Using a variety of grains adds dimension to baked goods

Kumquat buckwheat cakeFrom rye to polenta, non-wheat flours have been used around the world, but now they are finding their way into Western-style bakeries. Chef Claire Ptak of London's Violet Cakes uses buckwheat, rye, polenta and other flours in her baked goods, and she encourages bakers to experiment. "Understand what you're using, and see what works," she says. 

Rye flour, for instance, has an affinity for chocolate, says Ptak. She pairs it with other robust flavors like ginger. In addition to using rye in a dark chocolate brownie, Ptak notes that it also works well in a crumbled topping for desserts. "I love a rye crumb sprinkled over a really smooth, beautiful custard like panna cotta," she says.

Another flour making the transition to Western bakeries is Khorasan wheat flour, sometimes known as Kamut flour, after the major brand that produces it. "It's a beautiful golden color. It reminds me of polenta flour, but it's a bit finer," says Ptak. "I really like it with milk chocolate," she adds. Ptak is incorporating it into savory items as well, experimenting with scones, biscuits, crackers, and more. 

Ptak provides tips on incorporating different flours into your existing recipes. You usually can't make a direct substitution for the entire amount, she cautions. Many of these flours lack sufficient gluten to make that work. Instead, start with an eighth or quarter of the amount called for in the recipe. You should also remember that many of these flours absorb more moisture than wheat flour, so you may need to add additional liquid to the recipe. 

Photo of Kumquat buckwheat almond cake from The Guardian by Claire Ptak

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