Gluten Free flour

Adapted from a Nuchia Foods Corp. recipe. Story written and tested by Leigh Lambert of the Washingtonpost.com.

Flour Girl: Seeds of Inspiration

You may know the chia seed from its CH-CH-CH-CHia Pet fame of the 1970s. But it has a much longer, prouder history than that. Chia seeds were a primary component of the Aztec and Mayan diets. High in protein and fiber, the seeds have almost perfectly balanced omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, whose bio-absorption depends upon each other. Whole Foods sells the seeds, which are called Salvia hispanica L and are in the mint family, under the name Salba.

I became intrigued with chia seeds when I began making smoothies for my morning commute. The seeds are hydrophilic (water-loving) and flavorless, which means they can be mixed with anything and can absorb many times their weight in liquid. This gives smoothies viscosity even when they come to room temperature (which they always do, riding into work). Even though I got a couple of cookbooks to help me explore chia possibilities, my experiments never really got off the ground.

Enter chia flour.

The Nuchia Foods Corp. has started making chia seed flour (one version blended with brown rice flour (one pound, $7.49) and one 100-percent chia seed flour (seven ounces, $18.90). It is a nutrient-packed alternative to gluten flours and can be subbed one-for-one in most recipes that donít rely on the glutinous structure of wheat flour. I asked Homer L. Hartage, Nuchia Foods president, whether I would get the same results by grinding chia seeds in my high-powered blender. He said my results would be oily. Nuchia removes a certain amount of fat from the grind in order to stabilize and lighten the flour.

While it is currently an expensive alternative to wheat flour, Nuchia is beginning to grow chia seeds in Haiti, where the company can increase volume and maintain an organic, GMO-free crop. With education and marketing, Hartage hopes there will be greater demand for chia flour.

The flour is currently available via mail order from the nuchia Web site.

Nuchia also has some recipes on its site. I tweaked one for coconut cookies, and brought a batch to an open house with kids in attendance. The cookies were gone in an instant, no matter how much more healthful they were.

-- Leigh Lambert

Chia Flour Coconut Cookies
Makes about 30 cookies

12 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 1/2 sticks), at room temperature
1 1/2 cups packed brown sugar (light or dark)
2 tablespoons warm water
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon coconut extract
1 large egg
2 1/2 cups chia seed flour (available at www.nuchiafoods.com/store)
1 1/4 cups unsweetened dried shredded coconut
Generous 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

Combine the butter, sugar, water, vanilla and coconut extracts in the bowl of a stand mixer or hand-held electric mixer. Beat on medium speed for 4 minutes, until fluffy and light. Stop to add the egg; beat on low speed to incorporate.

Combine the chia flour, coconut, salt and baking powder in a bowl or on a sheet of wax paper. With the mixer on the lowest speed, gradually add the dry chia flour mixture to the wet ingredients, beating until just combined.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Have ready ungreased. Bake in batches, one sheet at a time.

Shape 2 tablespoon-portions of dough into balls. Place the balls of dough on the baking sheet, spaced 1 inch apart. Bake for 13 to 15 minutes, until light brown. Let the cookies cool on the sheet for 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

NUTRITION | Per cookie: 125 calories, 3 g protein, 19 g carbohydrates, 7 g fat, 3 g saturated fat, 19 mg cholesterol, 56 mg sodium, 0 g dietary fiber, 9 g sugar