When Lisa McCarthy went gluten free four years ago and noticed the difference it made in her health, she stuck with eating naturally gluten-free meats and vegetables to be on the safe side. Eventually, she branched out and began using multi-purpose gluten-free flour combinations (usually consisting of rice flour, potato starch, and tapioca starch).
Using multi-purpose gluten-free flour was convenient and worked for everything from pancakes to pie crusts, but Lisa developed new health issues after eating these foods: First, she began experiencing cravings for sugars and carbs. Then, she gradually gained 10 pounds and developed prediabetic blood sugar levels.
Through trial and error, Lisa learned that meat and vegetables needed to be the backbone of her diet, but when she wanted baked goods, she could avoid the undesirable health consequences by making them with almond flour.
Almond meal and almond flour are both made with finely ground almonds and can sometimes be referred to as the same thing. In practice, however, almond flour is often much more finely ground than almond meal, and most products that are labeled as almond flour are made from blanched almonds (no skin) before grinding.
For the majority recipes, you can use either almond meal or almond flour and get good results. But the texture and taste will be different. Almond meal has a rougher consistency and tends to work better in breadings, cobbler toppings, and other types of recipes in which a coarser texture is desired. Blanched almond flour is lighter and fluffier, making it the preferred choice for smoother looking, lighter-colored, and blander or milder baked goods.
On the Shelf
Different brands of almond flour or meal can make a difference in the way baked goods turn out, so experiment to determine which ones you like best. Available brands include Dowd & Rogers (blanched) California Almond Flour, Honeyville Blanched Almond Flour, and NOW Foods (natural, unblanched) Almond Flour. You can save money and make your own unblanched almond meal by whizzing small amounts of whole almonds in the food processor or a new coffee grinder until finely ground, and then sifting for a finer consistency.
Almond flour's weight and fat content are so different from that of typical gluten-free flours that it's best to start by making recipes that have been specifically developed for almond flour, rather than trying to substitute it into other dishes. Almond flour recipes can be found on a variety of Paleolithic, grain-free, or low-carb websites as well as in books such as The Gluten-Free Almond Flour Cookbook by Elana Amsterdam and Cooking for the Specific Carbohydrate Diet by Erica Kerwien.
Grain-Free Spinach-Mushroom Pizza*
You can make a variety of gluten-free baked goods, including pizza, using almond flour. This vegetarian option makes a satisfying meal, but you can substitute any toppings you like with the same basic crust.
2 large organic pastured eggs
2 tsp. organic coconut oil or extra virgin olive oil
2 cups blanched almond flour
¾ tsp. unrefined salt
1 tsp. dried basil leaves or Italian seasoning (optional)
1 cup mushrooms, sliced
1 garlic clove, minced
1 Tbs. organic pasture butter (made from grass-fed cows)
6 Tbs. gluten-free pizza sauce, or to taste
2/3 cup fresh spinach, chopped
¼ cup fresh basil, chopped
6 sun-dried tomatoes in olive oil, drained and patted dry (optional)
1½ cups shredded organic mozzarella cheese
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease 9-inch pizza pan or cookie sheet. Beat eggs in medium mixing bowl. Mix in coconut oil, almond flour, salt, and basil leaves. If mixture doesn't easily form a ball, add more flour by the tablespoon.
- Place ball of dough in center of prepared pizza pan. Press dough into place until it is ¼- to ½-inch thick throughout with a crust along the edges. Bake 15 minutes.
- While crust is baking, sauté mushrooms and garlic in butter until just soft. Salt if desired.
- Spread pizza sauce evenly over baked crust, and top with sautéed mushrooms, spinach, fresh basil, tomatoes, and shredded cheese. Return to oven, and bake 12-15 minutes more, or until cheese is melted. Transfer pizza to plate, slice into eighths, and serve.
*Recipe reprinted from the Going Against the Grain Group, 2013.
PER SERVING: 545 cal; 26g pro; 45g total fat (12g sat fat); 16g carb; 134mg chol; 687mg sod; 7g fiber; 4g sugars
Melissa Diane Smith, a nationally known writer and holistic nutritionist who specializes in personalizing the gluten-free diet, offers long-distance telephone counseling and coaching services to clients across the country. She is the author of Going Against the Grain and Gluten Free Throughout the Year: A Two-Year, Month-to-Month Guide for Healthy Eating. To learn about her free newsletter, visit againstthegrainnutrition.com. For information about her books, long-distance consultations, nutrition coaching programs, or speaking, visit melissadianesmith.com.
Copyright ©2012 Melissa Diane Smith. This article and recipe may not be reprinted on other sites without written approval and permission from the author. For more information, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.