When lockdown was first announced five weeks ago, one of the most noticeable items that suddenly vanished from supermarket shelves was flour.
Although it seems to be back in stock in some places now, I’m still getting requests from readers for recipes that can make use of alternatives, so here we are.
Firstly, to thicken a sauce or soup, almost any flour will do the job. Make a roux as usual, then thin it out slowly, stirring all the time. In savoury dishes, a sprinkle of instant mashed potato would also serve as a reasonable thickener – but use sparingly.
Almond flour can be swapped gram for gram in plenty of sweet bakes. The coarser grinds are known as almond meal, and still work in a pinch, but gives a more crumbly bite, so best used for dense and fudgey bakes, like brownies. You can make your own by grinding almonds in a small powerful bullet-style blender or a food processor, if you have one, or pick it up from health food stores or in the baking aisle in the supermarket.
Buckwheat flour makes incredibly delicious pancakes, known in France as ‘galettes’. They’re so good that I’ve replaced my usual pancake recipe – which was perfected almost every weekend for around four years – with a buckwheat one.
How to make galettes (buckwheat flour pancakes):
- One medium egg, or one mashed banana, or two tbsp applesauce
- 180ml milk
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 8 tablespoons or 80g of buckwheat flour
- Optional: 100g of mixed berries – any fresh, frozen or dried fruit will work here, or leave it out entirely
Egg: Instead of the egg, you can use 1 banana, mashed to a pulp, or 2 tbsp applesauce, 2 tbsp stewed apple, or 2 tbsp stewed pear. In a pinch, you could use lemon curd, marmalade, or any other sweet preserve that is high in pectin to act as a binding agent.
Milk: Can be replaced with UHT or longlife milk, powdered milk or coffee creamer mixed with 180ml water, any vegan or dairyfree milk, coconut milk, coconut water, or apple juice.
Baking powder: Tricky one to substitute, but ½ tsp bicarb would just about pull it off. This means you absolutely can’t skip the step about resting the batter, though, as it needs this time to wake up and fizz about. Add a couple of drops of lemon, lime or orange juice to kickstart the process – bottled is, as ever, absolutely fine.
Berries: To be honest I added these because I like the surprise as the hot swollen berries pop in my mouth, it’s a joy every time, but if you don’t have them you can leave them out. Replace with any finely chopped fruit, fresh, tinned or frozen, or chocolate chips, small chocolates like Smarties or M&Ms, marshmallows, whatever you like really!
How to make:
First measure your milk into a mixing jug and crack in your egg. Add the baking powder, and beat briskly and thoroughly to combine. Add the berries, then both kinds of flour, and mix to a thick batter. Pop it in the fridge for at least 30 minutes to chill and rest.
Heat your oven to 120C and place a lightly greased tray in the centre – this is to keep your pancakes warm as you cook them, and also finishes them with a decent fluffy rise!
Warm a nonstick pan, and grease with either a tablespoon of oil, butter, or frylight spray – all are equally good for this recipe. When the pan is hot, but not smoking, turn the heat down to low. Add a two-tablespoon dollop of batter, and then another one on the opposite side of the pan. Cook for two minutes, then turn carefully and cook for two minutes on the wet side.
Carefully remove and place on the warm baking tray in the oven. Repeat twice more, to make six pancakes, or until all the batter is used up.
Cook them in the oven for 15 minutes; eliminating any sticky patches of batter that may remain in the middle and allowing them to rise and puff up – it’s my secret to perfect pancakes, and never fails! And takes some of the stress out of trying to cook them quickly, keep them warm, assemble the family at the table, et cetera.
Serve hot with accoutrements of your choice – we like honey and more berries in this household, but you can serve with cream, yoghurt, butter, golden syrup, lemon curd, or whatever you fancy.
Uneaten pancakes, while a travesty, can be kept in the fridge for two days or freezer for three months. Warm through thoroughly to serve.
Coconut flour is tempestuous, in my experience, as it absorbs and holds an incredible amount of liquid, so it’s quite tricky to get to grips with as a bread flour, although some brilliant allergy bloggers have done a lot of work here exploring the possibilities, so it is possible, it just wouldn’t be my first use for it. Instead, use it to make ‘fork cookies’ – simply beat together 10 tbsp coconut flour, 5 tbsp butter or peanut butter and 2-4 tbsp sugar depending on your taste, baked in the oven at 160C for 15-18 minutes and allowed to cool for 15 mins before moving from the baking tray.
Gram flour, also known as besan, chickpea or garbanzo flour – I could write a whole article about all of the incredible uses for this bag of golden wonder. Use it to make a pizza dough, dumplings, savoury skinny crepe-style pancakes, and for more ideas, see Romy Gill on Instagram, who has been doing a sterling job bringing gram flour into the spotlight.
Quinoa flour is high in protein and has a dense and nutty flavour, ideal for banana breads and muffins as the flavours complement each other beautifully. It has a tendency to crumble, though, so best to mix a third of it with a wetter, absorbent flour like almond or coconut to stick everything together.
Rice flour – relatively easy to work with, and fairly widely available, rice flour is made from grinding uncooked rice grains to a very fine powder. Useful for muffins, cakes, pancakes, and soda breads – and making your own pasta with.
I’ve saved my fave for last: oat flour. Simply smash up a pile of porridge oats – any kind, even the instant porridge you get in pots or packets – in a blender, and then pass through a sieve. Reblend the coarser bits left behind, and repeat as many times as your patience will allow.
Oat flour can be used in baking breads, pancakes, cookies, simply swap gram for gram for standard flour. It’s a little thirsty, and can’t be left unsupervised in make-ahead batters as it starts to set in a homogenous gloop, but other than that works a treat.