• White Whole Wheat Biscuits

    Bisk

    White Whole Wheat Biscuits.

    bisk1So 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.

    bisk2bisk3And 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.

    bisk5bisk7Making 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.

    bisk8bisk9Before 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”.

    bisk10 Continue reading

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  • Banana Espresso Chocolate Chip Muffins

    Banana Espresso Chocolate Chip Muffins

    One of our major gripes about “healthy” cookbooks is that they are often the culinary equivalent of kissing your cousin. The recipes kinda work, but the result is usually “meh” food that celebrates what isn’t in the dish, and not giving you something that is healthy and tastes good. We think food, “healthy” or not, should taste good and satisfy your soul. So when we recently got Heidi Swanson’s “Super Natural Cooking”, we were curious to see how the recipes would turn out.

    If you are unaware of Heidi Swanson, she is a successful food blogger and designer. Her blog 101 Cookbooks is a nationally recognized blog for simple recipes using sustainable, whole foods. We are fans of the blog and decided to give the cookbook a try. The theme of “Super Natural Cooking” is the use of whole, natural foods in easy, basic vegetarian recipes. Think of the book as a solid introduction to the world of whole-foods cooking (and if you don’t know about ingredients like amaranth or quinoa, you soon will).

    Happily, Swanson does a good job of providing simple recipes that highlight the natural ingredients, rather than trying to re-engineer classic dishes. We are moving through her recipes and they are clear, well-written and the results are tasty. One of the first recipes we tried from the cookbook were for her Espresso Banana Muffins, but Swanson notes that adding chocolate chunks is a good option- so we ran with that and adapted the recipe.

    Banana Espresso Chocolate Chip muffins sound exactly like what they are. The “natural” adaptation is the use of white whole wheat flour and cane sugar instead of their refined cousins white flour and sugar. The white whole wheat flour provides a slightly nuttier flavor than white flour, which is welcome in this dish, as it compliments the bananas. As for the use of cane sugar, most people will be hard-pressed to taste a difference in flavor. Cane sugar has more of the natural molasses than refined sugar and gives a bit of pleasant (at least to us) “funk” to the sweetness of the sugar. To be honest, we use cane sugar syrup in cocktails all the time but could not taste it in the muffins. But this is fine, it just makes the point that cane sugar is a worthy option to replace refined sugar, if you are so inclined.

    As for making the muffins, it’s a traditional muffin recipe. The dry and wet ingredients are combined separately and then the dry ingredients are folded into the wet ingredients. Mix as little as possible to keep the muffins from getting tough. Pour into cups and bake. The only “extra” step is mashing the bananas, which takes less than a minute. And you can use a stand mixer, or not. Easy. Continue reading