Barley flour is very versatile. Over the past five years, there has been an increase in its uses within the artisan and commercial baking community. The flour has a rich, nutty taste and creates a different texture than all-purpose flour in baked goods. Interestingly, malt barley flour is popular with artisan bakers as it aids in the fermentation process. So how does this translate to the home baker?
First, let me tell you about my experience trying to purchase barley flour. It was late last fall when I was preparing to speak on behalf of Alberta Barley at the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair. In the past, I have had challenges with the chain grocery stores in my community (100 km west of Toronto) not selling a large variety of ingredients. That was the case, when I needed to purchase barley flour to make muffins and cookies. After three grocery stores and no flour, I explained my situation to a local professional home economist. She suggested I try the Bulk Barn. And yes, Bulk Barn had all the barley flour I needed. Fortunately, in Western Canada barley flour is more readily available at Safeway, Co-ops and Sobeys grocery stores.
Now that you have the flour, the question is can you directly substitute all-purpose flour with barley flour in recipes? In some recipes such muffins, quick breads or cookies you can swap barley flour at a one-to-one ratio. Using this method, I find the texture of the muffins and cookies denser and chewier adding an appealing mouth feel. This one-to-one ratio is something you can experiment with your own baking.
It is important to note for yeast bread recipes, there is not enough gluten in barley flour to properly develop the bread, and therefore, the barley experts at GoBarley recommend swapping one quarter of all-purpose flour for barley flour in yeast bread recipes. As a result, if the recipe called for one cup of all-purpose flour, you would use ¼ cup of barley flour with ¾ cup of all-purpose flour. Barley flour works will as a thickening agent too. Add one teaspoon of barley flour to soup or gravy to thicken it as it is cooking. Stir the flour in well until it dissolves. Add more teaspoons one at a time, until your recipe reaches the thickness you desire.
Barley is a powerhouse of nutrition. It is a whole grain that is high in both soluble and insoluble fibre. The soluble fibre beta-glucans helps reduce cholesterol, while the insoluble fibre helps keep you full and your digestive tract healthy. Barley flour is considered whole grain flour and the good news is the milling process does not change to the functionality of the beta-glucans.
So fibre up! By using barley flour instead of all-purpose flour you triple your fibre intake. GoBarley has delicious and easy recipes to start you baking with this rich, nutty tasting flour. I recommend the following four to begin with: quick breakfast bread; blueberry barley muffins; barley pancakes with maple yogurt topping and my favourite adding vegetables to dessert – zucchini lemon cake with glaze. Let me know which one is your favourite.