Baking with Flax Seeds
I first began baking with flax years ago, when I had a customer request vegan baked goods. In order to make my recipes vegan, I would have to find substitutes for butter (not difficult, oil works) and eggs (a bit more tricky). I did some research and quickly realized that I could use flax meal to substitute for eggs with great results. The process of converting my recipes made me appreciate the versatility of baking with flax seeds!
A Plant, Seeds, Meal & Flour
Flax is a plant with long grassy leaves. Flax seeds (also commonly known as linseeds) are small, glossy, brown seeds. High in fiber and naturally gluten-free, flax seeds make a nutritious addition to your baked goods.
Flax seeds can be ground into a “meal” or “flour,” which is how they are typically used when baking. Grinding flax seeds into a meal allows the body access to absorb the nutrition locked up in the seed. It also unlocks the natural oils and binders in the seeds, making them a great tool for baking. To grind flax seeds, simply place them in a spice or coffee grinder, or use a blender. About ¼ cup of flaxseed will yield about ½ cup of flax meal.
Tips for Baking with Flax
Flax meal does not have an overpowering taste, so it will not alter the flavor of your baked goods. However, substituting flax meal for eggs, fat, or flour in a recipe may alter the texture and/or outcome of your final product. Whatever you do, have fun with it, and see my tips below for the best results.
As an egg substitute: In recipes that call for eggs to moisten and bind ingredients (like cookies, muffins, and quick bread), flax meal slurry can act as a good substitute. To replace one egg in a recipe, mix 1 tablespoon of flax meal (whole seeds won’t work) with 3 tablespoons of water. Set this mix aside for 5-10 minutes. Mix it with a fork to form a slurry, with a texture much like a beaten egg. I keep flax meal in my freezer in case I am out of eggs when I want to bake muffins or quick bread. Be warned! Flax meal slurry cannot substitute for eggs in a recipe where eggs are adding volume, like in a soufflé or a meringue.
As a substitute for fat: The most common forms of fat called for in baking are vegetable oil, butter, and often, melted butter. Loaded with natural oils, flax meal can reduce or replace fat in baking. To replace 1 tablespoon of oil or melted butter in a recipe, use 3 tablespoons of flax meal. If a recipe calls for ½ cup of oil, use ¼ cup of oil and replace the other ¼ cup of oil with ¾ cups of flax seeds. Be warned! Baked goods made with flax meal instead of oil may be denser and brown faster in the oven.
As a substitute for flour: Naturally gluten-free, substituting flax meal for some of the flour in baked goods boosts nutrition and adds fiber to any recipe. Flax meal can typically replace up to ¼ of the flour called for in a recipe. Be warned! Flax meal cannot be used to replace all of the flour in a recipe. Also, naturally low in starch, flax meal cannot be used as a substitute flour to thicken sauces.
As a mix-in for muffins, quick bread, and granola: Flax meal can be added like oats (or in place of oats) to muffins and quick bread. Whole flax seeds can be added to granola before baking, adding nutrition and crunch. Flax seeds can also be used to top crackers, savory seeded bread, and bagels before baking.
Kristen is a professional chef living, working, and playing in Washington, D.C.
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