In my early teenage years eons ago, I was enthralled with a local hippie couple who occasionally drove their 'flower power bug' into town. That was a time in our lives where my Mom had a small black and white television complete with rabbit ears that gave us three channels to enjoy. By enjoy I really mean that the television came on Sunday nights to watch Lawrence Welk, sometimes on the weekend to watch Bill Kennedy at the Movies and few times during the holidays. That's it! There were commercials back then and I can recall Euell Gibbons promoting grape nuts in what my Mom referred to as 'hippy food'. It really didn't matter because unless we went to the city, we wouldn't be able to get any kind of 'hippy food' in our tiny village! In fairness Euell Gibbons was a proponent of natural diets in the 1960's. Many of his ideals have simply been refined and tweaked but the focus for many of today's diet trends is on healthy, natural foods. Fast forward to today's diet trends and honestly, I have no problem finding any food products they endorse.
Three current culinary trends are influencing the products offered by the food industry. They are Paleo and Primal diets and gluten-free eating. The Paleo and Primal diets have received a lot of attention in the culinary world. The Paleo diet (aka cavemaan diet) is based on eating wholesome, existing foods that can only be foraged. This included grass fed meats, poultry, fish, greens, seeds, regional fruits and vegetables, fungi, nuts, oils made from fresh produce and flours made from fresh produce (eg. nuts, fruits). Foods not to be consumed on the Paleo diet are: cereal grains, legumes, dairy products, refined sugar, potatoes, table salt and refined vegetable oils. The Primal diet is similar to Paleo but makes no restriction on saturated fats so butter, lard, full fat milk, cream, sour cream, cheese and chocolate are allowed. Gluten is a protein found in cereal grains. It is responsible for the elasticity in doughs made with wheat, barley and rye. True gluten is restricted to certain members of the grass family however those avoiding gluten will also not consume corn and rice which has a gluten-like protein. About 1 in 133 in developed nations have a gluten intolerance or sensitivity (not allergy) however, many have restricted gluten from their diets on the basis of antidotal reports of the alleviation of certain gastrointestinal problems as a result of eliminating gluten. As a result, the food industry has responded with a wide range of gluten free products and other products to meet the needs of Paleo and Primal diets.
I bought a few alternative flours. With the exception of the black bean flour, all are permitted on a Paleo or Primal diet and are gluten free. These flours are a great way to boost the protein content in your home baked goods. The protein content of unbleached white flour is 10 g/100g and whole wheat is 14 g/100g but they are not allowed if following a Paleo or Primal diet and they are not gluten free. Almond flour is available as unblanched and blanched with a protein content of 21 g/100 g. It is used for cookies, cakes and pancakes. Chickpea flour has a protein content of 22 g/100g, black bean flour 22 g/100 g, coconut flour 20 g/100 g, quinoa flour 14 g/100 g and peanut flour 53 g/100 g. Coconut flour is a dense flour so is substituted with 1/4 c for every 3/4c of grain flour and a little extra liquid is needed. Quinoa flour is extremely popular for those on a Paleo diet due to its versatility. I will discuss each of these in greater detail in future posts along with a few ways to use them.
These flours as well as arrowroot flour and tapioca starch can be found at most health food stores, some larger grocery stores and online from sources like Vitacost. Bob's Red Mill is a very popular brand of specialty foods like these alternative flours. Be warned, if buying this way, the flours are expensive at $13 or more for 623 g (1 lb 6 oz). Bulk Barn is selling the alternative flours at a more reasonable prices. Our smaller Mom & Pop bulk food store and local health food store also has reasonable prices for some of these flours. Most of the alternative flours can be made at home from the whole foods as well.