Nut flours make surprisingly convincing baked goods. However, lacking the gluten of the more traditional grain flours, they can be a little trickier to work with, but with a bit of practice it’s easy to produce delicious, nutrient dense cakes, biscuits & pastries.
So for anybody new to baking with nut flours I’m sharing a few of the tips I’ve learned through trial & error.
By far the best nut flours are the ones made at home. Ideally nuts should be stored in a cool place in their shells, the kernels soaked prior to use to remove anti-nutrients, roasted, dried & then finally ground. But if this sounds all too labour intensive there are now specialist nut millers who sell a wide range of flours.
The oil content of most nut flours varies depending on a number of factors such as freshness, husk content & the type of nut used, so I find it better to stick to rough guidelines rather than precise recipes. Today’s blog is on cakes; biscuits & pastries to follow at a later date.
Almond flour is my all time favourite for its versatility. It has a fairly neutral flavour, is sufficiently oily not to require additional fat, & makes lovely moist cakes that stay fresh for days. As with other nut flour cakes it needs plenty of well-beaten egg to help it rise, soft fruits like ripe banana, mandarins or peaches for texture, your preferred sweetener & raising agent, & then enough almond flour to create a thick, pourable batter.
Carob & cocoa powder bend particularly well with almond to create wickedly dark, rich cakes, or if you prefer less intense flavours try adding lavender flowers, citrus zest or rose & cardamom. Almond flour can be blended with other nut flours such as pecan, hazelnut or pistachio for added flavour. Walnuts & brazils can be used, but only in moderation. Walnut flour is quite bitter, & brazil nuts are too high in selenium to be consumed in quantity.
For anybody wanting a no added sugar cake, chestnut & coconut flours are both naturally sweet & combine beautifully. Both are coarser, less oily flours, & they absorb more liquid. Kombucha soaked dried fruit, a few tablespoonfuls of oil & apple puree or ripe banana keep these cakes wonderfully succulent, & warm spices add depth of flavour. Fresh figs & grated carrots also work well. This cake is altogether chunkier, so you need to add the combined flours until the mixture has a consistency similar to porridge otherwise it will come out too wet & heavy.
As a rough guide I use about 6-7 eggs & either a couple of medium sizes bananas, 4-5 small mandarins, a cupful of apple puree or a similar volume of soft fruit as a starting point for any nut flour cake, then add other ingredients to the desired consistency. I add a teaspoon of baking powder, but also beating the eggs very thoroughly is essential to ensure sufficient aeration to keep the cakes light.
This quantity makes about 12 large muffins or two 7 inch cakes. These cakes do not rise as much as wheat flour baking so it’s safe to fill tins to within half an inch of the top. Bake in a moderate/medium oven until a knife or skewer comes out clean.
For a light, tangy frosting mix coconut milk & creamy cashew nut flour with lemon juice, or blitz with a handful of berries……..ummmmm, doubly scrumptious!