Quinoa (also known as Chenopodium quinoa) is an ancient grain that was first cultivated in the Andes by the Incas. Although not actually a grain (it is related to beetroot, chard and spinach), quinoa is eaten as though it were one, hence the label of pseudo-cereal.
This nutrient-rich seed crop contains all the essential amino acids, making it a complete source of protein. It is drought resistant and thrives in poor soils and such was its importance in ancient times, quinoa had its own dedicated celebration at harvest time (late March). This is something that is still in practice today, in the Andes where it grows. Adopted by the west as a superfood, quinoa continues to grow in popularity, eaten as an alternative grain, as porridge, or milled and used as flour.
Milled quinoa has 14-17% protein and is high in dietary fibre, making it an ideal choice for a variety of baked goods. Pale yellow, to ivory in colour, the flour has an earthy and grassy flavour that can sometimes come through to the product if too much is used. Quinoa flour works best when mixed with other gluten free flours, as it can also lead to heavy or sticky products.
Some people ‘toast’ the quinoa flour on a low heat in the oven for a couple of hours prior to use. Fresh milled quinoa can sometimes give a bitter tasting product. This comes from the saponin found in the outer husks and although washing removes most of the saponin, traces can remain.