Partly because I’m going to a whole grain conference, a mini-version of The Grain Gathering (yes, there is such a thing), and because the biscuits I recently posted weren’t very tall, and because that’s what I wanted for breakfast, yesterday I made a biscuit using all Hard Red Wheat flour. I normally would have used a combination of whole grain flours, but didn’t have any Einkorn or Emmer ground and ready to go.
All-whole wheat products carry a reputation. These food items have been known to be heavy, healthy (not in a good way), and hard to digest. Memories of hockey-puck-bread commiserating ingastro with not-quite-presoaked-enough soup lentils, give pause, even concern about making “healthier” versions of loved baked goods. Whole wheat products often have sweeteners added to aid the leavening but I don’t want to add sugars to my non-dessert foods. Happily, I’ve learned that adding cultured or fermented ingredients can do wonders for whole grain baking. Just as with refined flour baking, the acid in buttermilk or kefir helps break down the long, tough strands of gluten resident in strong flours, resulting in a more tender finished product. Instead of using the regular milk often called for in biscuit recipes, I use milk kefir.
Kefir begins with little starter globules referred to as grains, globules that look like the large tapioca in bubble tea, combined with fresh milk that sits at room temperature until the milk thickens.
When thick, the kefir is strained, the thick sour milk recipe ready, and the grains able to restart the cycle in a clean jar.
I make kefir in 1-pint jars, keeping it on hand in the refrigerator until needed. Having it at the ready for biscuits or scones or waffles is a treasure.
As for the matter of biscuits, my whole wheat recipe is below, with additional step-by-step instruction found here. Using a little baking soda, along with baking powder, gives the lactic acid in kefir something more to play with. Additionally, a taller biscuit can be achieved by simply leaving the dough thicker before cutting out the circles. Yesterday’s batch was delicious!
Whole Wheat Biscuits
2 cups (9 oz) whole wheat flour
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
4 tablespoons butter
1 cup milk kefir
Preheat the oven to 425F.
Combine the dry ingredients. Add the butter, cutting in until it resembles small peas.
Add the kefir. Stir just until moistened.
Scrape mixture onto a lightly floured work surface.
Gently knead the dough for about 10 turns. Using a bench scraper can help get the kneading started.
Press the dough out until ¼- to ½-inch thick.
Use a biscuit cutter to form circles, or for thicker biscuits, press a drinking glass, with the circumference you prefer, into the dough.
Place biscuits on pan or in a baking dish. Biscuits can be snug on the pan or sit apart. Thicker biscuits will need some space between them for even baking.
Bake for 10-20 minutes, depending on the thickness and closeness you have chosen.