PSA: How To Make Your Own Oat Flour & Why It's So Much Healthier
Oat flour has recently gone from "what the what?" status to a level of ubiquity, as health-minded bakers discover the toasty, nutty ingredient's ability to make gluten-free goods taste delicious. While it's not a one-for-one sub for all-purpose flour, it's finely milled texture helps it hold together in baked goods that other flour alternatives would cause to disintegrate—think scones, pancakes, and cookies.
Unfortunately, oat flour's popularity in the kitchen hasn't been matched by its popularity with grocery store buyers. While it's becoming more common, it still can be hard to find in grocery stores, but fear not—making your own oat flour is one of the best-kept secrets in gluten-free baking. Not only is it super easy, but it actually results in a healthier end product. Here's why.
How to make homemade oat flour.
There are exactly two steps to making your own oat flour—pour rolled (not quick-cooking or steel-cut) oats into a dry blender or food processor, and turn it on. You may need to scrape down the sides once or twice to get a uniform texture, but in less than a minute, you'll have a fine, powdery oat flour that you can keep on hand (in the fridge or freezer, ideally—see below for more on that) for whenever a recipe calls for it.
Why making your own oat flour is way healthier.
There are two main reasons making your oat flour is healthier. The first, and slightly more complicated one, has to do with the notion of rancidity. While whole grains are relatively shelf stable, when they're broken down into flours, their fats are more exposed to oxygen, which begins to, well, oxidize them. Oxidized fats have been consistently shown to cause inflammation (you may be more aware of the inverse of this, the notion that antioxidant-filled food is anti-inflammatory). While you can help with the fat degradation by storing any grains, nuts, or seeds in the fridge or freezer, a step beyond that is keeping the original food in its whole form for as long as possible. By grinding your oat flour fresh, you're avoiding the months it spends in shipping and on the grocery store shelf. As added incentive, those rancid fats often make food taste far worse. This is one of the reasons many high-end restaurants (and even quality pizza establishments!) have switched to grinding all their grains on site—you can truly taste the difference in the end product. While we don't recommend that most home cooks splurge for a grain mill (unless you really love baking), making your own oat flour with appliances you already own is a great way to reap the most rewards for the least amount of effort.
The second reason making your own oat flour is healthier has to do with cross-contamination. While oat flour made from gluten-free oats is gluten- and nut-free, every step of processing allows for more opportunities for the oats to come in contact with machines that process traditional, gluten-filled grains or nuts. The less processing that happens out of the home, the fewer opportunities for cross-contamination—it's as simple as that.
Now, you have your oat flour. What should you do with it?
Play around! Use it to thicken traditional oatmeal, or toss it into a smoothie for an added boost of fiber. If you want to play around with it in your baking recipes, just add a little bit more of whatever rising agent you're using (baking powder or soda or yeast) since oat flour is denser and heavier than traditional white or whole wheat flour. Lean into the flavor with oaty blueberry pancakes or waffles, or a chocolate chip oat cookie. Have fun! Experiment! The possibilities are endless.
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