You know the difference between regular nuts and nuts you’ve just toasted in the oven? If not, let me clarify: an untoasted nut tastes, well, fine; a toasted nut tastes like, “Holy wow, this is living.” Whether in a skillet on the stovetop or on a sheet pan in the oven, gently toasting releases incredible depths of otherwise unreachable flavor. And unlocking this level of robust flavor in a singular ingredient means nothing but delicious results for whatever dish that ingredient is destined for. (If this is a new concept to you, please try mixing toasted pecans into your morning oatmeal and tell me that bowl of hot cereal doesn’t spark joy.)
Of course, this principle applies to ingredients other than nuts—among them are spices, cereal, and flour. That’s right, flour. I first came across this clever flavor-boosting trick years ago via an incredibly tasty Semolina Almond Orange Cake from Cooking Light, in which you toast the required almond flour before incorporating it into the cake’s batter. Just as toasting nuts helps them to become their most fragrant, warmly nutty selves, toasting nut flours has the very same effect—thus, making for baked goods with an incredible, roasty-toasty flavor depth. It’s a trick I use regularly to boost really simple baking recipes to tasting seriously wow-worthy. In fact, just last week I whipped up a blueberry variation on my Raspberry, Sumac, and Almond Snack Cake (which features toasted almond flour) to bring for dinner at friend’s place, and they were shocked that “a cake devoid of frosting could taste so amazing.”
And it’s not just nut flours. You can toast your plain ol’ AP flour as well. This has been accepted as a good work-around for making (safe) edible cookie dough, but we ought to be talking about what this easy extra step lends in terms of flavor. A quick go in the oven transforms this mundane essential into a game changing flavor agent—here to imbue nutty, fragrant toastiness to muffins, cookies, cakes, scones, pizza dough, biscuits, and everything in between. I mean, consider what you’re doing with a roux, essentially a product of browning butter and flour together for an all-powerful thickening flavor bomb… toasting your flour, sans butter, isn’t all that different. You need the flour regardless, why not make it taste exceptional?
How to Toast Flour
For toasting nut flours (such as almond flour) or grain-based flours (such as all-purpose flour, barley flour, oat flour, rice flour, etc.) simply spread the amount of flour you need for a given recipe in an even layer on a rimmed baking sheet lined with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat. You can toast your flour at any temperature in the 300°F to 400°F range, so just heat the oven to whatever temperature you need it to be at for your recipe. Once you’ve preheated, just pop the sheet pan into the oven and allow the flour to toast, stirring once halfway through. At 350°F, nut flours will take about 5 minutes total to toast and grain-based flours will take closer to 10 minutes total. As with anything that’s prone to easily burn, you’ll just want to keep a close eye on things; the flour should be nutty smelling and reach a slightly deeper/more golden shade of its original color. Then, allow your flour to cool as you proceed with preparing the other elements of your recipe.
Ready to give this hot tip a try and impress the pants off of the next recipients of your baked goods? The good news is, you can do this with any of your favorite baking recipes. But if you’d like a specific one, I highly recommend both cakes mentioned above as well as the glorious Cashew Butter Cookies (which utilize toasted brown rice flour) pictured at the top of the page.
*Note: I have not experimented with toasting alternative nut- and grain-free flours such as potato flour or tapioca flour, so I cannot speak to the effects the toasting process may have on these.