Following on from last weeks facts about wheat flour, I wanted to explore the world of flours that are based on anything but wheat. And what a world it is.
I also wanted to experiment with baking with different flours and have come up with a wonderfully simple 5 ingredient peanut butter brownie. A brownie that totally lives up to its name and delivers on the key brownie strengths of moist, chocolately goodness. Paired with the fact that it’s gluten and dairy free, we’re talking win-win.
facts about non-wheat flours
With a protein content of 7.5%, rice flour is probably the closest nutritionally to wheat flour. So it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the only ‘wheat free’ product in my former employers range was their Rice Cookies – a wonderful plain sweet cookie that are a big hit with my gluten intolerant Dad. Rice flour is often used in shortbread to give that lovely ‘short’ melt in the mouth texture.
corn flour / cornstarch
In Australia, what used to be sold as ‘corn flour or corn starch’ was actually made from wheat. This confusing terminology was a hang over from the days when ‘corn’ was used to describe the staple grain of any country. Thankfully this is changing and it is now possible to buy ‘corn or maize cornflour’ that is gluten free.
With less than 1% protein it’s more of a source of starch and is generally used for thickening sauces or for making light-as-air sponge cakes like my Mums.
Rye is low in gluten so is often combined with wheat to make bread with the wonderfully disctinct rye flavour.
Made from ground dried chickpeas, chickpea flour aka besan or garbanzo bean flour, is used extensively in Indian cooking. The French and Italians also use it to make cakes, flat bread and pancakes.
Buckwheat is a gluten free plant that isn’t actually a cereal, but is treated like one. It has a distinct grainy, nutty flavour and a protein content of around 12%, so similar to wheat.
Japanese soba noodles are probably the most famous use of buckwheat, but it is also used to make pancakes like galettes from Brittany in France. Buckwheat can also be used to make gluten free beer.
Is commonly used as a replacement for wheat in India and Africa. It’s gluten free and has a protein content of around 9%, so not that much lower than wheat.
I think of italian style cakes when I think of chestnut flour. Apparently it goes rancid very quickly, so best to buy in small quantities.
A favourite thickening agent of the Irish, potato flour is great for thickening sauces and stews as is gives a smooth shiny sauce or stew. It can also be used as an ingredient in its own right.
Arrowroot is actually a starch based product (so low protein) extracted from the roots of the arrowroot plant. BUT as I noticed in my local supermarket, some commercial arrowroots are actually made from tapioca so should technically be called tapioca starch.
Eitherway, arrowroot is generally used as a thickening agent. It thickens at a lower temperature than corn flour, so is good for egg bases sauces or things that are best if not heated excessively.
Is an extract from the roots of cassava that is sometimes labelled as arrowroot. It is in the low protein spectrum and can be used as a thickening agent. Interestingly, it is the second ingredient in the commercial ‘gluten free’ flour I purchased recently. It is popular in Brazil.
commercial ‘gluten free’ flour
I had picked up a packet of gluten free flour for my Dad recently but hadn’t really tested it out. On looking at the packet I was surprised to find that the protein content is really low at around 1.5% and that the manufacturer advises that egg and /or skim milk powder may be required to give best results. Given the premium price of this flour, I think I’ll stick to rice flour as my preferred gluten free baking option from here on in.
[5 ingredients | simple baking]
peanut butter chocolate brownies
The beautiful thing about these brownies is that they are dairy AND gluten free. Perfect for people with allergies and a sweet tooth, like my dear old dad.
I also love that they’re so simple to make. Just mix everthing together with a spoon then pop it in the oven to bake.
I used a long loaf pan that is 30 x 11cm (12 x 4.5in) to bake these. And I’ve also had success with a shorter loaf pan (24 x 12cm / 9.5 x 4.5in). But you could use a square or even a round one. You might need to adjust the cooking time a little but these brownies are very forgiving so don’t stress about it too much.
If you’re in the mood for making your own peanut butter, there’s a recipe I wrote about here. If you’re using commercial PNB, best to use a natural one that is 100% peanuts or close to it to get maximum peanut flavour.
I’ve used brown sugar here, but regular white sugar would be fine instead.
And the rice flour worked a treat but don’t go out and buy a box just for this recipe. Pretty much any flour will work I would imagine. In this case it’s more of a bulking agent rather than a critical structural ingredient.
150g (5oz) peanut butter, preferably crunchy
225g (8oz) brown sugar
50g (2oz) cocoa powder
75g (3oz) rice flour
1. Preheat oven to 160C (320F). Grease and line the base of a loaf pan (see note above) with baking paper.
2. Mix sugar and eggs with the peanut butter. Gently stir through cocoa powder and flour until just mixed through.
3. Pour into prepared tin and bake for 30 – 45 minutes. Or until the top feels just set and a skewer inserted into the middle emerges slightly moist. You want the middle to still be a little squidgy. Cool in the tin.
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