Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Meal vs Flour

That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet
- Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet
This morning I had almond-meal pancakes for the first time. The flavor was OK but the texture was quite different from my expectations for pancakes - grainy instead of light and fluffy. It reminded me of corn bread in texture. So this got me to wondering - what is the difference between meal (as in corn-meal) vs flour?

Not surprisingly, meal is coarsely ground and flour is ground to a fine powder. The website,, also refers to bolted and unbolted meal. Bolting is another word for sifting through a sieve or screen. Bolted meal is passed through a 16-18 mesh screen to remove the gluten, the grits, and bran. Four is bolted with a 32 mesh screen so the particles are twice as small.

The website notes that people often confuse meal and flour since it's the same substance, just a matter of particle size. And to confuse matters further, in the UK the term corn flour is used to describe corn starch.

[Aside: I found another US-UK food confusion recently. Is winter squash allowed on a low-carb diet? The US commenters said no. But a dieter in Australia pointed out that in her country, winter squash is called pumpkin and pumpkin is allowed so she includes winter squash in her diet. But I fear that is just word games. Changing the name does not change the amount of starch.]

Bottom Line

What can I do to make my almond pancakes fluffier?

  • Coarse almond meal can be pulsed in a food processor or coffee mill, (don’t leave it running or you’ll get almond butter). Or sift out the larger particles and crush them in a mortar and pestle.

  • Try adding a bit of some other starch such as tapioca, corn starch, or arrowroot powder. This adds more surface area and absorption potential.
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