Flour Guide: Nutrition, Baking & Best Uses

With the number of flours available in the supermarket today, it can be overwhelming (What the hell is TEFF?!). This guide looks at some of the most popular flours used in everyday cooking and mentions some new flours that are available in stores. We share our top picks at the bottom of the blog to keep your delicious baking producing healthy outcomes too!

Grains 101

·       In Australia, wheat based flour is commonly used by food manufacturers and individuals at home. Wheat grains are ground down and sifted in a process called milling, to produce flour.

·       There are three major parts of a cereal grain: the endosperm, bran and germ.

·       Different components of any grain may be left in or taken out depending on how it is milled. This will produce different kinds of flour.  

WHITE FLOUR

In white flour, both the bran and germ have been removed via milling. As the bran and germ contain more dietary fibre than the endosperm, white flour has a light consistency. Many micronutrients including B vitamins, iron and magnesium are found in greater concentrations in the bran and germ layers of the grain. Therefore, white flour contains less of these nutrients. However, flour may be restored with some of these lost nutrients and may also be fortified with additional nutrients such as folic acid and iodine.

Uses: White flour is commonly used to make bread, pizza dough or sweet bakes such as cakes, muffins and scones. White flour is often used as a thickener for gravies and sauces.

Nutrition

 WHOLEMEAL FLOUR

Incorporates the bran layer of the wheat grain, which makes this flour higher in fibre, protein as well as vitamins and minerals (e.g. niacin (B3) and iron). This flour may also be fortified with additional micronutrients.

Uses: Like white flour, wholemeal flour may be used to make sweet/savoury breads or doughs or cakes, muffins and scones

RYE FLOUR

Derived from the rye grain, rye flour is milled in a similar fashion to wheat. A little harder to find and more expensive than wheat flour, you may have to venture outside major supermarket chains to find rye flour. Rye flour comes in both dark and light varieties. Light rye is lighter than dark rye and contains less calories, fibre and protein per.

Uses: Rye flour may be used to make breads, pumpernickel, crispbreads, or biscuits.

SPELT FLOUR

Spelt is an ancient grain, cultivated over thousands of years. This grain is rich in several vitamins and minerals including B vitamins (thiamin, niacin and folate), magnesium, copper, iron and manganese. Spelt is a high protein, high fibre flour making it a great alternative to wheat flour.

Uses: May be used to make dense breads, biscuits or pastas. Spelt is quite flavoursome so is best for savoury dishes.

GLUTEN FREE FLOUR

Gluten free flour is generally a mix of various gluten free flours including corn and tapioca starch and rice flour. Due to the ingredients, this flour is quite low in protein compared to other flours.

Uses: Gluten free plain or self-raising flour can be used to make a variety of dishes including breads, cakes, muffins, batters and can be used as a thickener for sauces/gravies.

COCONUT FLOUR

Derived from the pulp of the coconut, coconut flour is a soft, light flour. It is a by-product made during the coconut milk making process. Coconut flour is also extremely high in flbre and a good source of protein. This flour absorbs a lot of liquid, therefore much less is required to make a certain product (e.g. muffins) than wheat flour.

Uses: Coconut flour may be used to make cupcakes or muffins, cakes, biscuits, pancakes and breads. It may also be used as a gluten free alternative for batter.

QUINOA FLOUR

Derived from another ancient grain, quinoa flour is high in fibre and protein, and contains a variety of vitamins and minerals including B vitamins, magnesium, iron and phosphate.

Uses: Quinoa flour produces quite a moist bake, and is good for muffins, cakes, pastries or sweet/savoury breads.

CHICKPEA FLOUR

You may or may not have seen chickpea flour in your local supermarket. As this flour is derived from chickpeas, it contains a significant amount of protein along with B vitamins and dietary fibre.

Uses: Chickpea flour may be used to bake cakes, breads and biscuits or for pancakes, fritters or batter

LENTIL FLOUR

Like chickpea flour, lentil flour is relatively new to the supermarket. Made purely from uncooked lentils, this flour provides a nutty flavour to dishes. Lentils are a great source of protein, dietary fibre and micronutrients such as iron, phosphate and copper.

Uses: Like chickpea flour, lentil flour may be used in a variety of dishes including sweet or savoury breads, cakes, muffins, fritters and to make batter.

TEFF FLOUR

Teff has long been used in Ethiopia as a staple grain, but it is relatively new to Western. Like quinoa, Teff is a good source of dietary fibre and protein. This gluten free flour is also rich in several micronutrients including B vitamins, calcium and iron.

Uses: Teff flour has an earthy, nutty taste and is a great gluten free alternative to wheat flour in cakes, muffins, breads and other bakes.

BUCKWHEAT FLOUR

Surprisingly, buckwheat is not a type of wheat. In fact, the buckwheat plant is related to rhubarb. Buckwheat flour is gluten free, and often used as a replacement for wheat. Buckwheat is available as both dark and light flours. Dark buckwheat is more flavoursome than light. Another high protein flour, buckwheat also contains several micronutrients including iron, magnesium, potassium and zinc.

Uses: Dark buckwheat flour is great for making crepes or pancakes, whilst lighter buckwheat flour may be used to make biscuits, muffins, rolls and bread. As buckwheat is quite strong, it is best used along with another flour (e.g. rice flour) to reduce the nutty taste.

OUR TOP PICKS NUTRITION WISE

Rye Flour: Particularly dark flour which is higher in protein than the light variety. With 300 calories/cup (vs. 500 in white and wholemeal), 10.5g of protein and 9.1g of fibre as well as being of a moderate glycaemic index it could be a good baking option, particularly if you enjoy making your own bread. Its also relatively cheap $3/kg.

Lentil Flour: With 333 calories/cup (5th lowest out of 15 compared) its high in protein 25.4g and fibre 15.9g and comes in at a medium price range, $9/kg.

Teff Flour: Teff was the flour highest in protein with 39g/cup! It also rated high in terms of fibre (12.5g) and was sitting at 225 calories. However it is a little more expensive, $13/kg

To learn more about the nutritional composition of flours best to talk to us in the clinic - we love baking!!

References/Further Information

Most this nutritional information was obtained from calorieking.com.au. Nutrient information on lentil flour was taken from mckenziesfoods.com.au

Note: The nutritional information provided on this guide refers to uncooked flour

[1] Honest to Goodness foods

[2] https://thesourcebulkfoods.com.au/shop/cooking/organic-buckwheat-flour-gf/

[3] https://www.tooshfoods.com.au/shop/cooking-and-baking/organic-teff-flour/