Baking with Pulse Flours 101

Pulse flours are an invaluable resource for school foodservice operators, but they’ve flown under the radar for years. Ideal as a replacement for wheat flour to meet gluten-free dietary needs or easily mixed with traditional flours in nearly any recipe, pulse flours boost fiber and protein content and fill other nutrient gaps on your menu.

Is it really that simple? The USA Dry Pea and Lentil Council answers foodservice operators’ most frequently asked questions about baking with pulse flours.

What is pulse flour made from?
Pulses are the edible seeds of legumes, including dry peas, lentils and chickpeas. Any pulse can be ground into flour and further fractioned into fiber, starch or protein isolates.

How do pulse flours help me meet school nutrition guidelines?
Pulse flours can replace wheat flours entirely to help you satisfy gluten-free dietary restrictions or can be mixed with traditional flours to fill nutrient gaps on your menu. Although pulse flours do not count toward protein or vegetable requirements (because they have to be identifiable), by simply replacing 25% of all-purpose wheat flour with pulse flour in any recipe, you increase the protein content, fiber, potassium, folate and iron in the dish. You can incorporate pulse flours into a variety of recipes, so that every meal—even dessert—helps keep kids in your cafeteria healthier.

What are the rules for substitutions? Can I simply swap wheat flour for pulse flours 1:1 in any recipe?
If replacing only a portion (up to half) of the wheat flour in a recipe, you can simply swap your chosen pulse flour 1:1 for the portion being replaced. For a gluten-free swap, replace wheat flour entirely with a mixture of even parts pulse flour, white rice flour and tapioca starch.

Does using pulse flour have an effect on preparation method or baking time?
No special treatment is required in recipes where pulse flour is combined with wheat flour. When baking with an entirely gluten-free flour blend, extra prep is usually required to ensure workability and elasticity of the dough. Depending on the application, at least 30 minutes of prep time may need to be added.

What is the biggest challenge to baking with pulse flours in schools, and how can I tackle it?
Because children have such sensitive palates, the biggest challenge for schools is making sure the color, flavor and texture profile of the final product closely mimics the food kids are used to. Although all pulse flours behave similarly in the baking process, different pulse flours are better suited for different recipes. For example, the flavor of chickpea flour can be strong, so it is better for use in recipes with strong flavors, such as chocolate or molasses, rather than recipes where it might overtake more delicate flavors, such as sugar cookies or bread products. Pea flour, on the other hand, does not impart additional flavor and is suitable for use in almost any baked good recipe. Keep in mind color, too—if you use a green pea flour or red lentil flour, this color may come through in your finished baked goods.

Are any pulse flours better suited for baking than others?
In general, all pulse flours offer similar nutritional benefits and behave similarly in baking applications. With regard to texture, the more finely-ground the pulse flour, the better it will behave in most baking applications.

Do pulse flours spoil at the same rate as wheat flour? Do they need to be stored differently?
Pulse flour has a stability comparable to wheat flour. For example, when stored under 80 degrees F, a one- to two-year shelf life can be expected of pea flour. There is some stability variance between precooked and raw pulse flours, but suppliers offer many options and blends that can meet a variety of storage and application needs for schools.

Any other preparation tips?
Measure flour replacements by weight. Different flours—even different varieties of pulse flour—will measure differently. Replacing flours in recipes by weight will help ensure the ideal density of the final product.

Where can I source pulse flour?
Pulse flours can be sourced from dozens of providers around the U.S. You can find a list of providers on the USA Dry Pea and Lentil Council website.

Pulse flours can help you create healthier versions of baked goods, gluten-free or not, that will maintain their traditional appeal to kids in schools. If you still have questions or want more preparation or storage tips, sourcing information, or additional recipes, The USA Dry Pea and Lentil Council is happy to help.

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