Gluten-free snack bars made with almond flour
Extra-fine flours such as almond flour may help create the desired texture in gluten-free baked goods.

Benefits from extra fine gluten-free flour

The fine-tuning of gluten-free ingredients recently has led to extra-fine flours, with rice flour and almond flour serving as two examples.

American Key Food Products, Closter, N.J., has expanded its ability to offer gluten-free ingredients by distributing extra-fine white and brown rice flours manufactured by Kumamoto Flour Milling Co. in Japan. The new brand of flours was designed especially for gluten-free baking. Kumamoto’s milling process yields uniform, extra-fine particle sizes with the size distribution confined within a narrow range. The same process also limits the degree of starch damage.

“These flour qualities result in smoother and softer textures and greater volume in gluten-free baked products,” said Mel Festejo, chief operating officer of American Key Food Products. “We have achieved excellent results in gluten-free cakes, breads and muffins, dramatically shown in comparisons with baked goods using other well-known flours in the same recipes.”

For example, he said volume increased by as much as 25% in white bread when Kumamoto’s rice flours were used in place of other finely milled rice flours following the same recipe.

“The soft texture we have produced with these new rice flours is neither too dense nor too porous, resulting in superior gluten-free eating qualities,” Mr. Festejo said. “Muffins exhibit a nice, domed crust; donuts, a smooth outer layer with a non-greasy, appealing crumb structure.”

Gluten-free bread made with rice flour
Rice flour helps gluten-free white bread rise.

American Key Food Products already offers rice flours and starches as well as other gluten-free ingredients, including King Lion premium cassava flour.

Almond flour’s popularity has risen due an appreciation for whole foods and the gluten-free trend, said Jeff Smith, director of marketing for the Blue Diamond Almonds’ global ingredients division in Sacramento, Calif.

“As the consistency improves and gran-ulation becomes finer, almond flour’s use will certainly increase,” he said.

The company already offers an extra-fine blanched almond flour that has a powder-like consistency to deliver a smooth texture and mouthfeel, Mr. Smith said.

“Extra-fine blanched almond flour is a perfect ingredient for even the most delicate and lightest of pastries,” he said.

An extra-fine natural almond flour has a comparable granulation to blanched almond flour at a more economical price point, Mr. Smith said.

“With its natural light tan color, our natural flour gives your baked goods a more rustic, artisanal appearance,” he said.

He added gluten-free almond flour may work in such applications as cakes, bread and muffins, and almond flour may help gluten-free crackers stay crispy longer.

Fine flour might not be the best option for other gluten-free applications, including nutritional bars.

“The majority of the nutritional bars are using whole grains,” said Chris Kenzel, director of sales and procurement for Firebird Artisan Mills, Harvey, N.D. “This is probably for both visual appeal as well as general nutrition value. Flour blends could work, but they would require syrups or juices added in order to get them to bond in the pressing process.”

Ancient grains such as quinoa, buckwheat, millet and amaranth are possible whole grain options for gluten-free nutritional bars, he said.

Product developers may blend such raw materials as grains, seeds, pulses, starches and gums to create gluten-free nutritional bars, said Vanessa Brovelli, senior product applications technologist for Bay State Milling, Quincy, Mass.

“Depending on the type of bar and processing conditions, a flour blend may vary greatly,” she said. “If a nutritional claim is desired, a developer can choose from some of the more nutrient-dense seeds such as flax, chia, pumpkin or sunflower, where omega-3s, fiber and protein are higher than in starches or gums. Flax and chia also can be utilized for their hydrocolloidal properties to bind a bar or help a bar keep its shape rather than using a gum like xanthan.”

Sales and consumer awareness of gluten-free items have increased recently. A report from Mintel issued in October 2015 found the U.S. gluten-free food category grew 136% from 2013-15 to reach $11.6 billion. Sales of gluten-free foods made up 6.5% of total U.S. food sales in 2015, up from 2.8% in 2013.

The International Food Information Council Foundation’s 2016 Food and Health Survey found 20% of Americans said they were trying to limit or avoid gluten in their diet, which was up from 19% in 2015 and 13% in 2014.