Aren’t we all life-long learners? Well, I am at least when it comes to baking. I often experiment when I am in the kitchen, not because I’m advanced, but because I often do not have all of the required ingredients. Sometimes when I experiment in this way, I am pleasantly surprised (more here), other times, I am simply appalled by my creations (more here). Today, through a series of intentional and unintentional substitutions and a few baking blunders along the way, I ended up with a very, very blue loaf of bread.
“I feel like everyone has entered the ‘baking banana bread’ part of quarantine.” –meme circulating on Facebook
I am in week four of my unofficial, lockdown and am well into the “baking banana bread” (also known as—the ‘fruits are on the edge of rotten’) part of isolation. For me, so far, the “baking banana bread” part of quarantine has produced banana bread (more here), apple coffee cake (more here), and cinnamon carrot bread (more here). I choose to bake blueberry bread because I was excited to use my new almond flour that I got in the mail as well as finish off the tub of sour cream that has been sitting in the fridge. Little did I know that baking with almond flour would pose such a challenge.
Ingredient substitutions can sometimes be simple, for example, I have often exchanged vegetable oil for olive oil without a problem. I have also used vegan butter in place of the regular variety (due to market availability) without noticing a difference. Flour, however, is a whole other story. When looking for ‘healthier’ baked good recipes, I have read that one should avoid using all-purpose flour. Flour comes from a grain, which has three parts: the bran and the germ (filled with vitamin B and antioxidants), and the endosperm (carb-y part). White flour (unlike wheat) is refined and removed of its nutrient-rich bran and germ, while leaving only the starchy endosperm. Therefore, white flour lacks nutrients necessary to support our health. Additionally, refined white flour tricks the body into feeling less full (which can lead to overeating), as well as spikes blood sugar, and causes inflammation in the body. This handful of side effects convinced me that it would be worth it to look into other “flour” options. I settled on almond flour for two reasons – 1. It got good reviews online, and 2. It was cheaper than wheat flour. However, now that I have actually started baking with almond flour, I wish I would have done a little more research beforehand….
Flour is a grain and almonds are a nut; these ingredients therefore have very different properties. Almond flour is high in fat and will provide extra moisture into a recipe. Almond flour is also more dense than all-purpose flour, which means that when baking a bread, the dough may not rise as high. While these differences may sound superficial, it is important to understand their properties, so you know how to correctly adjust ingredient proportions. When it comes to using almond flour in lieu of all-purpose flour – there are NO easy substitutions. If you simply swapped almond flour for all-purpose flour in a bread recipe, you will probably get a super moist, short loaf. If you would like to make this substitution, you will likely have to add a bit more baking soda and baking powder (so the dough will rise) and eggs (so the dough with stick together).
I used an all-purpose flour-based recipe for a blueberry muffin bread. While I set out to use 100% almond flour, after doing some research, I decided to use 50% all-purpose flour and 50% almond flour. I believe that this non-strategic substitution led to a few different product peculiarities. First, the batter had a ‘nutty flavor’, which I attempted to cover up with an extra 1/4 cup of white sugar. Second, the streusel (flour, cinnamon sugar mixture) disappeared! While this crumble was meant to sit atop the bread, it sunk before my eyes in the oven through the thick liquid. Third, the batter turned a metallic blue. The secret of how NOT to bake blue bread is this–don’t over mix. When baking blueberry bread, add the blueberries last and stir the batter no more than a few times, unless you do indeed aim to create a great blue blob.
Even though the bread turned out to be rather moist (wet even) and blue, it was sweet and almost cake-like in consistency. This was not my best creation (I should have learned a bit more about almond flour first) but was worth the experience all the same. Dear Reader, when starting something new, a little research can go a long way. Regardless, I enjoyed the bread. I guess you can never judge a loaf of bread by its color. 😉