I’m not sure if you guys know this or not, but I read every single one of your comments. In fact, it’s something that I look forward to checking each day!
I love to hear about your own journeys, on how things are done in your own kitchen, and how even though I may have confused you even more on olive oil, you’re still thankful to know more. 🙂 Most of all – I LOVE it when you ask me how I do something in my own kitchen.
It’s why I began writing. I wanted to share my own personal experiences with you guys in hopes that it would help someone – anyone – who might be struggling in that area too.
Last week, sweet Andrea sent me an email:
I have a question about the kind of flour you use. You get it post milled, but the whole wheat berry? I am new at this and just trying to make the best decision with the most nutrition. You may be getting to this answer in another post. Also, you still soak it? Thanks!
(reprinted with her permission)
Anyone else wonder the same thing? I know she’s not alone. I often wonder if the steps I’m taking are really making the impact I think they should be… hence all the research!
The Flour I Use
That’s a picture of all the flour in my pantry. From left to right: semolina (small container), bread flour (large container), new bread flour package (orange, which I dumped into the large container after I took the picture), organic dark rye flour, 100% white whole wheat flour and unbleached all-purpose flour.
First, I consider all-purpose flour to be the low-man on the totem pole and I don’t use it all that often. It’s been demoted to dusting pans prior to baking, dusting the counter top to roll out pizza dough and maybe the random tablespoon or two when called for in a recipe. I just opened that bag last week and it took us 3 months to go through the last one. Compared to last year, that’s a big improvement.
One-step up from all-purpose is bread flour. The only difference between the two is the gluten content – bread flour has more than all-purpose. They’re both equally processed, so I don’t know why I consider bread flour to be “better,” other than it serves in a greater capacity in my kitchen than all-purpose.
Now comes the heavy hitter – the wheat flour. Technically, all of those flours (except the rye) are wheat flours because they’re all derived from the wheat berry. However, I’m specifically talking about the 100% white whole wheat flour in the yellow bag. It’s the Mac Daddy of wheat flours. It’s the whole berry gone in, the whole berry gone out. Ideally, this would be the only flour in the kitchen – except for semolina and rye. We use semolina for pizza and the rye is for a sourdough starter that I’m working on. Those are non-negotiables at the moment.
UPDATE 6/2014: We’ve started grinding our own wheat, and even added spelt into the family of flours! Mastering soaking is next on the list, but soaked whole wheat bread is a great way to get started (and our main go-to bread on the meal plan.)
How We’re Switching to Whole Wheat Flour
My approach is this: use whole wheat whenever you can, especially if it’s mixed up with other stuff when people won’t notice anyway. 🙂
It started with a recipe from my go-to cookbook in the cupboard. It was for chocolate cake, but there was nothing remotely healthy about it and my conscious kicked in. I did some experimenting and found that using whole wheat flour and skipping half the sugar actually made the cake taste better than any other cake we had made. From that moment on, I was sold.
Every cookie I bake now uses whole wheat flour – oatmeal and chocolate chip and all their yummy variations. The only time I wouldn’t use whole wheat flour in a cookie are sugar cookies. This doesn’t mean you can’t, it just means that I personally would have to find a really good recipe using whole wheat flour. Me and sugar cookies don’t get along so well.
I mentioned yesterday that I don’t make “fancy” cakes often, so our cakes are also made with whole wheat flour. The only catch – whole wheat flour is heavier than white, so cakes come out denser with a brownie-like texture. We happen to like brownies, so there haven’t been any complaints around here (even when I made a coconut cake… YUM!).
Biscuits, rolls and bread are made with at least 50% whole wheat flour, sometimes more depending on the recipe and whether or not I have extra rise time available. Since the wheat flavor is more pronounced in these breads, I’ve found the 50/50 rule to be a good segue. I honestly don’t think the flavor of wheat bothers the family – I’ve made some not-so-fluffy wheat breads that they’ve eaten without complaint! It’s having to undo 30+ years of eating bread made with white flour.
There’s a taste and texture that you come to know and recognize in bread. Whole wheat flour is different – in taste and texture – so it will never be exactly the same. However, with practice and experimentation I can find recipes that my family grows to love just as much.
Random baking items like pancakes, waffles, breakfast breads, etc. are all made with whole wheat. We test a new recipe first with a half batch, that way if it’s not that great, there’s less to eat in the first place and less to throw away if it comes out REALLY bad. If the recipe is good, we repeat it again and add our own flare with toppings and add-ins, which won’t alter the main “bread” of the recipe anyway. No sense in trying to fix a wheel that’s not broken, right?
To Soak… or Not to Soak
I don’t soak everything. There’s no way I could realistically soak all my grains AND run a household. I’d rather just eat less grains that go through the non-stop headache of telling the family they can’t have biscuits and bacon for breakfast because they didn’t tell me YESTERDAY that they wanted them TODAY.
I do soak though, whenever I can. The kids and I usually whip up a batch of pancakes once a week or so, and that’s easy to plan for. In fact, it would just be easier (and smarter) to soak the wheat every Sunday night so that whenever we get around to making pancakes, whether that be Monday or Tuesday, the wheat is already done. Worst case scenario, the kids tire of pancakes and I have soaked wheat for another baking project.
Oatmeal is also another easy soak, although my kids are particular about the acid medium that I use. If I use buttermilk or yogurt – it disappears without question. If I use kefir or apple cider vinegar, the troops take their time. So whether or not I soak oatmeal really depends on whether or not I have buttermilk or yogurt available. I usually do, but if I don’t, we make it with water and I don’t think twice.
I don’t soak cookies, breads or cakes… yet. I’ve made one cake with soaked bread and it was given “meh” by the husband. The kids ate it, but you could cover a rock with butter and honey and they’d likely eat that too. Well, The Girl would anyway.
I hope to find reputable, successful soaking recipes as I get further down the grain train. It would be awesome to feed the family soaked whole (maybe even sprouted!) grains, knowing that they’ve been maximized for optimal nutrition. But at the same time, I’m more than okay with making my own bread instead of buying it, even if it’s not 100% whole wheat all the time. That was a decision we made that was best for our family at the time.
UPDATE 7/2013: We’re nearing the end of the grain train and we’ve covered sourdough, soaking and sprouting. Is it possible to implement all the changes at the same time? Read this post on the practicality of it all and how things are working right now in our own kitchen.
UPDATE 6/2014: We now eat soaked whole wheat bread regularly! Get the recipe, and how we incorporate it into our weekly routine HERE.
Simple Tricks to Eat More Wheat Flour
In addition to using it in desserts and such, there are few other tricks up my sleeve that you may find helpful.
Serve more of the best prepared grain.
For example – soaked pancakes. These are made with 100% whole wheat AND they’re soaked. In theory, these are better than a loaf of not-soaked bread made with 50/50 wheat/white flour. So then why not eat pancakes more often? We’ll make a double batch and eat them for lunches too. If you make them plain, they’re great with a smear of nut butter and bananas slices. Or you can bake them on low in the oven to make them a bit crispier, then turn them into mini pizzas. Or put nut butter on one side and fruit butter on the other and fold it in half. The kids may stick their nose up the first time, but they’ll get over it. Remember – YOU’RE the parent. YOU’RE in charge of their nutrition. Try the same thing with tortillas or pita bread if you’ve got a table full of pancake-haters.
Serve less of the worst prepared grain.
Every now and then Mr. Crumbs requests biscuits on a Saturday morning – without whole wheat flour. He proposes biscuits as he’s pulling out bacon… meaning there’s no heads-up to soak beforehand. Of course I oblige, but I make just enough to serve us for the breakfast. There’s no double batches and leftover biscuits are tossed. I can keep his requests under control based on our inventory of bacon. The more bacon we have, the more often he requests them. This is why I buy no more than two packages of bacon each month. 🙂
Serve less grains overall.
Earlier in the year we started implementing “healthy homemade lunchables“. One day a week we’d eat a plate of carrots, apples, cheese, nuts, dried fruit and seeds – all sliced thin, ready to be dipped in nut butter or magically transformed into a boat carrying ants. The kids thought it was the best thing ever. I was excited to watch them eat vegetables raw.
Over time, one day turned into two and even three if I just so happened to run out of bread.
Now, we’ve instituted snacky breakfast and even snacky dinner if the occasion arises. Not every dinner gets bread or rolls either. And all the while they’re eating less processed grains and more real food. Sneaky sneaky. 😉
Do Something: Think about the easiest way you could incorporate whole wheat into your kitchen. For some it will be making more pancakes. For others it will be eaten less grains in general. Whatever your easy route is, put it into action.