So you need/want to go Paleo? You want the freedom to occasionally enjoy some baking but don’t know where to start? Don’t worry, let us take your hand and walk you through the basics and soon you’ll be navigating your paleo kitchen with confidence.
Let’s talk flour.
Grain free flours generally benefit from being blended with other flours. It usually improves the texture and flavour of your baking, and adding a cheaper flour to a more expensive one can make be easier on the bank balance. As a general rule don’t make your blend more than 50% starch or you risk your baking becoming too gummy.
Almond flour/meal – simply finely ground almonds. With the flour the almonds are blanched and their skins removed. The ‘meal’ is ground with the skins. Easy to use and has a nice neutral flavour with a good crumb but the most expensive of all gluten and grain free flours and can be very calorific. 1 cup of flour contains approx 90 almonds! High in polyunsaturated fatty acids which can be inflammatory. Overall a great option but best in moderation, both for your health, and your wallet.
Arrowroot flour/starch – A starch that needs to be blended with other flours. Works well as a thickener in sauces and gravy. Neutral in taste. In New Zealand most arrowroot flour is actually tapioca starch. Read the fine print as some recipes don’t work as well with tapioca.
Banana flour – Made from green unripened bananas. As the bananas are harvested prior to the ripening stage where the starches turn to sugar the flour is not sweet, and not strongly flavoured. It a mild earthy flavour and most people cannot taste banana in baked goods. A slightly darker fine ground flour that is very easy to use, highly nutritious and does not need to be blended with other flours. Can be substituted directly for wheat flour but use 25% less than suggested.
Otto’s Cassava flour – made from the dried ground yuca root. Light and mild in flavour, slightly earthy but probably the closest in taste to wheat flour of any gluten free flour. Has a gummy nature so binds well and can be used as a direct substitute for wheat flour with no blending in many recipes but use 25% less. For bread making it’s best to blend with another flour. Cassava flour is high in starch so avoid adding too much additional starch to avoid gummyness. Remember Cassava flour is made from the whole Cassava root, tapioca is the extracted starch, therefore adding tapioca starch to Cassava flour will generally not make a good blend. A higher fiber flour would be a better choice.
(Otto’s Cassava flour is different from traditional Brazilian cassava flours. It is processed differently and milled very finely.)
Coconut flour – very high in fibre but very absorbent and can make baked goods dry if not careful. Can be used on its own but performs and tastes better in a blend with other flour. Tastes quite strongly of coconut.
Tapioca flour – The extracted starch from the root of the Cassava or Yuca plant. Not to be confused with Cassava flour which is made from the whole root. Works well in baking blended with other flours or on it’s own as a thickener.
Without the gluten to bind your baking can turn into a crumbly mess. There are various options to help with this. While the gums are generally the most effective they can cause digestive issues in sensitive people and many don’t like to include them on a list of paleo ingredients. We will let you be the judge and decide which option fits you best. Luckily there are plenty of other options available.
Xanthan gum – a product of bacterial fermentation commonly used as a food additive in gluten free baking. Works well as a gluten replacement. Can be cultured in solutions derived from corn, soy or wheat so people with severe allergies may need to be cautious. Can cause digestive issues in sensitive people.
Guar Gum – derived from the guar bean it has been found to be save for human consumption, even in fairly high doses although some have found it causes some digestive upset.
Psyllium Husk – psyllium absorbs water and forms a slippery gel when wet and is often used as a natural binding agent.
Chia seeds – works in a similar way to psyllium to help bind baking.
Flax seeds – another absorbent seed that is often used as a binding agent.
Eggs – in many cases eggs are enough to help bind in gluten free baking.
Gelatine – increasingly used as a binding agent that is not only gentle on the digestive system but gut healthy.
Agar agar – derived from seaweed and behaves similar to gelatin. You may remember agar from your school days as it is used to make the gel in the petri dish. A more expensive option usually used as a vegetarian substitute to gelatine.
In place of dairy milk use either nut milks or coconut milk.
Coconut oil, nut oils, sustainable palm oil, avocado oil or animal fats (dripping, lard etc) are all good fats to use in baking.
If you like things sweet it’s a case of choose your poison. Dates, honey, coconut sugar/nectar or stevia are all considered good options.
We recommend choosing a recipe that appeals, getting some ingredients and just diving in. You’ll be surprised just how good grain free baking can be! Here are a few of our favourite recipes:
Crusty french bread
Morning Glory Muffins
Rosemary Garlic Flatbread