Peter Reinhart’s Sprouted Whole Wheat Pancakes

Peter Reinhart’s Bread Revolution tackles baking with even more “weird flours” with a special emphasis on sprouted grains and heirloom grains (though there is also some recipe for a bread made from ground up grape seeds).  Many of these recipes are only for the die-hard (and I do not include myself in this group, so draw what conclusions you will about the recipes), but many are quite accessible.

What I really love are the sprouted whole wheat pancakes.  If you’ve ever made pancakes with whole wheat flour you’ll know that while healthy, they really aren’t as good as pancakes with white flour.  The sprouted wheat pancakes don’t present this problem–they are tender, light, 100% whole wheat and still 100% delicious.  Apparently sprouted whole wheat is even BETTER for you than whole wheat so, eat up!

(Click here to find the book on amazon)

Sprouted Whole Wheat Pancakes

  • 1 cup + 1 T sprouted whole wheat flour (4.5 oz/128g)
  • 1/4 t salt
  • 1/2 t baking soda
  • 1t sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups buttermilk (12 ounces/340g)
  • 1 egg (1.75oz/50g)
  • 2T melted butter (1 oz/28.5g), plus more for the griddle.

Mix the dry ingredients together, then mix the wet ingredients together, then stir the wet mix into the dry until just combined.  Note:  The batter is fairly thin.  Make pancakes!  (I like to add blueberries).

Scandinavian Oatbake with Blueberries and Raspberries

The pernicious “bigger is better” myth even threatens to influence the selection of cookbooks for my ever-growing collection. I tend to think that biggest bang for my book buck is a hefty, substantial tome–the more recipes the better, right?  (How many do I use?  Don’t ask).  Meanwhile, I’ll admit to sometimes looking askance at the more modest ones: how much am I going to use a little book? Surely it always seems that they’ll just take up shelf space–and surely you’ll not get that much use out of it right?

Blueberry Raspberry Oat Bake (2 of 6)

But now it’s time to dredge up another cliché: quality over quantity always wins. Perhaps big books are just too overwhelming, or perhaps it’s just a question of picking the right books: If that slender little volume is full of amazing recipes, it’s most definitely the better value.  A carefully curated set of great recipes is more valuable than a book that just flings lists and instructions at you, none of which are particularly compelling.  No secret that I turn to Kim Boyce’s Good to the Grain more often than perhaps is wise, or Anupy Singla‘s Indian Slow Cooker which is at least as virtuous as it is easy to fit into a workday.  And now I’ve found another–Miisa Mink’s utterly charming Nordic Bakery cookbook, based on favorites from her bakery in London.  Since it opened in 2007, my stay in London only just barely overlapped with its arrival, which, while sad, may be a good thing.  But now that I have this cookbook in hand, I’ve already baked several recipes in a matter of days, all of which disappeared in a blink of an eye.

Blueberry Raspberry Oat Bake (4 of 6)

I love Scandinavian baking for its use of whole grains such as rye and oats, its generous use of cinnamon and cardamom, and its unabashed enjoyment of the tiny delicate fruits of summer–berries of all sorts, from lingonberries to the poetically named cloudberries–as ephemeral as their name, and which are gathered wild (though you can buy jams from both at Ikea rather than foraging north of the artic circle).

More to the point here, what I love about this  cake its slightly different (but decidedly unfussy) way of bringing familiar ingredients together.  Oats, berries, milk, flour–all the components of a classic morning quick bread, but united in a slightly different way:  soaking the oats in hot milk, then mixing into the batter.  Berries strewn on top of a gently sweet and moist cake.  I made it on a Friday evening when Marie was coming to visit for breakfast the next day, and it barely made it to see the morning light.

One comment on this cookbook:  as I said, I’ve made several recipes in the past few weeks (some,  like this one, more than once) and they’ve all been delicious.   And in some cases the amount of butter seems excessive–in particular where the butter is melted as the final touch on buns or smear into cinnamon rolls before shaping into logs.  I’ve always had extra left over and I’m not shy about using butter.   I’d almost say that something got lost in the translation from British to US measurements, except that everything has turned out remarkably well.  I’m left to think I may not be so profligate with the butter as I think, which is almost as happy a thing to think about as this recent news item about salt intake.

Blueberry Raspberry Oat Bake (6 of 6)

To sum up, though, don’t be deterred by this book’s slim profile.  You will find plenty to make.  Trust me.  I’ve bought a lot of cookbooks.  I have wisdom to share on this point.

Scandinavian Oatbake with Blueberries and Raspberries

Notes:  In this recipe, a 2lb loaf pan is called for; I used a 1 1/2 pound (9X3 inch) pan which is more standard and got a shallow but well-risen loaf.   You might think you should bake it in an even smaller loaf pan when you see the amount of batter, but the additional surface area is a nice platform for all those berries!  As I stated above, count on increasing the baking time if using frozen berries, or just defrost slightly (a bit frozen is still OK) before proceeding to bring things more in line with the timing below.  I’ve also not generally needed quite as much hot milk as called for in the recipe.  

  • 3/4 c old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 1 1/4 c hot milk
  • 6 1/2T unsalted butter, softened
  • 5T sugar
  • 3T honey
  • 1t pure vanilla extract
  • 1 egg
  • 1t baking powder
  • 1c all-purpose flour
  • 1 heaping cup blueberries
  • 1 heaping cup raspberries
  • powdered sugar for serving (optional)
Preheat the oven to 350F.  Line a 9X3 inch loaf pan with parchment paper.
Mix the oats and hot milk and set aside to allow the oats to absorb the milk, and to cool slightly.
Cream the butter and sugar together, then beat in the honey and vanilla extract, then the egg.  Sift the baking powder and flour together, then fold into the butter-sugar mixture.  Drain the milk from the oats (squeeze the milk out gently, but you needn’t try all that hard, and discard or use in another recipe).  Fold the oats into the batter, and scrape into the prepared pan.  Smooth the surface, then scatter the berries on top.
Bake 50-60 minutes (or logner for frozen berries) until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.  Let cool for 10-15 minute in the pan before removing.  This is a moist cake.  Dust with powdered sugar if desired before serving.

Blueberry Raspberry Oat Bake (3 of 6)

Raspberry Almond Muffins

As much as the little devil on my shoulder (or would that be my two sons and husband?) may cajole, I don’t want to make what is essentially dessert masquerading as breakfast most mornings.  But no quick breads, scones, or muffins?  Why bother getting up?  My solution when temptation hits is to moderate it by hitting up my whole grain flour collection.

Besides the modern greats (Good to the Grain, Ancient Grains for Modern Meals) I’ve found the Laurel’s Kitchen Bread Book to be an excellent companion to keep me on the straight and narrow.  And to my mind this book gets extra credit for being ahead of its time–originally published in 1984, well before whole grain baking was trendy, cool or whatever.  And it’s remarkably forward-looking in other ways, with chapters for those sensitive to gluten, egg, and dairy.  (Fortunately, I don’t have to worry about such things, but such books are a treasure for those who do).   And while this particular recipe uses wheat, it could be easily adapted for dairy and/or egg free diets.

Raspberry Almond Muffins (3 of 4)

As a bonus, these muffins also have less added sugar, as they rely on orange juice for much of their sweetness.  Using fruit juice where you tend to see milk in baking recipes is just another great trick I’ve learned from the Laurel Kitchen.  And orange juice adds the freshness of citrus, even while not imparting an orange-y flavor that might or might  not be welcome.

Raspberry Almond Muffins (4 of 4)

But enough about all that, because of course the real question is how they taste–as Maria Speck points out, people always want to sell you on whole grains for the health benefits, but who cares if you don’t also want to eat it?

First the raspberries–it just me, or are these thimble-sized fruits undeservedly forgotten in muffin baking endeavors?  They’re slightly larger than blueberries, but still small enough to be stirred into batter without needing to be pre-thawed (hurrah–no thinking ahead required).  Each little berry practically melts into a delicious burst of warm fresh jam in the oven.  (I used the last of a bag of raspberries we picked last fall at our town farm–the same ones I used for that raspberry cake I told you about just a year ago.  If yours have clumped up, just defrost slightly–no need to do so fully–so they separate out and can be stirred in).

Raspberry Almond Muffins (1 of 4)

Personally, I think those berries would possibly carry the day on their own, but just a trickle of almond extract turned out transport these to a new level–both enhancing the fruit and imparting its own alluring aroma that, at least for me, is utterly compelling.

And let’s be honest–it does make it just a little-bit dessert-like.

Raspberry Almond Muffins

Note:  of course you could use fresh raspberries–which would reduce the cooking time–but these are so fleeting a pleasure I can’t bear to eat them other than fresh.

Makes 14 muffins

  • 1 1/2 c whole wheat pastry flour (7 ounces)
  • 1/2t salt
  • 1t baking powder
  • 1/4t baking soda
  • 1/2t powdered ginger (optional)
  • 3T butter
  • 3T brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 3/4c orange juice
  • 1/2t almond extract
  • 1c frozen raspberries
Preheat the oven to 375F, and line or grease 14 muffin tins.
Stir together the flour, salt, baking powder and soda, and ginger in a medium bowl.
Cream the butter and brown sugar together in a large bowl, then beat in the egg, orange juice and almond extract.
Whisk in the dry ingredients until just combined.
Fold in the raspberries and spoon the batter evenly into the wells of your muffin tins.  Bake for about 20-25 minutes or until the muffins spring back when lightly pressed, or a tester comes out clean.

Raspberry Almond Muffins (2 of 4)

Whole Wheat Linguine with Leeks and Parsley

If you’ve been here a while, you know that as much as I love  playing with new and unusual ingredients, I also can’t make too big a production about things most days. While I do try to cook my meals “from scratch,” I don’t take that to mean anything onerous.  Nope–I need something simple that I can pull together quickly.  Arrive home, get it started, play with my kids and put them to bed, then finish up my dinner and eat.  At times I have to log back into work after that.

So a big meal with lots of fanfare isn’t going to happen most nights.  Since I’m usually just cooking for myself, who do I have to impress? If just myself, then good enough.

There can be a lot of exaggeration in food websites when we try to convey the tastes and aromas of a dish through words, or cajole a reader to trust some random amorphous blogger with feeding their family.  And with that, while I’m not going so far as to call it full-contact food blogging (something like my family’s “full contact Jeopardy” screenings), you can sometimes get the feeling that every dish you read about is the non plus ultra, the dish that will change your life, the meal you must eat for your life to have meaning.

Whole Wheat Linguine with Leeks and Parsley (3 of 3)

So even though I’ve been making this dish for ages, I’ve never actually written it up.  It was just too everyday, run of the mill I thought.  You know, just another pasta recipe.  And all you do is saute leeks with a few other ingredients and mix with pasta.  And the coup de grace is nothing more than tossing a big ol’ handful of chopped fresh parsley on top.  Yes, parsley.  Not freshly picked  basil or oregano or French tarragon, but boring old parsley–so pedestrian that it was abundant even when no one was telling you that using dried herbs was anathema.

So, maybe this doesn’t qualify under Generally Accepted Blogging Principles as “Blog-Worthy,” but it’s a real lifesaver for me sometimes–if I have too many leeks that are starting to lose their perkiness (seems to happen a lot), if I just need something I can throw together quickly without too much effort (mental or otherwise), or if I just want a clean, bright pasta dish that’s not too heavy.

And it works together well:  I love how the silky leeks and the astringent parsley blend with whole wheat pasta.  You actually want to use whole wheat pasta because, for whatever reason, it tastes so much better than regular pasta here.  I’ll admit I usually reach for the regular refined stuff, and the fact that I don’t want to is just one more plus about this combination.

Fast, easy, and I even get to feel virtuous.   I guess I did impress myself.

Whole Wheat Linguine with Leeks and Parsley (2 of 3)

Whole Wheat Linguine with Leeks and Parsley adapted from Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything

  • 4-6 medium leeks
  • 3T butter or olive oil
  • 2 dried chiles, or 1/2t (or more) chile flakes
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3/4 cup chopped parsley
  • 3/4lb (or amount desired) whole wheat linguine
Cut each leek almost in half lengthwise, leaving the root intact.  Fan the halves open and wash under running water to remove any sand.  Slice the washed halves crosswise (slices about 1/4″ thick) to roughly chop.
Set a pot of water to bring to a boil.
Heat the olive oil or butter over medium low.  Add the chile and saute for one minute, then add the leeks.  When the leeks have begun to color (about five minutes) add the minced garlic.  Season with salt and pepper. Continue cooking until the leeks are soft.  Cook the leeks over gentle heat, their mellow flavor is best if you don’t allow them to crisp.
While the leeks are cooking, chop your parsley.
Cook the linguine and drain.  Once the leeks are done, remove the chiles and stir the leek mixture together with the pasta.  Right before serving, stir in the parsley.    (You might want to add more freshly ground pepper which complements the flavors nicely).

Fannie Farmer’s Gingerbread Cake, somewhat better for you

Every so often, I just have to have some gingerbread.  I’ve always loved gingerbread–who doesn’t?  And after two years living in central Europe, where this spice-laden cake was everywhere, the added dose of nostalgia only intensifies my cravings.  I even prevailed upon my friend Jennifer to bring me some back from her annual trip to visit family in Vienna.  She happily indulged me, and threw in some marzipan and plum butter, the other habits I picked up while over there.

Now, I have nothing against fancy cakes with frilly frosting, but when I’m baking, I go for something that doesn’t need that little bit extra.  I must be honest and admit part of it could be a touch of laziness as I often run out of steam when it comes time to whip up a buttercream frosting.  As I see it, this failing of mine is a virtue, as a cake is already sugar and fat a-plenty, and frosting only makes things worse.  So I’m not making a tremendous effort to reform my ways.

A gingerbread cake, with the warm, complex flavors of molasses and spice, certainly can stand on its own, though it can handle a drizzle of icing if you must. Because it’s homey and unfussy, it takes beautifully to a bit of whole-grain flours as well, which is all the better–as you know I’m often tweaking recipes to add a bit of whole wheat pastry flour here, or buckwheat flour there…

So here I am, tinkering a Fannie Farmer recipe.  I came across this in the current issue of Edible Boston (where else would Ms. Farmer, of the Boston Cooking School, get a shout-out?).  If you don’t know the Edible Communities series of magazines, you can check here to see if there’s one for your city or region–they round up the best of local food producers and purveyors, together with thoughtful articles, beautiful photography, and of course, recipes.

Fannie Farmer's Gingerbread Cake (1 of 2)

This cake pulls together easily, but is fun to make as it has an unusual method–melting the butter and molasses together.  You add baking soda directly to the hot mix, causing this fragrant concoction to foam and bubble up furiously.  Speaking of which–make sure to have that baking soda all measured and ready to go:  you don’t want a sticky mess of molasses and butter spilling out of the pot while you’re looking for that 1/4 teaspoon measure.  Stir it down, let it cool a bit, and add in the remaining ingredients.

I have no idea what the purpose is behind this unusual set of steps, but it’s fun and I don’t have to get out the stand mixer, so I’ll go with it.

Fannie Farmer's Gingerbread Cake (1 of 6)Fannie Farmer's Gingerbread Cake (2 of 6)

Fannie Farmer's Gingerbread Cake (3 of 6)Fannie Farmer's Gingerbread Cake (4 of 6)

Fannie Farmer's Gingerbread Cake (5 of 6)

Fannie Farmer's Gingerbread Cake (6 of 6)

The cake is not overly sweet, but it is rich, which means that a dollop of tart (but admittedly also rich) creme fraiche on the side complements it quite well.

Gingerbread Cake, adapted from Fannie Farmer’s 1896 Soft Molasses Gingerbread

Notes:  I used spelt flour in place of some of the all-purpose flour, but I’m certain you could easily use whole wheat flour or whole wheat pastry flour as well.  And make sure to line your cake pan with parchment–like any good gingerbread cake, this is moist and sticky.  

  • 1 cup molasses
  • 1/3 c unsalted butter (80g), plus additional butter for greasing the pan
  • 1 3/4t baking soda
  • 1c buttermilk
  • 1 egg
  • 1c all purpose flour (125g)
  • 1c spelt flour (125g)
  • 2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • pinch mace
  • pinch allspice
  • 1/2t salt

Preheat oven to 350F (175C).  Butter a 9″ round cake pan and line with a circle of parchment paper cut to fit.  (This cake is very dense and moist).

In a large saucepan, melt the butter and the molasses together, and heat until boiling.  Turn of the heat (and remove to a surface it won’t be too hard to clean up) and add the baking soda all at once.  Stir it down–it will froth and foam and bubble up for longer than you’d expect.

Allow to cool for a few minutes.  (You might prepare the pan now if you haven’t done so).  Add half of the flour, then the milk and egg, and then the remaining flour.  Pour into the prepared pan, and bake for about 30 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean.  Allow to cool for at least 30 minutes before removing from the pan.

Fannie Farmer's Gingerbread Cake (2 of 2)

Whole-Grain Sweet Potato Muffins

Maybe it was just the “three clever sister” household, but when we were growing up, sweet potatoes were none too visible–they made an appearance at Thanksgiving, and we loved the fact that you could eat something with marshmallows and not call it dessert.  But, like a roast turkey, it was another year until we saw them again.

Now sweet potatoes (which by the way, in the US are probably the same things as yams) have risen to prominence as a “superfood”  along with other rediscovered vegetables such as butternut squash and even chard and kale (the latter two I don’t think I had even seen until 5 years ago).  Sweet potatoes, perhaps are the best of this virtuous bunch, as they are easy to peel (butternut squash, ahem) and you can almost forget they are good for you (kale chips are a good try but not my cup of tea).  And they are pretty much unavoidable in baby food these days! 

Here, sweet potatoes come to the rescue for those of you who don’t go for the whole “whole-wheat thing.”  These are subtly sweet and warmly spiced.  Delicious.  And light–no hockey pucks in sight!

These are homey and comforting, a perfect antidote to the excessively wintry weather we’ve been having here. 

Certain of the sisters like the batter as well as the finished product.

 Whole-Grain Sweet Potato Muffins

  • 2 1/2c whole wheat flour
  • 3/4c sugar or brown sugar (see note)
  • 2t baking powder
  • 1/4 t baking soda
  • 1T cinnamon
  • 1/2t nutmeg (freshly ground if possible)
  • 1/4t allspice
  • 1/4t salt (preferably kosher)
  • 1/4 c melted butter
  • 1/4c vegetable oil
  • 1c mashed sweet potato
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2c yogurt, buttermilk, or milk soured with 1t white vinegar

Heat the oven to 375.  Grease or line with paper liners 12 muffin cups.  Mix the dry ingredients in a large bowl.  In another bowl mix together the remaining ingredients, and fold into the dry mixture until just combined.

Fill the muffin cups approximately 3/4 full and bake for 20-25 minutes.  Allow to cool for five minutes, then twist the muffins out and set on their side over the wells in the muffin pan (as shown above).  This will allow the muffins to cool without getting gummy and damp.  (Thanks for the tip, Kim Boyce, who along with Mark Bittman was my inspiration for this recipe!)

Notes  (updated 02/16):  This batter is thick.  You may have to add more liquid, depending on whether you use buttermilk, vinegared milk, or yogurt.  (Thanks to the commenters for reminding me to mention this!)  If you have brown sugar that is not too lumpy, you can use it instead of white sugar (in fact, I find it preferable).  A few little lumps melt nicely into the muffin and are little sweet bursts to enjoy.