So let’s get right to the question, “what is white whole wheat”? It’s real whole wheat, just from a variety of wheat that has none of the red color and somewhat less of the overtly strong and tannic flavors of traditional whole wheat (think albino whole wheat). White whole wheat flour has all the nutritional benefits of whole wheat, but has a softer flavor with just a pleasant hint of “nuttiness”. What it also means is that you can bake whole wheat biscuits, scones and pastries for your kids (and other picky eaters) and they will eat and enjoy these treats as if they were made from refined flour. A neat trick. Good for you, too.
And if you get your hands on some white whole wheat flour (we use King Arthur, but there are other brands), we suggest you make some biscuits. Why biscuits? Firstly, who doesn’t like a biscuit? Secondly, you can get a good idea how white whole wheat flour provides a hint of “whole wheat” flavor and color, while having a texture like refined flour. And finally, biscuits are easy once you get the hang of it.
Making these biscuits follows a mostly traditional method. You combine dry ingredients with cold butter. Then add in wet ingredients and lightly mix to create a dough that just holds together. The less you handle the dough, the less gluten forms, the more tender the biscuit. The only trick in this recipe is that if you use honey as your sweetener (and you should, but you can use sugar), is that you need to heat it slightly so it will mix easily with the eggs and cold water without clumping. Otherwise, just cut the biscuits from the dough, bake, eat and repeat. And smile.
Before we get to the recipe, a note about one of the ingredients you may not see in most recipes, the dry nonfat milk powder. Dry milk powder is basically the calcium and protein from the milk without the water or fat. Protein makes baked goods firmer and calcium helps with browning- without adding extra water that may alter the chemical balance of the recipe. In this case, the milk powder helps get you a nice brown biscuit that holds its shape. There are other ways to add protein and calcium, but they can require some serious reformulation (and remember, baking is chemistry), we just use the dry milk powder when we are told. It works. So if you see it in a recipe, there is nothing to worry about, just get some and use it, there are even organic versions. One more tool for your baking “arsenal”.
(Adapted from King Arthur Flour)
Notes Before You Start:
- You can use regular whole wheat flour in the recipe. The flavor will be fuller and nuttier, and the texture will be firmer, but you do not need to adjust proportions.
- You can use sugar or honey as the sweetener in the recipe, but honey will add a rich note and aroma that plays well with the light nutty notes of the flour.
What You Get: Whole grain biscuits that are not a compromise. These taste good and have a “biscuit-y” texture.
What You Need: White whole wheat flour. No special equipment required.
How Long? 45-60 minutes, depending on your energy level. Not quite an “anytime” dish, but an easy treat for weekend mornings. You will have plenty of fans.
(Makes a dozen 2 1/2 inch biscuits)
- 2 1/2 cups (10 3/4 oz.) white whole wheat flour, plus extra for dusting work surface
- 1/4 cup (3/4 oz.) nonfat dry milk powder
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- 2 tablespoons (1 1/2 oz.) honey or 3 tablespoons (1 1/4 oz.) sugar
- 3/4 cup (6 oz.) cold, unsalted butter, cut into pats
- 1 large egg, lightly beaten
- 1/2 cup to 3/4 cup (4 to 6 oz.) very cold water (ice water works well)
- Place a rack in the top third of the oven. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Lightly grease a baking sheet or line with a silicone mat.
- In a large bowl, thoroughly mix the flour, dry milk powder, baking powder and salt.
- Cut the cold butter into pats or small chunks and, using a pastry cutter or forks, lightly mix into the dry ingredients until the butter is the size of peas. (Don’t mix with your hands, it will melt the butter.)
- Heat the honey (if using) for 10-15 seconds in a microwave until warm and runny and then blend it into the beaten eggs. (If using sugar just mix it with the beaten eggs)
- Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and add the egg and honey mixture and 1/2 cup of the water. Mix gently until just combined. The dough should be wet and sticky, but hold shape. If too dry, add the rest of the water.
- Dust a countertop or work surface with flour and place the dough on top. Rub flour on your hands and pat the dough into a circle about 3/4 of an inch thick. Re-flour your hands as needed.
- Flour a biscuit cutter and cut the biscuits and transfer them to a baking sheet. Leave space between the biscuits for crispy sides, or have them touch for soft sides. Combine any scraps of dough and form extra biscuits by hand.
- Bake the biscuits for 15-20 minutes, until lightly browned. Remove from the oven, cool for just a few minutes and serve hot.