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April Showers Bring May...Flours? | Great Performances


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April Showers Bring May…Flours?
by Assistant Event Director and Pizza Fanatic, Emily Giove

I love a good pun, and a good FOOD pun is even better.  I also love to indulge in cookies, breads, mozzarella sticks and generally anything that might involve flour.  So it's been exciting for me to learn about the properties of this omnipresent ingredient, as well as the various strains that actually contain some nutritional value!  I also discovered that both “flour” and “flower” do in fact descend from the same “root” (pun-intended) word, fleur.  A botany lesson, really.

White wheat is the most common base for flour, available in unbleached (more protein) or bleached (chemically-treated, but more functional) varieties in probably any supermarket you may enter.  With more and more people opting to go gluten-free, for dietary or medical purposes, exciting new flours have “sprung” up all around us!

GP Chef Rob Valencia's Strawberry Crème Fraîche Mousse atop Hemp Flour Cake. 

Let’s start with the weirdest: cricket flour.  Packed with protein and naturally gluten-free, this flour is certainly pricier than the norm, but we hope that will change as it grows in popularity.  You can use cricket flour in everything from orange ginger cookies to pasta and pastries.  Any difference in taste is virtually imperceptible – although Bitty Foods, a pioneer of the insect-powder movement, does encourage incorporating an element of citrus in cricket recipes.

Cricket Flour. ©Lean It Up.

Perhaps a little more accessible is chickpea flour.  A favorite for dishes with a Mediterranean flair, chickpea flour also contains plenty o’ protein. Oddly enough, this flour can be used in place of eggs in vegan recipes.  It functions as a binder and a leavener – it makes baked goods rise higher.  Folate, iron and calcium are among the minerals chickpea flour contains, and it works super well in cakes and muffins.

“00” flour is “sprouting” up in several hot NYC pizzerias, including Bruno Pizza and more recently, plant-based 00 + Co.  Both places mill their own flour, having spent months perfecting their recipes prior to opening their doors.  Bruno utilizes whole wheat berries from a farm in upstate New York and a slow fermentation process to craft their 00 flour with maximum freshness.  The flour is used the day it’s milled, and their end result is a stellar soft, whole-grain crust. 

©00 + Co. 

In my personal extensive pizza-eating, I had not yet seen any chef go to such lengths to provide the best possible product for this particular aspect of the pie.  Flour may be too often overlooked, in favor of the perfect sauce, cheese or toppings, yet it is so integral – flour is of course the foundation of dough, which is the foundation for any pizza you will ever have!

Semolina is another popular flour in Italian cooking, as it is very fine in texture, making it preferable for homemade pastas.  Nut flours abound, with almond the most popular, particularly for desserts (not so much for bread making).  Acorn flour, oat flour, spelt flour and rice flour are among your other choices when shopping in a more niche grocery – it’s almost overwhelming!  A few years ago, I know I could not have imagined how many different versions exist of a basic and most often bland ingredient as flour.  Which kind has captured your interest?  I’m off to bake some springy sweets and revel in the arrival of May. 

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