Saturday, June 15, 2013

Food for her Household Part 3 - Whole Grain Flour

The area of cooking with a variety of flours has been one of my most fun experiments...and has produced some of my worst cooking disasters - ha! It's also an area that I have and haven't researched much of the science behind for health issues.

There are a lot of concerns today with GMOs - Genetically Modified Organisms. Our advances in science have made it possible to grow grain (and other foods, but grain is the primary concern) to be more resistant to pests and disease, more hardy etc, by genetically modifying the seeds. This is great for farmers - I being a farmer's daughter would know! - but harmful to our bodies in many ways. I have not researched it very much, but enough to know that I want to cook for our family with as few GMOs as possible (none at all if I can help it!).

The second issue with grain and flour is that when our bodies process refined flours, the results can be identical to sugars. When you eat anything from white flour (wheat), your body responds in the same way as if you'd eaten white sugar. Refined wheat flour has almost all nutrients removed. Whole grains have good carbohydrates your body needs and nutrients like fiber, vitamins and minerals.

Again there is incredible amounts of research regarding this that I'm not touching. I'm speaking as a normal American mom whose family has no known gluten or other allergies. The changes I've made with our grain intake are by no means perfect (which bugs me to no end sometimes!) but they are beneficial.

When I think about how far our food has come from the natural state God gave it to us, I start to understand our many health issues today, particularly cancers and autoimmune issues that are linked to, among other things, the altered foods we're eating. It motivates me to get back to eating more wholesome foods and providing those for our family! 

So I have completely converted to whole grain flours in my baking. Walmart has a wonderful product from the company Prairie Gold - whole wheat flour from soft white wheat that is non-GMO and more similar to white flour than many whole wheat flours. That saves a lot of hassle for me. But I also love using oat and brown rice flour as well as flaxseed meal in my cooking. My wonderful husband bought me a grain mill for our anniversary, so I'm starting to use that, but before I had it, I would make oat flour out of old-fashioned oats and flax meal out of whole flax seed in my food processor. Once I tried rice flour in it, but that took forever, so I've only just begun making my own rice flour with the grain mill. You can also buy any of these flours (among others!) at the grocery store now. Bob's Red Mill is the most common company. They're not cheap, however, to buy already ground.

Here's a chart with basic equivalents.
1 Cup all-purpose flour
= 1 cup oat flour
= 3/4 cup whole wheat flour
= 1 cup brown rice flour
= 1 cup flaxseed meal

However, ratios are important when baking with other whole grain flours. For instance, in most recipes you only want to substitute 1/4 of the flour as a different grain. Otherwise your baked good can become too crumbly or doughy. When my muffins call for 2 cups of white flour, for instance, here are some of the substitutions I might make.

1 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/4 cup oat flour
2 tablespoons flaxseed meal


3/4 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup oat flour
1/2 cup brown rice flour

Flaxseed meal can be used as a substitute for oil in a recipe as well as flour! Check out this link for more info about that seed's usage.

More recently I've begun experimenting with buckwheat and I just got some millet to try as well. Honestly, this is just plain fun. Adds something new to cooking and baking, you know? Oats are incredibly versatile. They can be used for breading on chicken or fish - one of my favorite usages. I've been reading different books from the library about grains and flour. I especially enjoyed Good to the Grain. This blog by Gluten Free Goddess was informative as well. 

Have fun baking!
I'm a muffin and quick bread lady, and I've loved the extra heartiness and wholesomeness using these new flours has brought to my creations.

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