On the various types of flour, their properties, and their many uses

Post date: Apr 10, 2014 8:17:20 AM

By Rosafina Diggle  When you reach intro your pantry for the flour, you will most likely be reaching for barley flour, the most common grain grown and milled in the Shire. However, you may not be aware that as trade has increased with the various lands occupied by the Big Folk, there are now a myriad of flours available at prices reasonable for the average Hobbit's purse.  Now, don't be alarmed--these flours may seem exotic, but in truth they are not at all difficult to work with, and you may find they differ pleasantly in flavour and texture from the baked goods to which you are accustomed. For most bakers who are just beginning to explore the wide world of flour, I can strongly recommend whole wheat. It is nutty and a little earthy, which brings a delicious savory element to breads in particular. But I do advise you to be cautious; this flour is a bit different than barley, and when mixed too long or too strongly, it can become oddly stretchy and the dough develops a very tight structure. I have found that this can be turned to your advantage, however, if you are the sort of person who prefers very chewy, dense breads.

Buckwheat is another flour of interest; however, be advised that this does not rise as high as other flours, so it is not ideal for light breads and baked goods. It is possessed of a startling, dark, almost purple coloration, and its flavor pairs particularly well with fall fruits. This I recommend for galettes and tarts and it makes a particularly delicious pancake.

A grain with which you are most likely familiar, but which has long been neglected in flour form, is oat. Like buckwheat, this is not a flour suited for bread-baking (at least, not on its own!), but it has a lovely, soft, sweet flavor. Oats are, I may point out, excellent for the digestion, and I particularly like to add a bit of oat flour to my breakfast muffins.

Now for a particularly challenging flour: rye. Many bakers are intimidated by this dark flour, and associate it only with dense, dark breads. In reality, rye flour is quite mild with a hint of caramel, and pairs very well with rich, sweet flavors such as maple or cherries, and stone fruits in the summer.

Spelt behaves very much like a mild whole wheat flour, but absorbs a great deal more water--so be aware of this if substituting spelt for either barley or wheat. It produces a soft, tender crumb, and is quite easy to begin baking with!

Now, because I know many of you would not be satisfied unless I provided a recipe to start you off, I have presented here a BLEND of the aforementioned flours, combining the very best of each in terms of flavor, texture, and rise. You can use this blend in place of plain old barley or wheat flour in most of your common baking recipes.

1 cup whole wheat flour

1 cup oat flour

1 cup barley flour

1/2 cup millet flour (for sweetness and a lovely colour)

1/2 cup rye flour

I hope this inspires all you bakers to expand your horizons in the kitchen, for I promise that delicious new flavors await!


((OOC: All information and the above recipe taken from the excellent cookbook, "Good to the Grain,"

which deals entirely in baking with non-traditional whole-grain flours. I take credit only for the folksy presentation.))