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Good to the Grain: Baking with Whole-Grain Flours, by Kim Boyce

Caitlin McGrath Apr 20, 2010 07:07 PM

Has anyone baked from this new book by a former pastry chef at Spago and Campanile in Los Angeles? I couldn't resist it: it is beautiful, and full of interesting and delicious-sounding recipes.

There are chapters on whole wheat, amaranth, barley, buckwheat, corn, kamut, oat, multigrain, quinoa, rye, spelt, and teff flours (the multigrain is one mixed from whole-wheat, oat, barley, millet, and rye flours). There are cookies, muffins, pancakes and waffles, biscuits and scones, other quick breads and simple cakes, cereals (including homemade Grape Nuts!), a few rustic tarts and galettes, and yeasted breads. Some savory recipes, and a chapter of preserves and compotes.

Most of the recipes use a combination of flours, usually the specialty grain plus whole-wheat or AP flour, but sometimes several kinds. I don't think any are gluten free. These recipes aren't necessarily low in fat or sugar (which is not to say they're all high in either); rather, their point is to play up the flavors of the grains. They're mostly rustic and homey.

Here are a few of the recipes that have caught my eye on first look:

Apple Graham Coffee Cake (made with graham flour)

Molasses Bran Muffins (with amaranth flour and a "jam" made from prunes cooked in OJ and pureed)

Honey Hazelnut Cookies (like a cross between shortbread and linzer dough, she says; made with amaranth and brushed while warm with hot honey infused with cardamom, orange zest, and orange flower water)

Chocolate Persimmon Muffins (with buckwheat, cocoa, and bittersweet chocolate - man, I wish I could get persimmons before late next fall!)

Corn and Gruyere Muffins (flavored with scallions and cumin seeds)

Ginger Peach Muffins (with oat flour, crystallized ginger, and fresh peach topping)

Quinoa and Beet Pancakes (made with quinoa flour)

Zucchini Bread (with rye, fresh basil, and fresh mint)

Olive Oil Cake (with spelt flour, rosemary, and bittersweet chocolate)

Date Nut Bread and Brown Butter Scones (both with teff flour)

Really, that's just a sample of the recipes that intrigue me. Lots of creative flavor combinations, and many recipes use brown sugar, honey, or molasses to highlight the flavor of the various grains.

http://www.amazon.com/Good-Grain-Baki...

  1. daveena Feb 26, 2011 02:13 PM

    Had my first disappointment - sad to say, it was the Chocolate Persimmon Muffin, one of the recipes I'd been looking forward to trying the most. I think my expectations for its flavor and texture were set by its appearance - a gorgeous, glossy brown that I normally associate with deep, fudgy flavor. However, with its relatively low fat content, it was a bit drier and less chocolatey than I'd hoped. I did find that this muffin improved with sitting for a few days, probably because the excess liquid from the persimmon redistributed and made the overall muffin moister. Unfortunately, I couldn't really taste the persimmon.

    I definitely made at least one mistake, and probably more. I accidentally put in 1 tsp of baking soda instead of 1/2, and I'm sure it contributed a little to the muted flavor, but it doesn't seem like a big enough mistake to account for the whole thing.

    Probably mistake # 2 - I bought dead-ripe, frost-bitten persimmons a few months ago and froze the pulp - the pulp was already very soft and nearly liquid, with bits of solid persimmon, but freezing and defrosting made it even more liquid, which made the final mixing a little difficult (the batter is very stiff - I should have mixed the liquid parts in with the rest of wet mix, instead of at the end with the chocolate), and left some pockets of muffin dry, while other parts were almost soggy.

    The volume of batter was pretty consistent with everyone else's notes - it easily filled 12 cups for nicely domed muffins. After the addition of my very liquid persimmon pulp, the batter didn't look stiff enough to be able to hold its shape if distributed into 8 cups.

    Ultimately, though, I think the problem with this muffin is that doesn't use buckwheat to its full advantage - in the scone recipe, the slightly sandy texture of buckwheat helped the scone attain a fantastically crisp texture. In the muffin, it just makes the texture denser. In the scone recipe, the buckwheat flavor is amplified by the wine and figs in the jam, but in the muffin, it muddies the chocolate and persimmon flavors.

    5 Replies
    1. re: daveena
      Caitlin McGrath Feb 26, 2011 04:33 PM

      Oh, dear me. Like you, I had been looking forward to this one, and like you, I chucked some very ripe persimmon pulp that was pretty liquid in the freezer. I needed to take some time off from baking after all the indulgence of the holidays. I was just thinking I ought to take it out and bake these, but now I think I should probably use it for something else.

      1. re: Caitlin McGrath
        r
        rafjel Feb 26, 2011 05:21 PM

        David Lebovitz posted about these over a year ago, and I don't think he would have done so if he didn't enjoy them. And I recall many similarly positive reports. Not to say that daveena's opinion isn't valid, but I wouldn't write them off completely.

        1. re: rafjel
          daveena Feb 26, 2011 05:29 PM

          I'm actually thinking about giving it one more shot (although I'll have to wait until next year to do it), but with a slight change in mixing technique and maybe a different cocoa - I noticed that DL recommended Valrhona. I usually use Scharffenberger but ran out and used Trader Joe cocoa instead. It's my first time using it, and I have no idea how much of a difference it made. It was definitely lighter in color than the little bit of Scharffenberger I had left, don't know how it compares to Valrhona.

          1. re: daveena
            Caitlin McGrath Feb 26, 2011 06:42 PM

            I haven't tried Trader Joe's, but my mother told me she tried it and didn't like it; she usually uses Peet's, which is Dutch-processed, and quite dark and chocolaty, as is Valrhona in my experience.

            I guess I will be another guinea pig. Because my persimmon pulp is very loose also, I will probably do as you suggest and combine it with the wet ingredients instead of mixing it in at the end.

            1. re: Caitlin McGrath
              daveena Feb 27, 2011 10:06 AM

              One more likely mistake - I used Greek yogurt instead of regular, thinking that the extra fat would help, but maybe the higher protein content threw things off too.

    2. r
      rafjel Feb 13, 2011 11:49 AM

      I have made the Chocolate Chip Cookies, the Olive Oil Cake and the Carrot Spelt Muffins.

      The cookies are fantastic - I have made them twice now. The first time I used half whole wheat flour and half AP. The second time I used all whole wheat, and liked it better. i will be using whole wheat flour in any chocolate chip cookie recipe from now on - so much more flavour.

      The olive oil cake is lovely; the rosemary perfumes it nicely and the olive oil comes through just enough (I used a good-quality extra virgin, because i really wanted to taste it, but I'm sure that any olive oil would be fine). The chocolate is perfect with the oil, rosemary and kosher salt. I think next time I will beat the eggs for a while before adding everything to the dry ingredients, for a slightly lighter texture. The crust on this cake is lovely.

      The muffins just came out of the oven and they are a winner, though I definitely played around with the recipe - teff flour instead of oat bran, oats in the streusel topping, coconut oil instead of melted butter in the batter, milk & vinegar instead of buttermilk, ground ginger and clove in place of the allspice. They still turned out great and I would definitely recommend the coconut oil and ginger (though I only did this because I didn't have allspice). I don't usually like muffins, but I'm already looking forward to another one - they're not at all dense or too sweet. I think I would add more carrots next time, maybe 2 cups.

      1 Reply
      1. re: rafjel
        r
        rafjel Feb 13, 2011 11:51 AM

        Also - I got 12 muffins out of the recipe instead of 8. I would recommend filling the tins just to the top, but not over, for a nice dome.

      2. mollyomormon Dec 27, 2010 03:02 PM

        I made the barley scones this morning but used some homemade rhubarb rosemary jam instead of the strawberry she suggests. These were easy and fantastic. I would be surprised if I don't get a request to make another batch before the week is over because this morning's batch was gone by noon.

        1 Reply
        1. re: mollyomormon
          mollyomormon Dec 30, 2010 06:19 PM

          I made them again this morning and, once again, they were gone pretty much before they'd cooled off. It's a really, really delicious recipe.

        2. Caitlin McGrath Oct 26, 2010 10:54 AM

          I made the Ginger Peach Muffins last night. I ground rolled oats in a coffee/spice grinder to make oat flour, and found that it took 1 cup of oats to make the 1 cup flour called for. The batter has sour cream (I used 2% Greek yogurt), AP and whole-wheat flours (I used WW pastry flour in place of both), melted butter, milk (I used low fat), white and brown sugars, grated fresh ginger, and minced crystallized ginger (I used more than called for). They're topped with peach slices tossed with melted butter, honey, and grated ginger.

          They are quite tender (may be in part because I used the pastry flour), and have good ginger flavor, with all the fresh and candied ginger. The two slices of peach atop each muffin don't add much, at least with my end-of-season peaches, and they also dried out a bit in the oven. It think it might work better to chop the peaches and mix them in the batter. I bet these would be good with pears, too, as pears go so well with ginger.

          I recommend not trusting or following her instructions for baking muffins (except time). In every muffin recipe, she instructs us to fill the cups to the top, even mounding the batter up. Even if you fill only every other cup, as she suggests, the muffins spread out over the top of the tins rather than rising right up when the cups are overfilled. Better to bake more, smaller muffins, filling no more than 3/4 full, and have them rise nicely.

          3 Replies
          1. re: Caitlin McGrath
            sgogo Nov 9, 2010 03:29 PM

            I'm actually curious to try this technique. The only muffin tins I have are the smallish ones anyway, and I've always filled the cups about 2/3 the way up, just because I'm...frugal? Um, sure, let's go with that. Next time I think I'll mound the batter up to try for a more bakery-style muffin. Crazy, I know, we home bakers need to get our kicks somehow, eh?
            In other news, I really want this cookbook!!

            1. re: sgogo
              Caitlin McGrath Nov 9, 2010 03:37 PM

              I have a few muffin recipes where I can do that, but for her recipes, at least in my experience, if you mound the batter up, the muffins don't rise high, they just spread out over the tin with flat, mushroomy tops.

              1. re: Caitlin McGrath
                sgogo Nov 9, 2010 03:50 PM

                Hmm, good point. I'll have to try it with a thicker batter.

          2. daveena Sep 25, 2010 01:15 PM

            I made the fig buckwheat scones last week - they were fantastic. Superlight texture, dark winey flavors. Will definitely make that one again.

            Also just looked at Caitlin's list of recipes that caught her I and realized I have both gruyere and corn at home that need to be used up... looks like I have my next recipe lined up.

            1. pikawicca Sep 25, 2010 11:06 AM

              I made the Crumble Bars last week -- easy and yummy.

              1 Reply
              1. re: pikawicca
                r
                rstuart Jun 15, 2012 01:19 PM

                Two years later.. I just made these last night (largely to use up some jam... bits from 3 different jars). really good... I like the nutty/toasted richness of the crumb.. without actually nuts. I was thinking of trying it again with browned butter...

              2. daveena Jun 21, 2010 10:33 PM

                The blue cheese and onion scones are really good. There's a tiny bit of sweetness (the onions are deeply caramelized, and there's a bit of honey and an even tinier bit of sugar) that just rounds out the flavor. I used regular whole wheat flour (the original calls for graham) and found that the little bit of sweetness really amped up the flavor of the whole wheat.

                Addendum to my chocolate chip cookie notes above - they rest of the dough sat in the fridge for about 5 days before I finally baked them. The aged cookies had a much better texture, and they held up on day 2 way better than cookies that were baked the day of.

                I had to cut back on baking a little bit... had to admit some of my recent weight gain was from testing recipes. Low-cal, these are not.

                4 Replies
                1. re: daveena
                  Caitlin McGrath Jun 22, 2010 10:37 AM

                  I feel you on your final paragraph. The book is full of interesting recipes, but despite the presence of whole-grain flours, they're definitely not health food.

                  1. re: Caitlin McGrath
                    The Dairy Queen Jun 22, 2010 11:03 AM

                    I suppose, as a cookbook author, it's hard to find the perfect balance between "healthful" and "delicious". I understand that Boyce feels like she has something to prove, that whole grains can be delicious. But, if these recipes are only marginally more healthful than conventional recipes, then it seems kind of silly (unless you believe that the whole grains are actually MORE delicious than conventional, in which case, go for it). I wish cookbook authors would give additional tips for modification to make these recipes even more healthful.

                    ~TDQ

                    1. re: The Dairy Queen
                      Caitlin McGrath Jun 22, 2010 12:44 PM

                      I think you may have misunderstood the premise of this book, TDQ. Boyce's point in writing the book wasn't at all to try to create the super-healthful recipes. Her intention was to create recipes that highlight the interesting flavors and textures that these "alternative" grains lend to baked goods. As I said in my OP, "These recipes aren't necessarily low in fat or sugar (which is not to say they're all high in either); rather, their point is to play up the flavors of the grains."

                      She says in her introduction, of playing with whole grains (often in combination with plain old AP flour, for structure), "The flavor was fantastic. There were hints of dry grass or toasted nuts, an earthy or milky flavor, or the surprisingly sweet taste of malt or even caramel. There were so many dimensions to the flavors, and so many new ways I could explore them in baking. I realized that I was thinking differently about the way I baked. Instead of relying on traditional sugars or spice and fruit, I was now using flour to add greater flavor to my recipes."

                      So I think you've set up a dialogue in your post above that doesn't really have much to do with this book or its premise at all. I'm sure that it is, indeed, hard for cookbook authors who are trying to write books of specifically healthful recipes to find a balance between that aspect and the delicious, but that is not Boyce's mission. From my reading of the book, I also disagree that "Boyce feels like she has something to prove, that whole grains can be delicious." She's not coming at this at all from the perspective of trying to convince or prove a point, and certainly not with regard to virtue; rather, she begins from the point of view that these grains *are* delicious, and proceeds with the best ways she knows to highlight the particular qualities she finds in each grain.

                      This isn't a book that's about replacing white flour with whole wheat, setting up a "conventional" vs. "whole grain" dichotomy, it's about exploring the flavors and individual qualities of a whole variety of less-common grains (see list in my OP). It isn't that Boyce has failed in a mission to create "more healthful than 'conventional' recipes," but that that never was her mission at all. If that is the criterion by which you judge the book, it is likely not the one you want.

                      All that said, while there is no deficit of butter or cream in some of the recipes in Good to the Grain, there are a number of recipes that are all or a greater majority whole grain and have low amounts of added fat (for instance, there are several muffin and quick bread recipes which call for only 2 or 3 tablespoons of butter or oil - used in combination with buttermilk, yogurt, applesauce and the like), and all her recipes are reasonably restrained in sweeteners. In the case of the molasses bran muffins I posted about above, the recipe calls for wheat bran and whole wheat flour, prunes, orange juice, 1/2 cup molasses, 2 T. brown sugar, and 3 T. melted butter (for which one could obviously substitute an oil).

                      I share your interest in healthful recipes (at least some of the time!), TDQ, and am also perfectly willing to make substitutions and modifications where I think they'll work out well, and comfortable making those determinations. If I can offer assistance on that front, or if you'd like to know which recipes in Good to the Grain are on the healthful side, etc., just let me know.

                      1. re: Caitlin McGrath
                        The Dairy Queen Jun 22, 2010 01:11 PM

                        Thanks for this, Caitlin. Now that it's officially summer, I don't feel like turning on my oven. However, when fall comes, I would really like to throw myself into baking with various whole grain flours (which is a completely new thing for me).

                        I already own "Super Natural Cooking" and have my eye on Medrich's "Pure Dessert " And, I have been watching this "Good to the Grain" thread with great interest. When the time comes, I would absolutely love your tips on making modifications and/or your opinion about which recipes in GTTG are more healthful.

                        I am not a very experienced baker so, I don't always make very good choices about making substitutions. My results often suffer as a result. But, as with many things in life, the best way to learn is to do!

                        ~TDQ

                2. daveena May 30, 2010 11:02 PM

                  I'm eating one of the whole-wheat chocolate chip cookies right now. They're very, very good - great texture, slight nuttiness from the whole wheat, almost as if there were ground pecans in the batter. The whole wheat gives the cookie a more attractive color, as well. I baked half tonight, and am saving half for tomorrow, to see if a day of aging will make the same difference in this dough as it does with all-purpose flour.

                  I also made the olive oil cake - I only had dried rosemary, and while I cut way back on the amount, the day I baked the cake, it was far too pungent. By day two, it had mellowed significantly, and married well with the rosemary and spelt.

                  I noticed that the kamut, chard and Cotswald muffin recipe from the LA Times article didn't make it into the book, but I heard from another CH'er that it was really good. I think I'm going to try it next - my SO frequently doesn't have time to eat lunch at work, and I thought it could be a good meal substitute.

                  I've noticed that with both the cookies and the cake, just one cookie (or just one slice of cake) are enough to satisfy me, while white flour versions seem to trigger more eating. Good news for those of us who still love pastry but don't have the metabolisms we once did...

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: daveena
                    Caitlin McGrath May 31, 2010 10:20 AM

                    Hey Daveena, glad to see another CH is baking from the book. In the olive oil cake, I actually used more fresh rosemary than was called for - closer to 2 T. than 1 1/2, because that's what I minced - and the rosemary is quite subtle, not at all pungent or piney.

                    1. re: Caitlin McGrath
                      daveena May 31, 2010 10:57 AM

                      I'm glad you started this thread - I didn't want to wait for it to come up as a COTM and was about to start one myself :)

                      I think fresh rosemary would have been less overpowering and will make sure I use it next time. Good to know you can cut back on the olive oil - my cake actually leaked a bit of oil during baking, although the final product didn't feel greasy at all.

                      Of note, the chocolate chip cookie texture definitely suffers after it cools - it's a little sandy and dry this morning, compared to the cookies I make with half-white, half-wheat flours, which retain their chewiness on day 2. The olive oil cake, on the other hand, holds up really well - I wrapped it in foil and cut slices from it for a week with very little noticeable change in texture (a little bit of dryness right at the edges, nothing else).

                      1. re: Caitlin McGrath
                        s
                        sweetTooth Jun 22, 2010 02:28 PM

                        Caitlin, I wish I'd seen your report on the olive oil rosemary cake, before I attempted it. As I measure out the cup of oil, it did seem like a lot of fat by proportion. I am sure the result was much better with your switched amounts for the oil and milk. Not that we complained, mind you. My husband and I polished it off in about 2-3 days. I was hoping my toddler would like it more than he did - because of the scant amount of sugar. But that may be precisely why he didn't give rave reviews.
                        Funny thing about the rosemary. I am a pretty avid baker, but given that rosemary can be a pretty assertive flavor, I went and confused myself about the implications of "1.5 T rosemary, chopped" vs. "1.5 T chopped rosemary". I convinced myself that author must have meant the former. Since I'd already chopped up the rosemary while I mulled all this over, I measured a scant tbsp and threw it in. If I'd seen your report, I'd have confidently added 1.5 T and maybe even 2T.
                        BTW, I don't have the book - just saw this pop up on Heidi's blog recently and it looked easy, novel and delicious.

                    2. Caitlin McGrath May 30, 2010 08:20 PM

                      I made the olive oil cake, which was a great success. It is moist, tender, and the rosemary, bitterweet chocolate, and fruity olive oil flavors are very nice together.

                      This is in the spelt chapter, and uses one part spelt flour to two parts AP flour. This is a simple cake to mix up by hand. Spelt and AP flours, salt, baking powder, and sugar are mixed with eggs, olive oil, milk, minced fresh rosemary, and bittersweet chocolate chunks. The one tweak I made was reducing the amount of olive oil; the recipe calls for a cup of olive oil and 3/4 cup of milk, and I reversed the proportions, because I knew a cake this size didn't need a full cup to still be luscious (I was right). The only glitch is that she calls for baking it in a fluted tart pan, which made for a very attractive cake, but isn't really big enough for the amount of batter, which pretty much filled it. A springform pan would be a better choice, and that is what I will use next time.

                      I'm sure this would be good made with all AP flour, as well, even if it then wouldn't include any whole grains. She says the spelt flour gives the cake tenderness, and it is a nice, tender cake.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: Caitlin McGrath
                        n
                        newfoodie Oct 2, 2010 07:12 PM

                        I really enjoyed the olive oil cake as well, although mine got a bit crumbly.

                      2. i
                        Ideefixed Apr 28, 2010 05:24 PM

                        It's been a good long while since she was at Spago, to be honest. I'm not bowled over by most whole grain goodness, and some of these strike me as pointless--sure, you can make Quinoa and Beet Pancakes, but why?

                        Same with this one,

                        "To a savory muffin made from kamut flour and wheat germ, Boyce adds sauteed red chard and Cotswold cheese, an aged cheddar flecked with chives."

                        That's way too many ingredients for me: http://articles.latimes.com/2007/nov/...

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: Ideefixed
                          c
                          chefathome Feb 26, 2011 05:12 PM

                          Some of us unfortunately cannot eat wheat, barley or rye so must use alternatives such as quinoa, millet, teff and so on. I have many recipes that call for 4-7 kinds of grains/flours/starches per recipe to replace gluten. Very expensive but some of us have no choice.

                        2. Caitlin McGrath Apr 26, 2010 02:45 PM

                          First recipe tried: Molasses Bran Muffins, from the amaranth chapter. Great flavor, with the molasses/prunes/orange/cinnamon and whole grains, and nice and moist. They didn't bake up quite as they should, bu that was due to user error (detailed below).

                          Last month, I made dixieday's Buzzing Bran Muffins (http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/3306... ), which I liked a lot, and this recipe is somewhat similar, down to being generally healthful (all whole grains, not a lot of added sugars or fat). My local market didn't have amaranth flour, so I bought whole amaranth and easily ground it to flour in a coffee/spice grinder. Honestly, one could easily replace the amaranth flour with another 1/2 cup whole-wheat flour, though: there are lots of flavorful ingredients in the recipe, and I couldn't really taste amaranth among them.

                          A prune "jam" is made by steeping pitted prunes in hot orange juice, then pureeing them. Wheat bran is mixed with warm buttermilk. Whole-wheat flour (I used WW pastry), amaranth flour, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt are sifted together. Melted butter, egg, molasses, brown sugar, and orange zest, and the prune puree are combined with the wheat bran, and all are stirred into the dry ingredients.

                          Here's where user error kicked in. I put the batter in the oiled muffin tin (she wants you to slightly mound it above the tops of the cups and make 10 muffins; it was way too liquid for that, so I filled 12 to the top and had a bit left over). Only after having done so did I register the note in a box on the page saying that in order too give them enough space to rise and bake evenly, only alternate cups should be filled and two tins used. As a result, mine didn't rise much, the tops spread instead, and they took way longer than the specified time to bake. The extra batter baked in another pan rose nicely. Next time, I'll follow the spacing instructions, or perhaps make 18 smaller muffins.

                          6 Replies
                          1. re: Caitlin McGrath
                            buttertart Apr 27, 2010 09:14 AM

                            OK miss, leading us addicts down the garden path again...the book sounds great.

                            1. re: buttertart
                              The Dairy Queen Apr 28, 2010 05:10 PM

                              It does sound pretty interesting! I wish I were more of a baker.

                              ~TDQ

                              1. re: The Dairy Queen
                                buttertart Apr 29, 2010 06:25 AM

                                You're obviously a very good cook already, why not give baking more of a whirl? Nothing more satisfying. (Well, almost nothing.)

                                1. re: buttertart
                                  The Dairy Queen Apr 29, 2010 06:42 AM

                                  I really should, I just never seem to have time for it.

                                  Actually, there are a lot of great baking recipes in many of the COTMs we've chosen. It wouldn't be so hard to make it a personal challenge to try to do at least one baking thing from every COTM or something, just to get the ball rolling.

                                  ~TDQ

                                  1. re: buttertart
                                    The Dairy Queen Apr 29, 2010 06:51 AM

                                    You know, I think I'm going to do an outside post on this.

                                    ~TDQ

                                    1. re: The Dairy Queen
                                      buttertart Apr 29, 2010 07:20 AM

                                      V good idea. I was a baker long before I was a cook, and still lean that way. It seems to be one of those tomato tomahto things for people, doesn't it?

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