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An alternative to white flour

aguy239 Feb 11, 2010 10:07 AM

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. l
    LauraGrace RE: aguy239 Feb 11, 2010 11:12 AM

    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
      aguy239 RE: LauraGrace Feb 11, 2010 02:21 PM

      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
        greygarious RE: LauraGrace Feb 11, 2010 05:54 PM

        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. chowser RE: aguy239 Feb 11, 2010 12:25 PM

        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
          LauraGrace RE: chowser Feb 12, 2010 07:49 AM

          "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
            nofunlatte RE: LauraGrace Feb 20, 2010 04:01 PM

            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
              LauraGrace RE: nofunlatte Feb 20, 2010 05:06 PM

              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. t
          taiwanesesmalleats RE: aguy239 Feb 11, 2010 01:30 PM

          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
            ChefJune RE: taiwanesesmalleats Feb 17, 2010 12:39 PM

            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. h
            housewolf RE: aguy239 Feb 11, 2010 01:57 PM

            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. visciole RE: aguy239 Feb 11, 2010 05:44 PM

              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
                aguy239 RE: visciole Feb 11, 2010 07:09 PM

                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
                  jvanderh RE: aguy239 Feb 12, 2010 08:08 AM

                  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. b
                Beckyleach RE: aguy239 Feb 12, 2010 08:21 AM

                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
                  foiegras RE: Beckyleach Feb 20, 2010 09:41 AM

                  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. a
                  aguy239 RE: aguy239 Feb 17, 2010 04:54 AM

                  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
                    visciole RE: aguy239 Feb 17, 2010 07:25 AM

                    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. divya RE: aguy239 Feb 17, 2010 11:24 AM

                    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
                      greygarious RE: divya Feb 17, 2010 12:32 PM

                      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. h
                      HillJ RE: aguy239 Feb 17, 2010 03:46 PM

                      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
                        goodhealthgourmet RE: HillJ Feb 19, 2010 05:24 PM

                        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
                          HillJ RE: goodhealthgourmet Feb 19, 2010 05:35 PM

                          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
                            goodhealthgourmet RE: HillJ Feb 19, 2010 07:27 PM

                            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
                              lgss RE: goodhealthgourmet Feb 20, 2010 04:58 AM

                              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. l
                        lgss RE: aguy239 Feb 17, 2010 03:56 PM

                        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
                          divya RE: lgss Feb 18, 2010 06:21 AM

                          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
                            lgss RE: divya Feb 19, 2010 04:46 PM

                            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. free sample addict aka Tracy L RE: aguy239 Feb 19, 2010 05:22 PM

                          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. amyzan RE: aguy239 Feb 19, 2010 08:03 PM

                            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. Cheese Boy RE: aguy239 Feb 19, 2010 11:02 PM

                              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. mcf RE: aguy239 Feb 20, 2010 09:30 AM

                                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.

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