Wheat Substitutes

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Spelt & Seed Wreath

Wheat is a difficult to digest grain, and in our Western culture, it usually comes in the form of highly refined white flour and starches. When wheat is refined, the enzyme in the wheatgerm that helps to digest the gluten is lost. If you suffer from bloating, fibromyalgia, headaches, exhaustion, hay fever, sinus problems, brain fog and weight problems, it could be that your body is having problems with digesting gluten.

I know that when I eat a lot of bread, I have less energy and my allergies start playing up - even if it's my healthy, homemade, low gluten breads. So I try to keep foods containing gluten to a minimum, and focus on having mostly meat, veges, fruits, nuts, seeds, leafy greens, and some gluten free grains like rice, quinoa and buckwheat. If I'm going to do some baking, I either use gluten free flours, or sometimes spelt - but I try not to overdo it with grains. I also try to soak grains, seeds and nuts when I can, to make them more digestible.

More and more I'm aiming for grain free baking, using ground up nuts, seeds, coconut flour, bananas and eggs, as I feel a lot healthier eating this way. If you're looking at reducing the amount of wheat and gluten in your diet, here's some tips.

* If you're not coeliac, and you just want a healthier option than wheat, try spelt, an ancient from of wheat that hasn't been hybridised and is easier to digest. It is grown organically so you won't get reactions from pesticides either. A lot of people who can't handle refined wheat flour can handle organic spelt flour, and can enjoy small amounts of spelt bread. (If you are coeliac, obviously you cannot eat spelt!)

* Remember, it is best to soak grains to remove phytic acid and increase digestibility, especially the grains containing gluten, like wheat, spelt, barley, rye and kamut. It is, however, time consuming... which is why I don't generally manage to get it done. If you'd like to try it, here's how:
  1. Place grains in a large bowl and cover with water, mixing in a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar, whey or organic cultured yogurt to assist in fermentation. Soak each kind of grain separately.
  2. Cover and leave to soak and ferment over night at room temperature.
  3. Dehydrate in a dehydrator, or dry out in a very low oven, and grind up for flour.
* If you don't have time to soak and dehydrate grains, you can do the quick version - this works really well with batters, where the raw mixture is wet enough to create a vortex as it blends.
  1. Grind up the grains into flour.
  2. Mix with the liquids for the recipe, adding a pinch of salt and a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar, whey or organic cultured yogurt to assist in fermentation.
  3. Cover and allow to sit at room temperature overnight.
  4. Add remaining ingredients and blend well until smooth.
This way of soaking is simple, and I love the smooth texture you get when you grind your own grains then soak them. Here's some examples of recipes where I use this method:

- Blender Batter Brown Rice Waffles or Pancakes
- Blender Batter Muffins
- Blender Batter Berry Cake



Gluten Free Artisan Bread

* Artisan breads are another great way to make wheat free, easier to digest breads. The dough is wetter than usual bread dough, and doesn't have to be kneaded - you just mix it together, let it sit at room temperature for a few hours, then refrigerate. When you're ready to use it, you sprinkle it with a little flour and pull off a large section, stretch the floured surface around the ball of wet dough, and leave to rise, then bake in a very hot oven. Here's a couple of recipes for artisan breads:

- Gluten Free Artisan Bread (photo above)
- Wholemeal Spelt Artisan Bread


* For gluten free baking, you need to have a mixture of flours to get the right consistency. Here's a great 'rule of thumb' that you can use when working out what flours you'll need, and what you can subsitute for what. (I found this basic list on a forum, and have tweaked it a little, adding in a few ideas of my own. I'm not sure where the original came from, but I found it a great help when trying to substitute gf flours/starches in gf recipes.)

You want four main types of flour in your mix:
  1. Bodifiers-- Teff, Sorghum (Jowar Atta), Rice, bean flours (eg. besan flour made from chickpeas), brown rice, quinoa, millet, amaranth, and cornmeal are a few options. These provide bulk and protein as well as the vitamins. (Teff is a great sourceof vitamins.)
  2. Modifiers-- Tapioca starch, cornstarch, potato starch, arrowroot powder. These provide lightness and smoothness to the mix.
  3. Moisturisers-- potato starch (which has two jobs - as well as being a modifier, it's also a moisturiser, but don't use too much or the mixture will be too heavy and damp), and potato flour. These counterbalance the drying tendencies of modifiers.
  4. Extenders-- guar gum, xanthan gum, pectin, (to a degree) fruit acids, flaxseed or chia seeds, and eggs. These substitute for gluten and add extra body and stretch to the flour mix, as well as extend the shelf life of your baked goods.

A good ratio to use is 2 cup bodifier : 1 cup modifier : 1/4 cup moisturiser : 3 tsp. extender.

If you're not familiar with some of these flours, here's a helpful article that describes the different types of flours, what they are, what they look like, and other names for them: Non-Wheat Flours


Gluten Free Gingerbread Men 

* This is the Gluten Free Baking Mixture I like to use for cakes and biscuits - you can make up a batch or two and keep it in the freezer to use as needed. (This is based on Gluten Free Girl's GF flour mix, with a few tweaks of my own):

Gluten Free Flour Mix:

1. Grind in Thermomix on speed 9 for 1 1/2 minutes:
- 200g raw brown rice
- 50g buckwheat
(Tip: place a square of kitchen paper under the MC to stop bits spitting out while grinding.)
2. Add and mix on speed 6 until well combined:
- 150g sorghum flour (also called 'Jowar flour' in Indian stores)
- 150g potato starch (not potato flour - check the label)
- 250g sweet rice flour (also called glutinous rice flour)
- 100g arrowroot powder (or tapioca starch)
- 100g cornflour

Pour into a storage container. When baking, don't forget to add in an extender - I usually use chia seeds and/or eggs, and sometimes guar or xanthum gum. Guar gum works best in quick breads, cakes and biscuits, and xanthum gum works best in yeast breads.

See this recipe for an example of how to use this mixture: Gluten Free Gingerbread Men


Coconut Flour Brownies

* I often use Coconut Flour these days in baking - for grain free cakes, brownies, slices and breads. Just remember, if you're experimenting with coconut flour you need a lot less flour than usual - 1/4 to 1/3 of a cup of coconut flour is all you need in place of 1 cup of wheat flour. You also need a lot of eggs - 6 eggs to every cup of coconut flour as a general rule. You can also use cooked, pureed, fresh fruit or vegetables to help liquify the mixture, and this may help to reduce the amount of eggs needed.

If you're using coconut flour to coat meat for frying instead of wheat flour, you can obviously use it as is, just as you would regular flour. For more info on the whys and wherefores of coconut flour, this is a great article to read: How to Bake with Coconut Flour.

If you're new to coconut flour, it's easiest just to stick to tried and tested recipes for a while, or you may find you waste a lot of ingredients! But if you're like me and just want to play, go ahead. You can even make your own coconut flour - here's how:
  1. First you make coconut milk. Grind up 300g dried, shredded coconut for 10 seconds on speed 8 in the Thermomix. (You can use fresh coconut instead if you have it.)
  2. Add 1200g water and cook for 15-20 minutes at 100C, speed 4 - until the temperature reaches 100C. (If using fresh coconut, only add 900g water.) 
  3. Blend on speed 8 for 30 seconds; strain through a nut milk bag.
  4. Return the pulp to the Thermomix bowl, add another 1200g of water, and repeat. (You'll have a thick milk and a thinner milk. You can either mix them, or just use the thinner milk in smoothies/baking.)
  5. Now, squeeze all the liquid out of the coconut pulp, spread on baking paper on dehydrator sheets, and dry in a dehydrator for 6 hours on low temperature. If you don't have a dehydrator, you can dry it in the oven on the lowest setting. Once dry, grind it up in the Thermomix for 2 minutes speed 9 to make coconut flour! It will be a little bit coarser than bought flour, but it works just as well.

Here's some recipes using coconut flour:

- Marike's Coconut Flour Brownies
- Chocolate Espresso Brownies & Pistachio Brownies
- Lemon & Coconut Steamed Puddings


* A lot of cakes and biscuits work just as well with nut meal instead of regular flour. I often grind up blanched almonds or pecans or other nuts to cook with, substituting the meal for flour in a 1:1 ratio. The cakes will be heavier and moister, but I love the texture. I find they last longer than cakes made with regular flour - keep them in the fridge and they'll last a week or more.

Here's some recipes made with nut meals:

- Flourless Chocolate Espresso Cake
- Orange Almond Cake
- Flourless Chocolate Brownie Cookies


Flourless Chocolate Espresso Cake

Have fun experimenting!
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