Kitchen Experiments: We are experimenting with okara flour. Why? It is outrageously high in fiber, high in protein, and is gluten free. And okara is also, literally, free. Well, it’s not exactly free, but that is how our food system treats it. Here we ask our baker, Sarah Fillet, how she feels about this planet friendly flour.
Okara is a waste product in soy production, and thousands of tons of this nutritious gold gets tossed out every day. We asked our bakers on their experience with okara, and whether it has what it takes to make it into our bellies.
Fiber is the one macronutrient Westerners are deficient in. Nevertheless, we throw out thousands of tons of fiber-rich okara every year. See where we’re going with this? Could this fiber-rich byproduct of soy production be used to build a viable bridge between a flaw in the food system and our health needs?
Today, Sarah Fillet, one of the two bakers at HERMANN’S, is sifting okara flour. It is not the same as the flour she knew back when baking bread in her hometown in France. “It’s a new ingredient for me, and every new ingredient starts as a challenge. We find it, we research it, and then we see how it behaves.” Sarah was only introduced to okara a few months ago, and we want to know: Was it love at first bite? And if so, what could that mean for traditional baked goods?
Chickpea and okara crust quiches from HERMANN´S Berlin
First, what is okara?
Okara is the pulpy byproduct left over from tofu production and soy milk production. We’ve been using flour from Renewal Mill, which is made from dried and milled okara. Okara bumps up the fiber and protein in baked goods.
What is the verdict, then?
It tastes really good, but can definitely be a challenge. The taste is soft, and the texture can be varied to the function I need it for. For example, it makes amazing biscuits and crust. We’re using it in the cheesecake and the quiche. We’ve also used it for raspberry cake, and even brioche. But okara isn’t a traditional flour; and behaves really differently, and that is something I have to adjust to and experiment with.
Baked goods from HERMANN´S Berlin
How is it different from traditional wheat flour?
It is all fiber. It has no grain or gluten in it, but is high in protein. That’s really good health wise, but as a baker, gluten is important. Gluten is the glue for the cake, it makes it elastic and raise well. It makes a cake chewy and satisfying. Here, we’re trying to find gluten-free substitutes. So, right now, I’m using okara as an enhancement.
You can’t make anything completely out of okara flour?
Okara is too dense for that, I need to find other flours to balance out all the fiber it has. For our gluten-free quiche crust, we use 40 percent chickpea flour, 30 percent rice flour, 20 percent okara flour, and the rest is gooey starches like tapioca to glue it all together. So, that’s the game: playing around until we find the perfect taste, texture, and nutritious value. We have to experiment with every baked good until we work out the individual magic combination.
At this point, one of the chefs, Yuka Sagai, hailing from Japan, takes a break from the kitchen and joins the conversation.
Yuka-san, did you eat okara in Japan?
Of course. But the flour is new to me; I had never seen it before. But in Japan, shops would give away okara for free. We cook it with dashi, and add a vegetable stir fry. Some is sweet, some is salty. Every okara dish is different, like a signature from each mother’s house.
If you want to join in on the okara experiment, try out this recipe from Green Kitchen Stories for oat pizza crust but then substitute it with okara. Let us know what you think.
Images photographed by Jan Vu and Claudia Gödke at HERMANN´S Berlin