Appetites: Holiday baking without wheat flour

Ginger cake with cream and cranberry jam.
Ginger cake with cream and cranberry jam.
Courtesy of Mette Nielsen

A new wave of nonwheat flours are becoming popular with bakers in Minnesota. They include things flours made from rye, oat, barley, buckwheat or wild rice.

“I think they're really exciting because they have great flavor,” says Beth Dooley, author of a book, In Winter's Kitchen. “They're healthier for us. They're part of this whole artisan grain movement and they're part of our local economy.”

To hear more about alternatives to wheat flour, click play on the audio player above.

Classic oatmeal cookies

Makes about 30 to 34 cookies

Beth notes: These are terrifically oaty and chewy. They are best if the dough given a little time to rest either at room temperature for an hour or overnight in the refrigerator. Bake them on a greased cookie sheet (not parchment) so that they develop a lovely crunchy edge.


  • Two cups oat flour

  • One cup rolled oats

  • Half teaspoon salt

  • One teaspoon baking soda

  • One cup (half pound) unsalted butter, softened

  • One cup maple sugar

  • Two teaspoons ground cinnamon

  • Half teaspoon ground nutmeg

  • Two teaspoons vanilla extract

  • Two eggs

  • Half cup dried cranberries

  • Half cup toasted, chopped hazelnuts*

In a medium bowl, stir together the oat flour, rolled oats, salt, and baking soda.

In a large bowl, beat together the butter, sugar, spices and vanilla then whisk in the eggs. Stir in the oat mixture and mix the batter until it comes together into a stiff dough. Stir in the cranberries and nuts. Let the dough stand at room temperature for an hour or cover and refrigerate over night.

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Lightly grease a cookie sheet. Scoop up one tablespoon of dough per cookie and place about 2 inches apart on the cookie sheet. Bake until the cookies are a deep golden brown, about 10 to 15 minutes. Using a spatula, transfer the cookies to a rack to cool completely before storing in an airtight container.

Triple ginger rye cake

Makes a 10-inch cake

Beth notes: This richly spiced gingerbread is moist and dense and representative of the kinds of cakes that once filled homes with the holiday scents of warm spices. The flavors evolve and becomes more mellow and distinct if you make this a day or two ahead of serving. It’s the kind of cake that’s delicious with a dollop or rum or whisky spiked whipped cream and even better with a slice of Cheddar and a dark beer.


  • One cup sorghum or molasses

  • One cup stout

  • One teaspoon baking soda

  • Two cups rye flour

  • Two tablespoons ground ginger

  • One teaspoon ground cinnamon

  • Quarter teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

  • Quarter teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

  • One teaspoon baking powder

  • One teaspoon coarse salt

  • Three eggs

  • Two cups maple or brown sugar

  • One tablespoon grated fresh ginger

  • One teaspoon vanilla extract

  • Two-quarter cup unsalted butter, melted

  • Quarter cup chopped crystallized ginger

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a cake pan with parchment paper.

Bring the sorghum or molasses and stout to a simmer in a small saucepan, whisking to blend. Remove from the heat, stir in the baking soda, set aside to cool.

In a medium bowl, stir together the flour, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, pepper, baking power and salt. In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, sugar, fresh ginger, and vanilla. Then whisk in the butter and molasses mixture. Add the dry ingredients and fold in the crystallized ginger until everything is combined. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan.

Bake the cake until a tester inserted into the center comes up clean, about 45 to 50 minutes. Transfer the cake to a wire rack and allow it to cool in the pan for about 10 minutes. Run a knife around the sides of the cake to unmold.

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