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Whether you stick to a gluten-free diet or buy whole-wheat flour 10 pounds at a time, you're missing out if you don't have a bag of kinako on the shelf. Made from soybeans that have been roasted and finely milled into a sweet and nutty flour (think peanuts crossed with toasted sesame), kinako is so delicious that many people sprinkle it over ice cream. A taste of plain soy flour would leave anyone skeptical of that claim, but kinako is anything but plain. The difference is that kinako starts with whole roasted soybeans, while soy flour comes from raw, defatted soybeans. If that doesn't sound like a terribly important distinction, consider that cocoa powder is defatted chocolate. Likewise, soy flour and kinako are related but very different. Because kinako is full-fat, it has a rich and complex flavor that makes it phenomenal for baking. It adds a sweet and toasty note that enriches desserts made with nuts, brown sugar, whole grains and bananas. Use kinako with your favorite recipes to help those flavors pop.
Here, five tips for getting started with kinako.
1. Start with a familiar recipe like blondies, banana nut bread, almond or peanut butter cookies. Reduce the flour (whether all-purpose flour or a gluten-free blend) by 25 percent. Replace with an equal amount of kinako, and follow the recipe as usual.
2. Kinako translates to “yellow flour” in Japanese, a reference to its golden hue, so don't mistake the added color for browning in the oven.
3. Use kinako to roll out gingerbread or other dark cookies. It will keep the dough tender as you gather the scraps and reroll, while adding an intriguing hint of flavor.
4. Sprinkle kinako over muffins before baking, or use in place of flour for streusel.
5. Try dusting chocolate truffles with kinako instead of powdered sugar or cocoa, or use it to coat sticky marshmallows.
How to Buy It: Order kinako online, or pick up a bag from any Japanese market. Imported kinako generally comes in bilingual packaging, so you won't have any trouble finding it. If you need to ask and feel shaky on the pronunciation, say: “key-nah-ko,” with even emphasis on each syllable.
Stella Parks is a Food & Wine 2012 Best New Pastry Chef. Her first cookbook, with editor Maria Guarnaschelli, is due from W. W. Norton in 2015.