Because of cross-contamination, oat flour was once not considered gluten-free. Whether grown in a field surrounded by amber waves of grain or ground at a mill that produced conventional flour, oats, and wheat almost certainly mixed sometimes along the road. Many producers, thankfully, have segregated their fields and buildings.
If you’re not highly sensitive to gluten, any oat flour will suffice; but, if you have celiac disease (or are making a treat for someone who does), search for gluten-free certification—it’ll be prominently labeled on the container.
However, a small minority of celiac patients will respond to all oats. Allergies differ according to individual biology, so if you’re baking for a celiac buddy, always inquire before using oat flour.
Because it acts so similarly to wheat flour, oat flour is well worth the effort. It gives baked items a delicate and fluffy texture, with a subtle flavor that complements vanilla, nutmeg, and butter. Here are four suggestions about how to use it.
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1. Oat flour helps to lighten the dense texture of bran muffins, carrot cake, and zucchini bread. Reduce the flour (all-purpose flour or gluten-free blend) by 25% and replace it with an equivalent amount of oat flour.
2. You haven’t tasted oatmeal raisin cookies until you’ve prepared them with a little oat flour, which adds a thick and chewy texture that’s irresistible. Use as directed above.
3. Gluten-free white or yellow cake requires oat flour. It’s absorbent and light, so it helps these mild cakes bake up light and fluffy.
4. Oat flour can be used in traditional baking. Try kneading whole-wheat bread with it. It prevents the dough from sticking but, unlike ordinary flour, will not toughen the dough if used excessively.
Stella Parks was named Food & Wine’s Best New Pastry Chef in 2012. Her debut cookbook, co-written with editor Maria Guarnaschelli, will be published by W. W. Norton in 2015.