Flour Fails

Flour Fails

By Guest Foodie: Sydney Maier

I have worked on teams and in offices that celebrated everything…and I mean ev.’ry.thing. With cakes, cookies, and sweets. Were we celebrating our ability to eat baked goods? Possibly. I had to dive into how we could still celebrate but with a healthier practice. Some of us chose cleaner options like fruit or nut mix or even dark chocolate, but the die-hard cake fans were holding fast to their tradition. How else could they show their affection, if they weren’t bringing something sweet from their kitchen to share?

I am a health nut. But I am a foodie first and foremost, so the food has to taste good. Always. I knew I could create something that was clean but still tasted good, even to the die-hards. What were the best ways to make treats and still do something good for your body? I dove right in and with that in mind, I want to share some tips, tricks, and lessons learned! Enjoy my flour fails!

When considering flour alternatives, pay attention to substitution ratios! 

I love to get creative with my baking, but baking is a science, so spontaneously adjusting ratios does not work out well. There was the morning I woke up with my family begging for biscuits. I set to work on my go-to family recipe only to find I didn’t have enough all-purpose flour. I would not be deterred! I thought, nearly 1:1 substitution with almond flour…what could go wrong? You know what you get when you use 85% almond flour? Not biscuits! More like ground almonds with butter. Check out this handy substitution chart from the experts who would know!

The substitute should depend on the recipe! 

What about the time I made my raspberry mini muffins but tried to make them healthier? I used buckwheat flour but conveniently forgot how much I disliked buckwheat pancakes! While Buckwheat has the most beautiful, silky black grain, it has a very distinct flavor and mouthfeel: it’s a little…gritty. Not the best choice for an airy muffin recipe, but an excellent choice for hearty muffins like bran, or a loaf of thick-cut bread. Here’s a lovely, bite-sized guide from one of my favorite bloggers to help you decide which flour when

Modifying flour may mean modifying other ingredients! 

I love the idea of a savory breakfast on the go, but I don’t love eggs. I stumbled across a recipe for a savory, healthy egg muffin recipe made with chickpea flour instead, and put my Ninja blender through the wringer grinding dry chickpeas into a fine flour. I followed the recipe and baked for the instructed 10 minutes… long story short, it was another 20 minutes in the oven before the outsides were done, and the middles never finished baking. They came out extremely dense. And have you ever tasted raw chickpea flour batter with chickpea flour? Just…yikes. I played with egg in this recipe and needed to adjust the fat and liquid. Finally, I tried using higher fat-cashew milk and added a little avocado oil. Savory success! When subbing flours, consider how absorbent they are compared to white flour, and how the other ingredients might interact. It sometimes just takes some trial and error.


Bakers Beware! Tapioca Flour is straight-up starch. It is my least favorite to use because it has very little nutritional value, and quite frankly, there are just so many better options. The worst fail I ever experienced was with my favorite lemon-blueberry muffins. I was staying with friends and ingredient shopping in their pantry. I grabbed tapioca flour…I don’t know what I was thinking. I used equal parts tapioca flour and all-purpose flour without considering that tapioca flour is just starch. I can’t even describe the texture- it wasn’t slimy but it wasn’t dry… it didn’t stretch like putty, but it didn’t tear like pita… it was somehow crispy and chewy? A crispy, chewy muffin? Needless to say, there was no breakfast hero in this story! I had chosen tapioca on a whim, but I should have actually considered what that particular flour was good for. It works well for flat things! Pies, naan, crepes- things where you might appreciate a crisped outside or chewy inside. But for muffins and cakes, I’d recommend coconut, almond, rice or sorghum flours perhaps in combination with tapioca to get the traditional texture. Almond flour and coconut flour are my go-to choices for baking. Check out this wonderful guide to build your own gluten-free flour blend! And for those interested in comparing flour substitute nutrition, check out this guide!

It can take patience and practice to find the best options for your recipes, but hopefully, my flour fails give you a head start in your own experiments! Considering “flour power” is one of Whole Foods’ top trends for 2020, we can count on alternative flours dominating mainstream grocery shelves next year and inspiring all sorts of fantastic new ideas and recipes! Oatmeal cookies with cauli-flour? Banana bread with banana flour? Sponge cake with teff flour? Have fun experimenting with it. After all, it’s about the journey, not the destination! 

Sydney Maier is a recent MBA graduate from the Emory Goizueta Business School and is an inspired leader within social impact companies.

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