I considered writing my post about sweeteners as the second installment of my series on what's in my pantry, but generally thought better of it once I realized I was consuming way too much sugar and didn't need to write about it. Okay, so that's not the whole truth. I'm also out of half the sweeteners I use on a regular basis (due to reason #1 and the fact that I've been baking a lot for friends lately), so coming up with good photographs and better descriptions wouldn't be as easy. That post will have to wait until next week. So this week I'm going to talk about flours.
Since I went gluten free I have been playing around with different--oftentimes expensive--flours in order to find my favorites to bake and cook with. Out of necessity I've gravitated towards the less expensive flours and generally keep them in my pantry. That's not to say I don't occasionally buy luxuries like amaranth flour (which I love), just that they're not always in my cupboard. To be fair, almond flour is not inexpensive. It is, however, extremely healthy and I splurge every six weeks or so on one five-pound bag of almond flour. It's worth noting that all of these flours are available online in bulk, and are a lot more affordable that way.
[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="400" caption="Clockwise from top: blanched almond flour, teff flour, chickpea flour (besan), brown rice flour, arrowroot starch"][/caption]
Chickpea flour: This is one of my favorite gluten-free flours. It has a rich, slightly sweet, almost eggy flavor when cooked; and it lends itself well to both sweet and savory uses. Chickpea flour also gives a nice, pale golden color to baked goods. I use this stuff in nearly everything. Some people claim it has an unpleasant beany flavor, but I've never found that to be the case if cooked properly. Word to the wise: raw chickpea flour is really gross. Do not under any circumstances try a batter with raw chickpea flour in it. Wait until it's been baked or cooked. Please. Chickpea flour is usually pretty cheap--especially if you get it in an international market as "besan."
Brown rice flour: Rice flour is great for use in all-purpose mixes, since it has a fairly neutral flavor. I have found that a lot of brown rice flours are gritty, so I stay away from anything that's not either from Bob's Red Mill or Authentic Foods. I'm not usually a brand name shopper, but these are the best I've tried. Authentic Foods is better, but more expensive. (I often buy BRM because it's far more economical and still yields nice baked goods.)
Arrowroot starch: This is a nice all-purpose starch. It's pretty powerful as a thickener and binder, so it's really useful in gluten-free baking. I usually keep larger quantities of this versus the other starches (potato, corn, tapioca) because I think the flavor is more neutral. However, beware: Do not use arrowroot to thicken dairy-based sauces. You'll get a gloopy mess. Better to stick with cornstarch for those purposes.
Almond flour: This, like brown rice flours, is one where quality counts. I buy a 5 lbs bag of the Honeyville Farms brand every six weeks or so, and just bake less with it. It's high in protein, low(er) in net carbohydrates, and high in vitamins and minerals. And it tastes good. I love using almond flour in cookies and muffins. Just don't use it as a one for one substitute for wheat flour. Nut flours need a bit more special care than grains (for binding, leavening, etc.)
Millet flour: Millet is a high protein grain that works very well in recipe that need a higher protein content of the flour, such as breads. It also works very nicely in quickbreads and in all-purpose mixes. I like millet flour as opposed to sorghum as a matter of personal taste and thrift. (Millet is pretty inexpensive compared to some gluten-free flours.) I find the flavor to be fairly neutral--unlike quinoa flour, which is nice and nutritious but in my opinion distracting flavor-wise.
Teff flour: Teff is a tiny grain found mainly in north Africa. It's the main ingredient in the Ethiopian flatbread injera, and has a lovely sour flavor as it sits for a few days. It's for this reason that I love teff flour in "rye" breads like the gluten-free "rye" from Healthy Bread in Five. It's high in nutrients and has a great color and flavor. Use it anywhere you want a result that's darker and more complex. (It's best used in combination with other flours, just as the rest of these ingredients are.) Teff is a bit more expensive than the other flours here, but I generally use it a bit less so it works out in the long run.