Though highly underrated, baking is one of the worlds biggest hobbies by participation. To put the icing on the cake, no pun intended, it produces so many wonderful food items such as cakes, scones, muffins, pies and more. Traditionally recipes use wheat flour but there are reasons why people may not want wheat flour in recipes. Gluten, which is heavily present in wheat flour is one of the most frequently listed reasons for avoiding wheat flour. Whatever the reason, almond flour is one of the popular substitutes for wheat flour. As a nut flour almond flour has a different composition to wheat flour and that impacts its usage.
Almond flour is sometimes referred to as defatted almond meal. First almonds are blanched to remove the skins and dried. The almonds are then ground into a fine flour. Almonds do contain a lot of fat so for defatted varieties of almond flour, the almonds are cold-pressed during the grinding to remove the fat. This gives a drier end product that has a consistency that closer matches traditional wheat flour. Almond flour works as a wheat flour substitute. It is also very popular in its own right as flour of choice for recipes like French macaroons. To understand the substitution of almond flour for wheat flour we can run through some of the differences between these two first.
Wheat Flour Vs Almond Flour
The first obvious difference between these two flours is that wheat is a grain while almond is a nut. Wheat contains gluten while almonds do not and therefore almond flour does not contain any gluten. Gluten is a plant protein and the reason why wheat flour products are stretchy (think pizza dough before baking) and fluffy (think a sponge cake after baking). Almond flour contains much fewer carbohydrates than wheat flour but conversely has more fat. This means that almond flour has more calories than traditional wheat flour. Finally, almond flour has higher fibre content than wheat flour.
The Key Considerations For Almond Flour
Now that we know the differences between wheat flour and almond flour on a composition basis let’s explore how those differences impact the usage of almond flour. By understanding the impact it will be much easier for us to work with almond flour and figure out the right conversions for wheat flour to almond flour.
Almond Flour Burns Quicker
One of the things you will have to be aware of when substituting almond flour for wheat flour is that almond flour burns faster than wheat flour in the baking process. Because of this, you are likely to get a product that hardens very quickly on the top as compared to when wheat flour is used. This can ruin recipes. You can avoid this by covering your baking vessel with foil so that the top of your recipe does not get affected by direct heat.
Almond Flour Is Heavier
Almond flour, partly due to its fat content is denser than wheat flour. So when substituting almond flour for wheat flour one of the things you will have to guard against is the thought of packing the flour tight in your measuring vessel. Instead, just scoop a cup if it is a cup that is required.
Almond Flour Has More Moisture
One of the characteristics that makes almond flour denser than wheat flour is the amount of moisture that it contains. A lot of this moisture comes from the higher fat content in almond flour as compared to wheat flour. You will need to be aware of this because the moisture means your recipes will likely not bind and hold as well nor have the same consistency as the same thing made with wheat flour.
Almond Flour Is Gluten-Free
Gluten is a protein found in plants such as wheat that gives wheat flour some of its properties. It is responsible for both the stretchy spongy nature of wheat flour dough and also the light fluffiness of cakes made with wheat flour. If you are going to substitute wheat flour with almond flour your recipes may not rise as well as the wheat flour versions. Gluten is also instrumental in how well the recipes hold together. If this is the case you may need to add something to help bind the ingredients together.
Almond Flour May Need a Binding Agent
You have a few options that you can add to your recipes as a binding agent to help almond flour. You can add chia seeds, flax seeds or an extra egg to help the recipe hold together better. Which to use will depend on the recipe you are working on. An egg would be better in a batter like a recipe. For both the chia seeds and flax seeds you can easily grind them into a flour in a food processor.
Two Cups Almond Flour For One Cup Wheat Flour
In many recipes, you will find you can simply substitute wheat flour with almond flour by doubling the amount of flour. So if a recipe requires one cup of wheat flour you can safely use two cups of almond flour in its stead. However, it’s not a simple as dumping two cups of almond flour into your mixing bowl. The best way to work with almond flour is to first put in almond flour at 1:1. So 1 cup almond flour for every cup of wheat flour. Then gradually add the additional almond flour a bit at a time. Mix it in and gradually until you arrive at the desired consistency. In many cases, you will end up using the full two cups of almond flour per every cup of wheat flour in the recipe.
Finding the right amount of almond flour to replace wheat flour in a recipe is not as easy as saying two cups of almond flour for one cup of flour. You’re better off adding one cup first and then gradually add more and mix in until you achieve the desired.