Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Rethinking Protein Sources...Again

In the Meat Manifesto, I started the article asking you to rethink protein sources. Now I'd like to add BAKING to it as a philosophy. Up until recently, it never occurred to me to include baking in the realm of complete protein combinations--probably because the right flours hadn't come along in my life.

As many of you know, I'm allergic to wheat and its relatives (too lazy to have a Celiac test done, but my chronic sneezing stopped), so I have to resort to non-wheat-family flours for baking--this means no gluten, either, which makes baking a whole lot trickier. Throw in a "normal" wheat-eating (but soy-allergic) husband who likes your cooking/baking, and it gets tougher still.

Until recently, the only flours available to us Celiacs and Celiac-ish people were mostly grain-based: rice flours (both white and brown), corn flours, millet flours, and buckwheat, as well as the few non-grain ones: potato flour, tapioca flour, yam flour (an elusive one). All these flours are medium-to-high carb, with little to no protein or other nutrition, making baking something to avoid rather than attempt, and rendering "our" breads just as devoid of nutrition as regular breads.

Now it seems there's been a plethora of new GF (gluten-free) flour discoveries, and the GF baking world has been spurred into action again with such flours as mesquite, sorghum, amaranth, quinoa, teff, and even a gluten-free strain of oats out of Canada that makes a usable oat flour.

Someone has also looked abroad to other countries and what THEY do for baking, especially in vegetarian cultures, like most of India, and brought us chickpea flour, lentil flour (pick your color), pea flour (both green and yellow), bean flour (pick your color and type)--all high in protein compared to regular flours and normal GF flours.

Someone else (or rather several someones) got busy in the kitchen and learned how to use these flours for baking success.

Going back to the Manifesto for just a second, we see that combining beans and grains is one way to complete a protein, so why not do it with baking as well as cooking?

To use these high-protein flours if you aren't baking in GF mode, simply substitute 25% of your recipe's flour with a high-protein one.

Example: the recipe calls for 2 cups of regular flour. 25% of 2 cups = 1/2 cup.

Now, how to find these flours: there are two sources, and one is cheaper than the other, but may put your hearing and wallet at risk. One source is India-related ethnic grocery stores for the bean flours. Another source is to buy your own beans and grind them in a blender (dry) as needed--like coffee beans.

My nutritional research into beans (done awhile back) shows that small red beans are the most nutritious, and contain higher amounts of antioxidants than blueberries. I'm cutting to the chase and grinding these beans in a bean-friendly grinder, blender, or food mill...when I can find one.

UPDATE: Skip the hunt for a bean-friendly mill (they're too expensive and are energy hogs) and go with the ethnic grocery route, but beware of cross-conamination (for GFers). Bean-friendly mills of the kind I would need are industrial capacity--way beyond the normal coffee bean grinders or flour mills. Think of the electricity these things would eat up!

As for the mesquite, buckwheat, GF oat, and other grain- and non-grain flours, I'm afraid you're stuck with expensive health food stores for now (unless you want to grind your own). ConAgra has invented a high-protein GF flour mix that's ready to use like wheat flour, but has relegated it to industrial use only--maybe in the future this "miracle in a bag" will become available to us peons. As of now, we're stuck buying and mixing several kinds of flours into one all-purpose mix that substitutes cup-for-cup for wheat flour (the "magic 6" of the GF world: amaranth, buckwheat, teff, millet, quinoa and sorghum because of their high nutritional value).

There are several ready-made flour mixes available to us now, but they're all made with lower-nutrition flours, and quite high in sodium (this part kills me--flour has no sodium!). Some inventive cooks out there have devised flour formulas using higher-protein and more nutritious flours for us to make for ourselves at home. The ConAgra stuff would be the Holy Grail of GF flour mixes to us, but for now, we make our own. If anybody knew the ratios of the different flours that made up the ConAgra Holy Grail flour, you can bet we GFers would be spreading the word via internet, and replicating it at home.

For all of us, GF or not, combining proteins in our baking will greatly enhance nutritional quality of our baked goods, helping to fill us up with cheaper, non-meat sources of food. Finally, we can make baking count!

Baked goods would no longer be considered "junk food" if bakeries and other food companies pulled their heads out and started adding PROTEIN FLOURS into their recipes.

Referring once again to the graphic in the Manifesto, we see that grains also combine with dairy to complete a protein--so add some Parmesan cheese (1/4-1/2 c.) to your next batch of biscuits, rolls, or bread. Wanna go all the way and make a meal-in-a-muffin? Add Parmesan, cooked or canned beans (or bean flour), and some chopped fresh veggies to your muffin batter--no meat necessary.

Don't want to do bean flours, or can't do bean flours? Try pea flour, flax meal, nut flours, or adding nutritional yeast to your wheat or rice flour canister--2 cups for every 4 or 5 lbs. of flour.


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