Have your cake and eat it too!
From picture-perfect focaccia to banana bread, baking reintroduced itself to all of us in the pandemic. While traditional flour is still the mainstay of baking, owing to its easy availability, people have now started choosing other more nutritious and often gluten-free alternatives.
Chef Rishabh Anand, Executive Pastry Chef - The Leela Palace New Delhi, says, “The rising demand of gluten-free products has made way for alternate flours such as amaranth, coconut flour, almond flour, buckwheat flour and banana flour. Apart from offering health benefits, alternative flours are versatile enough to be experimented with.”
Rich in fibre, containing high amounts of amino acids and vitamins, these flours are slowly becoming the staple of many kitchens. Chef Rahul Chahar, Bakery Chef – Taj Mahal, says “Each type of alternate flour offers a different set of health benefits you can decide which one best meets your needs. At Taj Mahal, New Delhi, we follow health trends closely as well as seek guest feedback for their preferences helping us understand the current requirements and dietary preferences and we adapt with agility to offer alternates that are healthy and trendy.”
Made from fruits, nuts and seeds, chefs are turning to these myriad types of alternatives to explore new textures, flavours and aromas.
Ambika Seth, Executive Director, Caara, says, “Our Orange and Almond cake is a moist gluten free cake made with almond flour and orange zest. There is no artificial flavouring in any of our food and is topped with a light cream cheese frosting making it a bestseller.”
Her other creations include an Olive oil, zucchini & jaggery cake. She adds, “Made with wholewheat flour, is also sugar free as we substitute sugar with jaggery. Once you bite into it, you will see spirals of dehydrated zucchini that binds the cake together.”
They are packed with nutrients, ranging from magnesium, zinc, micro nutrients to calcium. Almond flour has the ability to improve insulin function and wheat and coconut flours have more carbs with a less fat content as compared to almond flour. These flours are very high on fiber.
If you are looking to experiment owing to a gluten intolerance, or culinary curiosity, here’s a guide to the alternative flour landscape.
Executive Chef Manish Sharma, The Oberoi, Gurgaon, says, “There is Amaranth flour, Buckwheat flour, both are rich and have an earthy flavour. Cassava flour is gluten, grain and nut-free. Coconut and almond flour are the most popular.”
A binding force
Nutty cake, sweet quickbread, pineapple upside-down cake, banana bread, ragi pancakes are some of delicious creations which the alternative flours have lent themselves to. Suchali Jain, Founder, Suchali’s Artisan Bakehouse, says, “In egg-free baking, ground flax seeds can be used as a binder in making bakery products. We use almond flour, oats flour, rice flour in making our gluten-free desserts, especially tea cakes and muffins.”
Versatility is the key
Remember enlarging your flour horizons isn’t all about going gluten-free. It’s about texture and flavour. And most importantly, it’s about having fun in the kitchen. “I love using jowar for my cakes, almond flour for my brownies, ragi for my crepes and oat flour for the pancakes,” says Shivesh Bhatia, influencer.
Patisserie and boulangerie
Muffin, Linzer cookies, Coconut dacquoise, Hazelnut Dacquoise, Pain de gene, Almond macaroon, coconut macaroon and Almond genoise are some of the high end flour based artisan products that give that extra burst of taste.
Gluten Free Red Velvet Ice Cream Cake from Prerna’s Handcrafted Ice Cream
Almond flour, cocoa powder, unsalted butter, sugar, salt, eggs, baking soda, apple cider vinegar, puréed beets
• Spray three 9-inch cake pans with non-stick cooking spray. Preheat the oven to 350ºF.• In a bowl, whisk together 2 1/4 cups almond flour, 2 tablespoons cocoa powder and 1 teaspoon salt.• In another bowl, beat together 1/2 cup unsalted butter and 1 ½ cup sugar until light and fluffy. Add 2 eggs, and fold in the almond flour mixture 1/3 at a time, beating just until combined after each addition. Mix in 3/4 cup freshly pureed beets (boiled until tender, cooled and pureed) for that amazing red colour.• In a small bowl, combine 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar and 1 teaspoon baking soda. (The mixture will bubble up.) Fold into the cake batter.• Divide the batter evenly between the 3 pans. Bake until the cakes spring back when touched lightly, about 20 minutes. Let them cool down for 10 minutes and then shift them onto a cooling rack.• Place one layer on a cake stand/plate. Layer it with 2 scoops of gluten-free Coconut Ice Cream. Add another cake layer topped with ice cream and finally add the top layer. Frost the cake with the more Coconut ice cream. Freeze the cake until ready to serve.
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