While most of us know how nutrient dense beans are, you wouldn’t often think of beans as being the main ingredient in classic baked goods.
However, bean flours work surprisingly well when used to make traditional fare like cookies, lemon squares, and pancakes in place of wheat flour.
Only bean flours can do (and offer) a little bit more than wheat flours.
Most bean flours are made by pulverizing dried or over-ripe beans until very fine and, as is the goal, of a flour-like consistency.
Unlike wheat flours, beans do not oxidize, nor are they bleached as is often the case with white flour in the U.S. This happens with wheat flour to quicken the oxidation process, as well as to make it whiter, as fresh mulled wheat flour is actually yellow. This means flour made from beans won’t be bathed in chlorine as happens with commercially bleached wheat flour.
Bean flour contains no gluten and is therefore convenient in gluten free baking.
For desserts and breakfast fare, white bean flour is the best to use for a more conventional flavor. But the natural flavor in bean flour can be a blessing in other dishes, as you can use bean flour in place of whole beans to make hummus, soups, sauces and gravies, and dips – often the only other ingredients needed are water and seasonings.
So, whereas adding water to wheat flour creates a clay-like glob, adding water or broth to bean flour proves successful at creating something you’d actually want to eat. The ability to use bean flour to make soft, simple food that is also dense in protein makes it a reliable source of protein for infants and those with an inability to chew, as was once the case with peanut butter.
Bean flours can be found at health food stores and most grocery stores, Bob’s Red Mill is probably the most common brand currently producing bean flour. Most flours are made from one of the following varieties: Fava beans (those incorporated into one of the most famous lines in film history), chick peas (also known as garbanzo beans), black beans, kidney beans, and white beans.
Each variety offers its own nutritional benefits, but all are rich in protein and fiber, containing anywhere from 7 to 10 grams of protein and about 4 grams of fiber per serving.
In addition to seeking out bean flour in the health food aisles, you can process dried beans to a flour at home using a food processor or coffee grinder (for smaller batches). Just be sure you grind the beans to a very fine powder, as you don’t want to make a coarse meal out of them.
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