Believe it or not, baking has been transformed for the better in the past decade. Awareness of whole grains, gluten-free grains, and grain-free flours has permeated the health-conscious market with more and more home bakers embracing the variation. While old-fashioned recipes containing nothing but all-purpose white flour are enjoyed for special occasions and comfort-food indulgences, a whole-food style of baking is now considered modern.
What exactly is a whole grain? According to the Whole Grains Council (WGC), “Whole grains or foods made from them contain all the essential parts and naturally occurring nutrients of the entire grain seed in their original proportions. If the grain has been processed (e.g., cracked, crushed, rolled, extruded, and/or cooked), the food product should deliver the same rich balance of nutrients that are found in the original grain seed.” Basically, 100 percent of the original kernel — bran, germ and endosperm — must be present to qualify as a whole grain.
The following are examples of the most familiar and generally accepted whole grains and flours: amaranth*, barley, buckwheat*, corn (including whole cornmeal and popcorn), millet, oats (including oatmeal), quinoa*, rice (brown rice, colored rice and wild rice), rye, sorghum (also called milo), teff, triticale, wheat (including varieties such as spelt, emmer, farro, einkorn, Kamut, durum and forms like bulgur, cracked wheat and wheatberries).
*Amaranth, buckwheat and quinoa are considered “pseudo-grains” and are normally included with true cereal grains because their nutritional profile, preparation and use are so similar, according to WGC.
• Whole Grain Bread Recipe With Olive Oil
• Whole Grain Gingerbread Recipe With Spelt Flour
• Slow Cooker Rye Bread Recipe
• Whole Wheat-Sorghum Biscuits Recipe
• Multigrain Chewy Oatmeal Cookies Recipe
• Healthy Chocolate Chip Cookies Recipe
• Pumpkin Muffins With Quinoa Flour and Almonds
Looking for more recipes? Try Hank’s Wholegrain Cornbread for more on whole grain baking.
Consider substituting these ingredients for white sugar, white flour and vegetable oils.
• Agave nectar: An extract created from the sap of a desert plant, agave nectar is a natural, low-glycemic (index between 15 and 21) sweetener. It is 3 times sweeter than white sugar. Substitute 1⁄2 to 3⁄4 cup for 1 cup sugar in recipes; reduce liquid by 2 tablespoons for each cup.
• Pure maple syrup: A natural, mineral-rich sweetener. Though not low on the glycemic index, maple syrup is more nutritious than white sugar and delivers a rich, appealing flavor. It’s sweeter than sugar so substitute 3⁄4 cup for 1 cup sugar; reduce liquid by 2 tablespoons for each cup.
• Coconut palm sugar: Made from the nectar of coconut flowers, coconut palm sugar is considered low glycemic (index about 35) and has a rich, caramel flavor. It’s less sweet than white sugar and is packed with vitamins, minerals and amino acids. It’s easy to substitute for white sugar because it’s sold in crystalline form. Substitute equal amount for sugar in recipes.
• Almond meal: Nut meal/flour is a perfect nutritious substitution for grain flours in baked goods. Look for finely ground almond meal, and always sift it before using.
• Virgin/extra-virgin coconut oil: An extremely healthy fat, coconut oil is derived from the meat of mature coconuts. Composed mostly of beneficial medium-chain fatty acids, coconut oil resists oxidation and rancidity. It’s high in lauric acid, which helps to strengthen the immune system. Coconut oil is solid at temperatures below 70 F. When chilled, it can be used as a substitute for shortening or butter in baked goods. When melted, it can be substituted for any kind of oil in recipes.
Karen K. Will is editor of Heirloom Gardener magazine, and co-author, along with Editor-in-Chief Oscar H. Will III, of Plowing With Pigs and Other Creative, Low-Budget Homesteading Solutions (New Society Publishers, 2013).
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