SO MUCH FOOD…so little time! The vast array of inventive products on display at each Fancy Food Show never ceases to amaze the attendees, and as one of the eager foodies who walked the floor this year, I can attest that this year’s winter show was no exception. One prominent trend that demonstrated true culinary creativity was the diversity of non-traditional flours in various products—whether derived from ancient grains, pulses, or other out-of-the-ordinary plant sources. Today, we’ll take a closer look at alternative gluten-free flours and why they’re more popular than ever!
Since I have a professional history in the supermarket bakery, this trend toward alternative flours and gluten-free baking intrigues me. One of my earliest job experiences was working the night shift in a supermarket in the combination Bakery/Deli department. My duties included serving customers; cleaning tables, walls and floors; and prepping food for the following day’s production of baked goods and prepared meals. After a few months of this routine, I was asked to come into work early on Saturday morning to assist the Head Baker. My co-workers teased that now I was going to be “making a lot of dough.”
Getting an up-close look at the baking process fascinated me. I enjoyed learning how flour, water, baking powder and other ingredients undergo dramatic changes in volume, texture and taste as a result of time, humidity and temperature. As an added bonus, I started wearing the “cool” bakery whites, hat and apron (I think the uniform is what first attracted my wife to me).
Somewhere along the line, wheat and gluten developed a questionable reputation in the eyes of many consumers. It’s all about perception—even people who don’t have a documented sensitivity toward gluten still avoid it because it “seems healthy” to do so (see this Food Business News article for more information about this phenomenon).
The increasing demand for gluten-free options has led to surprising innovations in just what goes into “flour” for baked goods and pastas. Some popular alternative flours include:
- rice (white or brown)
- nut meal (such as almond flour)
- tapioca (also known as yucca or cassava)
- coconut (great for retaining moisture in baked goods)
or a combination of several of these ingredients.
Ancient grains are also gaining more mainstream appreciation thanks to the gluten-free crowd. Grain options like amaranth, quinoa, and teff have emerged as whole-grain, gluten-free options that contain more protein than their popular rice or corn counterparts. Depending on why the flour is used, such as making pasta versus cake, certain ingredients work more successfully than others. See this article for helpful information on what type of alternative flour is best for your dough-making needs.
Regardless of the reason people seek out gluten-free foods, it’s definitely a trend to watch and a major growth area for retail bakers. It’s an exciting time for producers and retailers to get creative and find new ways to reinvent the bakery.
Have fun exploring new flavors and food experiences this weekend. Happy Foodie Friday!
And, of course, for something a little weird…
Gluten-free products were on prominent display at this year’s Winter Fancy Food Show. One stand-out snack for the culinary-adventurous are Lotus Pops, Paleo-diet-friendly roasted lotus seeds purported to be naturally rich in nutrients like protein, antioxidants, magnesium, potassium, phosphorus, iron and zinc. They’re available in a wide variety of flavors like Pepper and Turmeric, Mild Jalapeno, Salted Caramel, and Sweet Chili. Try them for yourself, and namaste!