Charles P from Genève, Switzerland writes:
“My partner is severely intolerant to wheat. Can you share some alternatives please, especially in light of the whole GM foods nightmare?”
Here’s a list of non-grain flours. Some you may not have encountered.
Amaranth flour: Milled from the seeds of the amaranth plant, this flour boasts a higher percentage of protein than most other grains, and has more fiber than wheat and rice. It is also higher in the amino acid lysine, which some food scientists believe makes it a more complete protein than flour made from other grains. Amaranth flour can be used in cookies, crackers, baking mixes, and cereals.
Arrowroot flour: The rootstalks of a tropical plant are the source of this flour, often used as a thickener for sauces and desserts; the finely powdered arrowroot turns completely clear when dissolved (giving gloss to sauces), and adds no starchy flavor. Because of its easy digestibility, it is also an used as an ingredient in cookies intended for infants and young children.
Barley flour: This mild-flavored flour made from barley grain contains some gluten.
Buckwheat flour: A common ingredient in pancake mixes, buckwheat flour is also used to make Japanese soba noodles. It is available in light, medium, and dark varieties (the dark flour boasts the strongest flavor), depending on the kind of buckwheat it is milled from. You can make your own buckwheat flour by processing whole white buckwheat groats in a blender or food processor.
Chestnut flour: This tan flour is made from American chestnuts, the meaty, lowfat nuts that are often served as a vegetable. The flour is a little sweet and is traditionally used in Italian holiday desserts.
Chick-pea flour (also called chana, gram flour or besan): This protein-rich flour is made from dried chick-peas or chana dal. This flour is used commonly throughout India, and in parts of the Mediterranean as well, in pancakes, pizzas, dumplings, soups and stews.
Corn flour: This is made from whole cornmeal, ground to a floury consistency.
Cornstarch: This silky ingredient is made from only the endosperm (starchy part) of the corn kernel. Avoid wheaten cornflour. It is used to thicken sauces and to create baked goods with a particularly fine texture.
Gluten-free flour mix: Some health-food stores carry this three-grain mixture of rice flour, potato starch, and tapioca flour. It can be substituted for 100% of the wheat flour in many recipes.
Millet flour: This yellow flour is high in protein and easy to digest. It may make baked goods somewhat coarse-textured and dry. Substitute it for no more than one-fifth of the wheat flour in a recipe.
Oat flour: Milled from either the entire oat kernel or the endosperm only, oat flour is frequently used in ready-to-eat breakfast cereals. You can make your own to use in baking by grinding rolled oats in a food processor or blender (1-1/4 cups rolled oats will yield 1 cup oat flour).
Potato flour (potato starch): Steamed potatoes are dried and then ground to a powder to make this gluten-free flour, which is commonly used in baked goods for Jewish Passover (when wheat flour may not be used).
Quinoa flour: Higher in fat than wheat flour, quinoa flour makes baked goods more moist. You can make your own quinoa flour by processing whole quinoa in a blender; stop before the flour is too fine – it should be slightly coarse, like cornmeal.
Rice flour, white: This very fine-textured flour is made from polished white rice.
Rice flour, brown: Because it contains the bran, brown rice flour contains more fiber than white rice flour.
Rye flour: In combination with wheat flour, rye flour, which contains some gluten, is most commonly used in breads. Light, medium, and dark varieties (with dark having the strongest flavor) are available.
Sorghum flour: A staple grain in many parts of the world. Sorghum flour works well in breads when combined with bean flours.
Soy flour: Another useful alternative.
Tapioca flour: Milled from the dried starch of the cassava root, this flour thickens when heated with water and is often used to give body to puddings, fruit pie fillings, and soups. It can also be used in baking.
Water-chestnut flour (water-chestnut powder): This Asian ingredient is a fine, powdery starch that is used to thicken sauces (it can be substituted for cornstarch) and to coat foods before frying to give them a delicate, crisp coating.