Using barley, oats and corn as flours

by Donna Berry
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It requires both art and science to blend flours and other ingredients to produce quality baked foods. Understanding the varied flour options and how they interact with other ingredients and perform in a baked system is critical to success.

“Formula adjustments may be required when incorporating non-wheat flours,” said Susan Kay, manager, product applications, Bay State Milling Co. “Water absorption, rate of hydration, mix time and proof time of non-wheat flours are often different from traditional wheat flour. Because of the minimal, or complete lack of, gluten-forming proteins in non-wheat flours, dough strength may become an issue during the process. 

“There are numerous ways the baker can obtain strength in these non-traditional dough systems,” she continued. “Working directly with the supplier to understand the nuances of each variety of flour enables bakers to speed the development process along.” 

Barley, corn and oats are all familiar whole grains that are finding increasing use in baked foods. Barley flour is made by milling pearled or whole grain barley. It is low in gluten with a sweet nutty flavor. It’s a low-fat grain that’s high in complex carbohydrates, fiber, protein and certain vitamins and minerals. Functionally, barley helps with moisture retention in yeast-raised and quick breads. Replacing up to 10% of wheat flour with barley flour will retain crumb softness in bread during storage. It has also been found to improve bread texture after microwave heating.

Grain Millers, Inc. offers a variety of oat flours that differ in functionality while raising the nutritional density of baked goods, according to Cynthia Stearns, R&D technologist. “While consumers have an excellent perception of the nutrition density and cholesterol-attenuation properties of oats and oatmeal, that’s where their knowledge often ends,” she said. “We hope to change that with our extensive line of specialty oat flours, which have application in all types of baked goods.”

Rajen Mehta, PhD, senior director, specialty ingredients, at Grain Millers said that the health benefits of oats don’t need to stop with the breakfast bowl. “Our many and varied oat flours, which include both organically certified and conventional options, are optimized for texture and viscosity for specific applications,” he observed. “They are a great source of soluble fiber along with essential minerals and can be used to add flavor and nutrition to baked goods.”

Oat flours can provide rheological properties ranging from minimal water competition within a dough matrix all the way to high-absorbing flours, where dough pliability or elastic properties are desirable, said Kelie Hardy, R&D technologist at Grain Millers. “Pre-gelatinized whole oat flour is an ideal non-wheat alternative for application in flatbreads where dough sheeting and handling are desirable,” she said. “Where attractive crust browning or refined sugar substitution and texturizing are important, partially hydrolyzed whole oat flours and whole oat syrup solids can play a very important role.” Applications include pizza crusts, flatbreads, cookies, granolas, granola bars and more.

Didion Milling offers a full line of flours based on inherently gluten-free corn. “Natural corn flour is the soft endosperm from the corn kernel with little modification,” said Todd Giesfeldt, R&D senior manager. “This flour is low in fat and fiber.”

With the whole grain version, the corn kernel’s germ and bran components are included. “It is loaded with ingredients that promote good health, including ferulic acid, xanthophyll and dietary carotenoids, such as beta-carotene,” Mr. Giesfeldt noted.

With the germ and bran comes an increase in fat and fiber content, and whole grain corn flour containing as much as 4% fat and 7% fiber. “Lipid-active enzymes in corn are implicated as the cause of off flavors during food storage; specifically, peroxidase has been linked to vinyl or straw-like flavors,” Mr. Giesfeldt said. “Our whole grain corn flour is heat treated to denature fat-degrading enzymes, including peroxidase.

“In general, due to the nature of corn protein, wet-up and mixing should be somewhat easier than dough made from wheat flour,” he added. “Mixing should take less effort and horsepower. In some situations, we suggest using viscosity-controlled corn flours, which provide a more uniform product in kneading machines and automated dough possessing equipment.”

Substituting just 10% wheat flour with corn flour in formulas brings some unique sensory attributes to baked goods. For example, corn flour has a desirable nutty flavor and a golden yellow color. This works well in not only breads, muffins and tortillas but also cookies and quick breads containing nuts, as well as graham cracker-style pie crusts.

Healthy Food Ingredients now offers Suntava Purple Corn in various flour forms, including raw, precooked and pre-gelatinized. “From these colorful kernels, we produce and supply both non-GMO and certified organic whole grain purple corn flours, among other grain ingredients,” said Jennifer Tesch, chief marketing officer. “Purple corn is gluten-free and full of antioxidants and polyphenols, including high amounts of anthocyanins. These powerful antioxidants are responsible for the corn’s deep purple color. These ingredients are a source of natural color and have application in artisan breads, crackers, pizza crust and desserts.”
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