Pulses and nuts as flour

by Donna Berry
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With growing industry demand for gluten-free options that are also high in fiber and protein, pulses are an excellent fit for a variety of baked foods applications, according to Jennifer Tesch, chief marketing officer, Healthy Food Ingredients. “We have been supplying organic pulses to the food industry for many years, but this year is particularly notable with 2016 being ‘the year of the pulse,’ ” she said. “All of our organic pulses, which include dry edible beans, peas, lentils and chickpeas, are available in flour form, in raw, precooked and pre-gelatinized options. They can even be custom milled to meet customer specifications.”

Pulse flours typically retain some of their beany flavor notes, making them best for savory baked goods. Some manufacturers heat-treat bean flour during processing to improve digestibility.

Nut flours are finding their way into baked snack foods and cookies. Nut flours tend to be high in fat, fiber and protein. Almond and hazelnut are the most common, but others are available. Nut flours are gluten-free, so other ingredients are required to bind moisture to yield dough that is strong and elastic. In addition to being nutrient dense, nut flours contribute flavor and texture to baked goods. Because of their high oil content, they do tend to go rancid quickly.

“We primarily use almond flour. It has a glycemic index near zero, which minimizes blood sugar impact from eating baked goods,” said Katlin Smith, founder and CEO, Simple Mills, Chicago. “Almond flour also has three times the protein and 80% less carbs than rice flour, the most commonly used gluten-free flour. And as a bonus, it makes products that are moist and fluffy, not dry and crumbly.

“We also use coconut flour, which is high in fiber and protein and, again, low in carbohydrates,” she continued. “Almond and coconut flours together help with leavening and maintaining baked structure in gluten-free baked goods.”

Following the success of its natural baking mixes, Simple Mills is extending its reach beyond the baking aisle with a new line of gluten-free crackers. The base flour of the line is a proprietary blend of almonds, sunflower seeds and flax seeds.

“This combination yields a higher vitamin and mineral content than many competitive products, as well as a lower carbohydrate count and glycemic index,” Ms. Smith said. “Most other crackers include ingredients like rice flour, potato starch, xanthan gum, soy lecithin, ammonium bicarbonate and maltodextrin with little or no nutritional value.”

Blue Diamond Almonds Global Ingredients Division markets a line of gluten-free almond flours designed to replace traditional flours in many baked goods. Because almonds have a sweet flavor, sugar may be cut about 25%, and fat can also often be reduced by a quarter because the flour itself contains natural healthy fats.

There are three almond flour granulations. Extra fine natural is as versatile as blanched flour with a natural light tan color. Extra fine blanched has a powder-like consistency that works well in delicate cookies, breads and cakes. Fine blanched gives nutritious texture to everyday baking. It toasts to a rich golden color.
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