Whole-Grain Flour Glossary

Whole-grain flour doesn't just mean wheat anymore. A variety of grains and grain-like seeds are available for the whole-grain baker, each with its own special qualities and flavors.

| February 2015

Baking successfully with whole-grain flours requires putting them at the center of each recipe, rather than thinking of them as add-ons, and Tabitha Alterman shows you how to do just that in Whole Grain Baking Made Easy (Voyageur Press, 2014). From mainstays, such as wheat and rye, to less-common choices, such as amaranth and teff, learn how to craft more than 50 mouthwatering recipes by following the simple instructions and beautiful full-color photography throughout this guide. The following excerpt is from chapter 1, “Whole Grain Buyer’s Guide.”

You can purchase this book from the MOTHER EARTH NEWS store: Whole Grain Baking Made Easy.

The following whole grains make exceptionally nutritious flours. To reap the biggest dietary benefits, try to incorporate a number of them into your cooking rotation.


Amaranth is not actually a grain. But it behaves like one and is equally nutritious. Amaranth seeds are especially high in protein, healthy fats, calcium, iron, and other minerals. They also contain the amino acid lysine, which is lacking in most grains. Lysine makes the proteins in amaranth more useful to our bodies.

• Flavor: Amaranth has a bold flavor some describe as woody, grassy, or malty. The aroma is noticeably grassy, too. Try using amaranth flour in recipes calling for other bold ingredients, such as chilies, chocolate, coffee, molasses, dark sugars, and pungent spices.
• Unique Baking Personality
: Amaranth flour can lengthen baking time somewhat and make baked goods dark. When added raw to baked goods, it adds crunch. Amaranth can also be popped in a hot, dry pan. When cooked into a porridge, it gets sticky.
• Home Milling Notes
: Because amaranth seeds are so small, pour them slowly into your grain mill’s hopper while the mill is running, and sift out any seeds that slipped through whole into the flour. Amaranth can also be ground in a grain blender or coffee grinder.


Barley has traditionally been used for making beer and whiskey but also has a history of showing up in breads. It was once the main bread grain in Europe. Barley comes “hulled” (meaning its outer hull has been removed), “hull-less” (meaning that variety doesn’t have the outer hull in the first place), and “pearled” (meaning the hull and much of the nutritious bran have been removed).
Of all whole grains, barley has the lowest rating on the glycemic index, meaning it provides perhaps the longest burning energy of any grain. (This is not true of pearled barley.) Barley is also especially high in fiber, protein, and antiaging antioxidants.

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