You can only become good at something, improve at something, if you practice that something. In the case of the kitchen, that often means making the same things again and again. As for a kitchen blog, that means redundant posts. I have things I love to make: scones, my sourdough loaves, all things pasta, and soup. When the scones are perfect, I take photos. When the loaves emerge from the oven with slightly charred ears, I rejoice. And take photos. When I’ve discovered a new method for marrying flour & butter, I make pie, more scones, and take photos.

Lately I’ve ventured further into the land of 100% whole grain flours: white & red wheat, emmer & einkorn, and Kamut. My baking has been scones, pies, and bread, but 100% whole grain. The photos? Pretty much the same.

50/50 whole wheat & white whole wheat flours
50/50 whole wheat & white whole wheat flours

The flavors? Amazing. The sources? Local. The white flour rush? Non-existent. Most whole wheat baking includes some white flour. White flour lightens the product, helps give a better rise, makes the process easier. Up till now, my sourdough has always had 20-30% white flour, and the starter is, and will continue to have, some white flour in its makeup. There are ways, though, to use only whole grain flours with success.

Where you can, increase the liquid in whole grain recipes a little and let the dough or batter rest so the germ & bran have time to absorb that liquid. Whole grains are thirsty and that extra liquid helps the resolute germ/bran soften, to become more manageable in baked goods. If a recipe calls for dairy, use something soured or cultured like buttermilk or kefir or even yogurt. Reduce the baking powder a little and add in some baking soda. The cultured dairy provides a more complex flavor profile, and the reaction of acidity+baking soda gives whole grains a better lift.

Different whole grain flours are better for different things. Whole wheat pastry flour is a great substitute for white flour in cookies, muffins, scones, and even cake. Emmer can also be used for these same products, resulting in a slightly more rustic texture and a more whole-wheaty flavor, in a good way. My new favorite chocolate cake is all very low gluten einkorn. Hard white whole wheat flour is great to use with einkorn for pizza dough, can make a very good scone, is wonderful for bread, and surprisingly, makes my current favorite chocolate chip cookie.

100% whole grain yum

I found this recipe in Good to the Grain: Baking With Whole Grain Flours, but have reduced the amount of sugar as I usually do, and rather than standard whole wheat flour, I use white whole wheat, reducing the amount of flour by a bit. I even renamed these cookies to showcase what I think about them.These cookies are good. Really good. This recipe uses cold butter and the final mix, executed with hands in an almost knead, is a method I’ve never used before with a cookie. The mass of dough, torn into cookie portions, rather than scooped or rolled, results in a  bumpy & lumpy cookie, with pools of chocolate, crisp yet tender.  While you certainly do NOT want to over bake these, you will be really glad you tried this recipe. Cheers!

The Best (Whole Grain) Chocolate Chip Cookies

Makes 8 to 12 large cookies

1 ⅓ cups white whole wheat flour

¾ teaspoon baking powder

½ teaspoon baking soda

¼ teaspoon salt

½ cup (1 stick) cold butter, cut into small pieces

½ cup brown sugar

⅓ cup sugar

1 egg

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

½ cup chocolate chips (the darker the better!)*

Preheat the oven to 350° F. Line two baking sheets with parchment.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Set aside.

Place the cold butter and the sugars into the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. With the mixer on low speed, mix just until the butter and sugars are blended, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the egg, mixing until combined. Mix in the vanilla.

Add the flour mixture to the bowl and blend on low speed until the flour is just starting to combine, about 30 seconds. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl.

Add the chocolate chips to the batter. Mix on low speed until the chocolate is evenly combined.

Use a spatula to scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl, then scrape the dough out onto a work surface. Use your hands and a dough scraper to fully incorporate all the ingredients. Scoop mounds of dough, about 3 tablespoons in size, onto the baking sheet, leaving 3-inches between them (about 6 to a sheet).Bake the cookies for 12 to 14 minutes, rotating the sheets halfway through, until the cookies are evenly dark brown. Let the cookies cool on the parchment paper.

Recipe adapted from Good to the Grain.

*an alternative to chocolate chips is to chop up your favorite 70% dark chocolate bar, having a variety of sizes of chocolate in your cookie.

Pancake Star Wars

Junior received a set of Star Wars pancake molds for Christmas. We tried them out using our usual batter ratios, but with 100% Kamut. I didn’t read the instructions and realized after the batter was all over the first set that I should have sprayed a little something on the mold. Those pancakes went directly to the chickens. The next set, a Millennium Falcon and X-Wing turned out, except that the X-Wing looks more like a starfish:IMG_0376

The next pair, a Tie Fighter (or Tie Interceptor) and a Millennium Falcon looked pretty good (as compared to my very unstaged stove top):IMG_0374

until I tried to flip the Tie Interceptor Fighter. It crashed hard:IMG_0375

Of the 3 shapes, the Millennium Falcon was the simplest and most sure to have recognizable results. Junior had fun but what a pain to clean these things! These are the types of gadgets that seem too good to be true in their super cute packaging on the shelves at Williams Sonoma.  When the pushing gets to shoving, when the batter actually hits the griddle, it’s not really very cute. We’ll use them again; maybe we can produce some stop motion breakfast battle movie.

I was very happy with the Kamut, which produced crazy fluffy, crazy light results. I did make this batter thinner than I usually do, what with using the molds. And I didn’t drop any frozen blueberries or raspberries onto the cooking batter like I usually do. If you’ve not tried raspberry pancakes, you really should.

Here’s how the batter happened today:

Kamut Pancakes

8 oz Kamut flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

3 tablespoons butter, melted

2 eggs

8 oz kefir

8 oz milk

Preheat a griddle or pan. I love using cast iron. In a larger bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. In a separate bowl, whisk together the melted butter, eggs, kefir, and milk. When the pan is ready, ladle out 1/3-1/2 cup batter. After the pancake gets bubbled, flip it.

Serve with syrup or jam or apple butter or apple slices sautéed with butter and cinnamon or add yogurt to the pancakes with any of these other things, it’ll all be good!


Biscuits: Whole Wheat

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 "grains"
Kefir “grains”

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.

Cute cloth top from my friend Jen!
Cute cloth top from my friend Jen!

When thick, the kefir is strained, the thick sour milk recipe ready, and the grains able to restart the cycle in a clean jar.

Separating the liquid from the grains
Separating the liquid from the grains
Milk kefir ready to use
Milk kefir ready to use

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!

100% Whole Wheat
100% Whole Wheat
Concord grape jelly
Concord grape jelly

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.


Sourdough-ish Pancakes!!

Here at home we (and by we, I mean I) pronounce “pancake” as either /peeeeaaaaannnncake/ or with its more common pronunciation, /ˈpænkeɪk/, but spoken loudly. With slammers. You know-exclamation points. This latter phenomenon is due, mostly, to a commercial parody sketch from MTV’s mid-90’s show The State, Betty’s No-Good Clothes Shop and Pancake House. (We are moved by comedy.) This morning I made: PANCAKES!!

I have begun anew my study on the Theory and Practice of High Hydration Sourdough. I hope to be writing about it over the coming months. How this study leads to pancakes is in the sourdough starter. Getting the starter to be thoroughly alive, fully wild and active, strong enough to withstand the rigors it will face when combined, for many hours, with mostly whole wheat flours and ample water before finding refuge in the hot oven, requires regular feedings, discarding most of the old to make new. The “old” starter being discarded is perfectly fine. It could be renewed as well, but in a short while I would have a bathtub full and my family would complain. Today I couldn’t bring myself to yard-waste the blessed goodness, using it instead to augment some pancakes.

Little bowl of microbial life!
Little bowl of microbial life!

There are many recipes online for sourdough pancakes, some just adding additional ingredients to large amounts of sourdough starter, and others requiring most of the batter sit overnight. I usually don’t have much starter in excess at any one time; my bread formula requires a long ferment, using only a tablespoon of the stuff for the levan, meaning I don’t maintain more than 1 cup. Additionally, as I have yet to think “pancake” at bedtime, I needed something doable when I wanted to make them, eliminating any morning-after, lack-of-planning regret.  Combining starter with some of the beautiful einkorn flour I grind was a happy solution.

Nutrimill at the ready.
Nutrimill at the ready.

Einkorn is an ancient grain, finding itself in re-cultivation due to its lovely flavor, as well as its high protein but low gluten content. Protein content in modern wheat links to the amount of gluten in the grain. High protein flours are strong flours, suitable for bread making. Soft flours are lower in protein/gluten and work well for pastry. Grains such as einkorn, and its cousin, emmer, are both higher in protein but their gluten levels are more akin with pastry flour. These rediscovered, ancient forms of wheat will undoubtedly bring change into our current baking lexicon: high protein, low gluten wheat flours.

Pure beauty!
Pure beauty!

While einkorn is not strong enough to hold a sourdough loaf together, it is perfect to blend with the stronger flours fermenting in the starter, adding flavor, more protein, and much in the way of self-satisfaction, to pancakes or waffles. Aside from the starter, this pancake recipe looks like any other. I do add a bit of baking soda, as the starter won’t have much time to create any big life with the einkorn. Since this batter is whole wheat, it can benefit with a sort of autolyse: letting the starter, flour, and liquid, in this case kefir, sit for 20-30 minutes before continuing with the remaining ingredients.

Letting the flour and liquids mingle a bit.
Letting the flour and liquids mingle a bit.

Autolyse gives the whole wheat time to absorb liquid, so you may need to add some additional milk or kefir before baking, but wait until you incorporate all ingredients to adjust. I don’t add any sugar to the batter, allowing for real maple syrup to be used when eating. This helps control the total sugar, but still allows for a nice bit of sweet to balance the nuttiness of the flour. The fruit added to these pancakes truly makes them a summer delight. My favorite way to bring a little summer to one of our dark, rainy NW January mornings, is to use frozen raspberries instead of fresh. Magic.

Oddly lit, almost ready to flip.
Oddly lit, almost ready to flip.

Sourdoughy Summer Pancakes

(with Einkorn!)

1 cup/128g einkorn flour

1 cup/160g 100% hydration sourdough starter

1 teaspoon baking soda

3/4 teaspoon salt

3/4 cup kefir (buttermilk)

2 eggs

3 tablespoons butter, melted

Raspberries or blueberries or other diced summer fruit


Preheat a griddle until drops of water dance across it.

While the griddle preheats, whisk together the flour, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl.

In a small bowl, combine the kefir, eggs, and butter. Mix well.

Add the kefir mixture and starter to the flour. Fold together until just combined.

Using a 4-ounce ladle, scoop batter onto the hot griddle. The batter will be thick. Use the back of the ladle to spread and smooth the batter on the griddle.

Drop berries onto the raw cake.

Flip when bubbles form and/or the edges begin to dry.

Adjust the temperature under the pancakes as needed.

If you don’t do sourdough, you can make great pancakes with whole wheat pastry flour, spelt flour, or grind up some emmer or einkorn. Use 2 cups(256g) total flour, increase the liquid to 1-1/4  to 1-1/2 cups, and add 1 teaspoon of baking powder. I would urge you to not shy away from using the melted butter. A good quality organic or grass-fed butter brings a satisfying richness, marries well with the fruit,  and makes these pancakes delicious.

Happy Pancakes to All!