Flour Face-Off: Muffins


I’ve been playing scientist over here.  And by scientist, I mean 5th-grade-science-fair-tri-fold-display-board scientist.  Not the legit goggles and lab coat kind.  I may be good, but I’m not that good.

I’m a scientist because I ran my own little baking experiment.  Why yes, I am cool like that. You guys know I like to use different whole grain flours in my baked goods.  A little whole wheat pastry flour in this recipe, a little white whole wheat flour in that recipe.  But really what’s the diff, right?  Can you actually tell when one vs. another is baked up into a goodie?

I made it my mission to find out.

The Experiment:

Bake the exact same recipe using a variety of flours.

The Recipe:

Spiced Pumpkin Honey Muffins.  This is one of my go-to crowd-pleasing recipes, so I knew it would be a reliable base from which to judge the different flours.

The Contenders:


From left to right: Whole Wheat Flour, White Whole Wheat Flour, Whole Wheat Pastry Flour, Spelt Flour, Brown Rice Flour.  First time spelt and brown rice flour baker here! Exciting stuff.

The Tasters:

Me, obvi.  And Dan, who was more than willing to eat multiple muffins in one sitting.  For the purpose of science, of course.

The Questions:

How would the final muffins compare to each other in taste, texture, appearance, etc.?  Which flour would come out on top?

The Hypothesis:

Umm…I skipped this part.  I told you – not the legit kind of scientist!

The Results:

Whole Wheat Flour



Whole wheat flour was the first flour I ever used in my Spiced Pumpkin Honey Muffins.  I always bake them with white whole wheat flour now, so it was fun to go back to my roots!  These muffins were the chewiest and wheatiest of the bunch.  No surprise there.

White Whole Wheat Flour



Like I said, white whole wheat flour is now my flour of choice for this recipe, so I’m very familiar with the muffins it produces.  But side-by-side with muffins made from other flours, did it stay the one and only?  Well, the WWWF muffins were pretty similar to the WWF muffins in texture, taste and appearance.  They were a teeny bit lighter in color and had a slightly less wheaty taste.  Yummy, of course, but I had yet to try…

Whole Wheat Pastry Flour



My favorite!  WWPF made the softest muffins of all the flours.  They also got a little more rounded on top – check out the photo! – than any of the other muffins.  I liked that because it was aesthetically pleasing – like any good muffin should be.

Spelt Flour



Yay for using SF for the first time!  But boo for these muffins being our least favorite.  I knew they’d be tricksters as soon as I started mixing the batter.  It was runnier than the wheat flour batters.  And instead of rising UP in the oven, it spread OUT over the muffin well edges – leaving us with flat muffin tops.  They also took longer to bake.  The final product?  Spongy – can you see from the pic? – and not really as flavorful as the other muffins.  Sort of like the spelt overwhelmed the other ingredients.  But I’m not giving up on SF just yet!  I have a feeling it would be better in cookies than things that need to be soft and fluffy.  Just needs to find its place to shine.

Brown Rice Flour



The BRF muffins were Dan’s favorite.  At first, they seemed similar to the spelt muffins – runny batter, spread in the oven, flat tops, longer baking time.  But they ended up doing they’re own thing!  They were noticeably lighter in color than the rest of the muffins.  And they had a grainy, but soft, texture to them.  I kind of thought they stuck to the insides of my mouth a little, but Dan said I was making that up.  Also, BRF seems to have a very subtle flavor itself, so the pumpkin and honey tastes really came through.

For a good side-by-side comparison, take a look at the very first photo in this post.  Left to right: WWF, WWWF, WWPF, SF, BRF.


In terms of muffins, I’m a WWPF fan.  Dan’s on team BRF.  SF doesn’t fly for either of us.  Obviously, there are some variables that could be played around with to influence the success of each flour.  Maybe some flours work better with liquid sweeteners – like the honey in this recipe – than others.  Or perhaps some would do better with more or less baking soda.  Lots of things to consider, but a girl can only do so much!

Anywho, that was fun!  Now I want to run my experiment on other baked goods.  I see a cookie test in my future!

Since I’m new to spelt and brown rice flour, anyone have any tips for baking with them?


32 Responses to “Flour Face-Off: Muffins”

  1. 1 VeggieGirl March 6, 2009 at 9:34 pm

    What a fun flour experiment!!

    For the spelt/brown rice flour, go for cookies and muffins.

  2. 2 Sharon March 6, 2009 at 9:42 pm

    Oh my gosh, I love this post! I love how you explain it all, because I do wonder what it would turn out with in terms of different flours. And with those cross-sections, now I want a muffin!

  3. 3 ttfn300 March 6, 2009 at 10:11 pm

    LOVE this 🙂 i haven’t experimented with spelt and brown rice, but you seem to have started to do my work 🙂 can’t wait to see what else you bake up with them!

  4. 5 Lauren March 6, 2009 at 10:48 pm

    Awesome post! When a recipe calls for all-purpose flour, I sub in either WWPF or WWWF – and I’ve often wondered if the two flours would result in different textures of the baked good. Thanks for playing scientist 🙂

    I have spelt flour on hand for the ever-so-popular “Super Charge Me Cookies”, but have never used brown rice flour.

  5. 6 Marianne March 7, 2009 at 4:04 am

    It’s really neat to see all the muffins side by side like that, to get a good comparison. Perhaps you could try combining different flours in the recipe to come up with the ultimate muffin? It might help with some of the issues with the spelt/brown rice flours?

  6. 7 coco March 7, 2009 at 8:36 am

    love your flour experiment! I’ve always wanted to do that, the make them all together and compare one to each other side by side. Because when you make different batches different time, if the difference is subtle is hard to notice. But this way you can really tell what’s your favorite1

  7. 8 Hayley March 7, 2009 at 4:12 pm

    This is such a good reference to have, thanks for the experiment. I recommend using a mixture of flours. I usually do half unbleached all purpose and half spelt or whole wheat. It gives you the best of both worlds. Thanks again!

  8. 9 Hayley March 7, 2009 at 4:31 pm

    what a fun project! I have yet to try even whole wheat flour, but I really want to! From there maybe I’ll get adventurous and try spelt flour and brown rice flour, too!

  9. 10 Kerstin March 7, 2009 at 4:50 pm

    So funny – I made a half batch of your Maple Almond Butter Cookies last night and had all the ingredients on hand except the whole wheat pastry flour, so I substituted white whole wheat flour and was wondering how much that changed the texture. The cookies are excellent and the flavor is really well balanced – my hubby rated them a 9, which is very high for him! I’m really enjoying checking out your archives!

  10. 11 Angela March 7, 2009 at 10:30 pm

    Oh my gosh this post may me squeal with GLEE! lol. Im such a dork. What a great experiment…thanks so much!

  11. 12 sweetandnatural March 8, 2009 at 4:25 pm

    VeggieGirl – I definitely want to try spelt cookies.

    Sharon – I’m glad you are just as curious as me!

    ttfn300 – I’m excited to use the new flours too!

    Emily – Hahaha – Bill Bill Bill Bill Bill Bill! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WjpVQbNpGKo

    Lauren – Now that I have spelt flour, I’m so making the Super Charge Me Cookies!

    Marianne – I definitely think using a flour combo would work well. Great idea!

    coco – Exactly why I did the experiment!

    Hayley – Thanks for the suggestion!

    Hayley – WWPF is my favorite whole wheat flour. 🙂

    Kerstin – I’m so glad you and your husband enjoyed the cookies!

    Angela – I’m just as dorky as you are then! 😛

  12. 13 Caddie March 8, 2009 at 7:33 pm

    Great post! Another thing to try would be oat flour. I suspect that would make for a denser muffing, but it would be interesting to compare.

  13. 14 Emily March 8, 2009 at 9:13 pm

    That is such a cool experiment! Thanks for sharing!

  14. 15 Andrea [bella eats] March 8, 2009 at 11:07 pm

    Thanks for sharing your great experiment! I’ve recently discovered a love for whole wheat pastry flour as well…

  15. 16 Hangry Pants March 9, 2009 at 10:39 am

    This is just the sort of fun experiment I would enjoy! Yay for whole wheat pastry flour – my favorite as well.

    I’ve never used the brown rice flour and only used spelt in bread baking.

  16. 17 sweetandnatural March 9, 2009 at 9:08 pm

    Caddie – Ooh – oat flour!

    Emily – Glad you enjoyed it!

    Andrea [bella eats] – My favorite!

    Hangry Pants – Spelt in bread would be good!

  17. 18 Erin March 10, 2009 at 5:30 am

    This is such a cool experiment! I am SO confused by all the options out there and this really helped.
    Plus it was fun to read! 🙂

  18. 19 Mariposa March 10, 2009 at 9:50 am

    i love the baking test! i use brown rice flour but i tend to mix it with tapioca flour to make the texture a little “softer”. tapioca flour has the texture of powdered sugar, so it takes away the “stickiness” of the brown rice.

    gluten free flours tend not to rise unless you use a binder as well, xantham gum or some extra baking powder will do it.. 🙂

  19. 20 heather March 11, 2009 at 8:39 am

    thanks for posting this! i’ve always wondered the differences, b/c i usually use wwpf but would like to dabble more into brf and sf!



  20. 21 RuntoFinish March 12, 2009 at 2:19 pm

    if you ever need a tester I am just too happy to help! If you or your readers need a fun giveaway.. I’ve got a bunch coming but here is one http://runtothefinish.blogspot.com/2009/03/matildas-kitchen-win-chance-to-enhance.html

  21. 22 sweetandnatural March 12, 2009 at 7:43 pm

    Erin – Glad you enjoyed it!

    Mariposa – Thank you for the tips!

    heather – I still like WWPF best, but I’m going to play around with the other two. 🙂

    RuntoFinish – Haha. Thanks for the giveaway link!

  22. 23 Lindsey (Mrs. LC) March 13, 2009 at 6:23 am

    I’m not sure if anyone already posted this, but I think most of the time when you’re using spelt flour you only want to use it for a percentage of the total flour intake. I belive it’s around 20%. So if you need 1 cup of flour, I would probably use 1/4 spelt, and then use 3/4 WWPF, WWWF, or WWF. That way your baking product will still come out “normal” but you get some of the flavor and nutrition of spelt flour without the overwhelming spelt taste, too.

  23. 24 Cook 4 Seasons March 13, 2009 at 2:02 pm

    THANK you for such a fabulous experiment! I must say that I am committed to alternative flours (have you tried coconut?) but haven’t done such an elaborate analysis all at once. I have found that brown rice flour makes cookies VERY crumbly, in case you’ll be trying that category next:)

  24. 25 sweetandnatural March 22, 2009 at 11:58 pm

    Lindsey (Mrs. LC) – That’s a great suggestion! I will probably go that way if I use spelt flour in future muffins or breads. I think cookies could handle it though!

    Cook 4 Seasons – I didn’t even know coconut flour existed! I will definitely look into that!

  25. 26 Mae Bird March 27, 2009 at 10:01 am

    Wow! That’s great! I am so glad you did this. I LOVE WWPF – It’s my go-to baking flour. I also love coconut flour and almond flour. It’s really fun to experiment. I like to replace 1/3 of my WWPF with Almond Meal… that seems to come out nicely!

  26. 27 sweetandnatural March 27, 2009 at 10:41 am

    Mae Bird – Wow – so much coconut flour love! I really need to find this stuff! Does it taste like coconut?

  27. 28 sweetie January 10, 2010 at 7:51 pm

    what a fantastic comparision!

    i purchased whole wheat flour today and my muffins were a touch gummy (probably from overmixing). it seems like having WWPF would be a good idea too. can you go into more detail about your experience w/liquid & dry sweeteners when combined with WWPF or WWF in baked goods like muffins? i’m hoping to make vegan muffins and i’m learning how to sub for honey and white sugar.

    thank you!

    • 29 sweetandnatural January 11, 2010 at 12:49 pm

      sweetie – If I’m subbing liquid sweetener for granulated, I usually decrease the sweetener by 25% (e.g. if a recipe calls for 1 cup white sugar, I go with 3/4 cup agave) and decrease the liquid in the recipe as well (that’s more of a general feel for the recipe – no science behind it!). Hope that helps!

  28. 30 Lauren @ WWoB July 6, 2010 at 10:42 am

    I have been wanting to do this for years! THANK YOU!!

  29. 31 Heather January 28, 2011 at 9:29 am

    I appreciate this post. It must have taken a really long time to do all the comparison. Great information!!!!

  1. 1 Carrot (Pulp) Muffins | Cook4Seasons Trackback on March 18, 2009 at 1:55 pm
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