pecans for a cobbler topping, as examples.