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A new push for whole grains

At The Great Harvest Bread Co., bakers use whole-grain dough to make ribbon bread. 
 (File / The Spokesman-Review)
At The Great Harvest Bread Co., bakers use whole-grain dough to make ribbon bread. (File / The Spokesman-Review)

If your notion of whole-grain baked goods lies somewhere between a hockey puck and Elmer’s glue, you need to give some new recipes a try.

And now’s the time to do it.

Two mammoth whole-grain baking cookbooks have hit store shelves in recent months. There’s “King Arthur Flour Whole Grain Baking” (The Countryman Press, $35, 612 pages) and “Bob’s Red Mill Baking Book: 500 Recipes Featuring Good and Healthy Grains” (Running Press, $29.95, 496 pages). Both are packed with hundreds of recipes using whole-wheat flour as well as less familiar grains such as spelt, millet and barley flour.

Even if you’re consuming them in the form of cookies and cakes – not exactly health foods – it’s still worthwhile to get more whole grains in your diet.

Eating fiber-rich foods has been shown to lower the risk of diabetes and heart disease, and some evidence shows whole grains may stave off certain cancers. Plus, whole grains aid digestion and prevent constipation.

It’s recommended that everyone get about 25 grams of fiber (from whole grains, as well as fruits and vegetables) a day, but the typical American eats less than half that much, according to the American Dietetic Association.

“The definite message is, ‘We need more,’ ” says Patty Seebeck, a Rockwood Clinic dietitian and an instructor at the Inland Northwest Culinary Academy at Spokane Community College. “We are a white-bread society.”

An easy way to sneak whole grains into foods is to tuck them in baked goods your family already enjoys. Unfortunately, you can’t just swap whole-wheat flour for white flour in your favorite recipes. While some dishes might turn out OK, others most certainly would not. Generally, you can substitute whole-grain flour for some portion of the white (how much will depend on the recipe).

“You can certainly add percentages to, say, a scone,” says Bob Lombardi, a pastry chef instructor at Spokane Community College. “You can add up to about 15 to 20 percent whole grain to pastry flour. That works really well.”

The King Arthur Flour cookbook offers some tips for getting more whole grains into your diet:

“ Buy whole wheat flour and put it in the freezer so it stays fresher longer.

“ Make your own whole-grain granola.

“ Use oats in more recipes, such as cookies, muffins and cakes.

“ Put hulled barley in your soups, stews and chilis.

“ Substitute 1/3 cup white whole-wheat flour for 1/3 cup all-purpose flour in all of your recipes.

“ Make a batch of whole-grain muffins for breakfast.

“ Give up white bread.

“ Bake from scratch.

The recipes in the new books go well beyond eating whole grains simply for good health.

Says the introduction to the King Arthur Flour book, “The whole grains we use often improve the flavor and texture of tried-and-true recipes, and in some cases they create their own nuance of flavor that adds depth. We believe the whole grain we use in every recipe in this book adds to the result.”

One caveat about baking with whole grains: Don’t rush. Some recipes work best when they rest overnight. In others, the grains might need to soak for a half hour or so to hydrate them and develop the best flavor.

“Then, you build the dough on top of that,” Lombardi says.

Here are a couple of whole-grain recipes to get you started:

Devil’s Food Cake

From “King Arthur Flour Whole Grain Baking”

3/4 cup unsalted butter

1 cup packed light or dark brown sugar

3/4 cup superfine or granulated sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 cups whole-wheat pastry flour

1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour

1 cup unsweetened natural cocoa powder

1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda

4 large eggs

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 cup plain low-fat or whole-milk yogurt

3/4 cup water

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour the pan or pans of your choice or line with parchment paper. For cupcakes, lightly grease 2 muffin tins or line with papers and spray papers with nonstick spray.

Cream together the butter, sugars and salt in a large mixing bowl until fluffy and light, at least 5 minutes. Stop to scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl at least once. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flours, cocoa and baking soda. If lumps remain, sift or strain the mixture.

Add the eggs to the butter mixture one at a time, beating well (at least a full minute) after each addition, and stopping to scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl before adding the next egg. Mix in the vanilla. Add half the flour mixture and mix until evenly combined. Add the yogurt and water, and mix again. Add the remaining flour, mix, and stop to scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl once more, to make sure the batter is evenly moistened. Pour the batter into the prepared pan(s).

Bake the cakes for the amount of time appropriate to the pan size: 30 to 35 minutes for layers, 35 to 40 minutes for sheet cake, 22 to 24 minutes for cupcakes.

The cake is done when it begins to pull away from the sides of the pan, and a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean. Remove from the oven and cool for 15 minutes before removing from pan(s).

Yield: Two 9-inch or three 8-inch rounds, 16 servings each; or two dozen cupcakes; or one 9-by-13-inch sheet cake, 24 servings

Nutrition information per serving (1/12 of one layer or 1 cupcake): 179 calories, 7 grams fat (35 percent fat calories), 4 grams protein, 52 milligrams cholesterol, 2 grams dietary fiber, 148 milligrams sodium.

Cheese Biscuits

From “Bob’s Red Mill Baking Book”

2 1/2 cups unbleached flour

1 cup whole-wheat flour

2 tablespoons baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 tablespoon sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 1/4 cups grated cheddar cheese

2/3 cup grated Romano cheese

3/4 cup vegetable shortening or 12 tablespoons (1 1/2 stick) unsalted butter, chilled and diced

1 1/4 cups buttermilk, chilled

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Lightly oil a baking sheet or line it with parchment paper.

Sift the flours, baking powder, baking soda, sugar and salt into a medium bowl, then stir in the cheeses. Cut in the shortening until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Add the buttermilk and stir to form a dough.

Turn the dough out onto lightly floured surface and knead until smooth, about 5 or 6 times. Roll out to a 3/4-inch thick circle and cut into 3-inch rounds.

Place the biscuits on the prepared baking sheet and bake for about 15 minutes, or until the biscuits are brown on top and a tester comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack before serving.

Yield: About 16 biscuits

Approximate nutrition per serving (using vegetable shortening): 237 calories, 14 grams fat (5 grams saturated, 53 percent fat calories), 7 grams protein, 21 grams carbohydrate, 14 milligrams cholesterol, 1 gram dietary fiber, 363 milligrams sodium.

Coconut Scones

From “King Arthur Flour Whole Grain Baking”

2 cups white whole-wheat flour

1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour

1/4 cup granulated sugar

1/4 cup packed light or dark brown sugar

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup cold unsalted butter

1 cup unsweetened coconut or sweetened shredded coconut, depending on your taste

1 large egg

1 1/4 cups unsweetened coconut milk, well stirred

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon coconut extract

3/4 cup chocolate chunks or chips (optional)

Milk, for brushing

1/4 cup sweetened, shredded coconut for sprinkling

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Lightly grease a baking sheet, or line it with parchment paper.

Whisk together the flours, sugars, baking powder and salt in a large bowl. Using a fork or pastry blender, cut the butter into the dry ingredients until it resembles bread crumbs. Stir in the coconut.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the egg, coconut milk and extracts.

Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir gently with a fork just until the dough is evenly moistened. Stir in chocolate chunks (or chips), if using.

Turn the dough out onto a floured work surface, and knead two or three times. Divide the dough in half and pat each half into a circle about 1/2-inch thick and 6 inches in diameter. Use a knife to divide each circle into 8 wedges.

Transfer the scones to a baking sheet. Brush the tops with milk and sprinkle with the sweetened coconut, pressing it in gently. Bake until the scones are puffed and golden brown, 20 to 25 minutes. Serve warm. Drizzle with Chocolate Glaze (see recipe below), if desired.

Chocolate Glaze

1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons heavy cream

1/3 cup chopped chocolate

1 tablespoon corn syrup

Bring heavy cream to a simmer in a small saucepan or the microwave. Pour over the chocolate in a small bowl; add the corn syrup and stir until you have a smooth glaze.

Yield: 16 scones

Approximate nutrition per serving with glaze: 302 calories, 19 grams fat (13 grams saturated, 52 percent fat calories), 5 grams protein, 33 grams carbohydrate, 34 milligrams cholesterol, 4 grams dietary fiber, 120 milligrams sodium.


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