One of my favorite things about cooking at home is having the ability to take a beloved food or recipe and make it a little more nutrient-rich. Did you know you can swap out eggs for flax meal in banana bread? Or that applesauce is a high-fiber substitute for oil in baking? How about Greek yogurt replacing the heavy cream in creamy pasta sauces? The list goes on and on.
A newer addition to my healthy substitutions arsenal is freshly ground flour. Now that I have my very own grain mill, I can turn grains and beans into flour in seconds and use them quickly, before light and air have an opportunity to deteriorate the B-vitamins and cause the fats to go rancid. More importantly, though, products make with freshly-ground flour taste better, behave more like white flour (a bread baker's dream!), and I can be sure that my flour contains all 3 parts of the grain - the germ, bran, and endosperm.
Now, you do not need to go out and buy yourself a grain mill in order to have healthier grain products. If you currently use all-purpose flour for most of your baking needs, a good place to start is swapping half of the AP flour out for a 100% whole wheat flour instead. Whole wheat flour contains more vitamins and fiber than enriched flour, and it's associated health benefits are worth noting. If dense products have ruined whole wheat flour for you in the past, whole wheat pastry flour might be worth a try. In my personal experience, fine-ground whole wheat pastry flour is more cooperative in baking and results in a lighter, "whiter" product. Whole wheat pastry flour can commonly be found in bulk bins in grocery stores. Bob's Red Mill produces one that I've purchased many times before as well.
White whole wheat is also a great option. Red wheat is the most commonly grown wheat in the US, and it has a nutty, slightly grassy flavor. White wheat is simply another type of wheat, and it's flavor is milder than red wheat, making it a better "gateway" into whole wheat products. Bob's Red Mill and King Arthur Flour are two reliable, high-quality brands.
Most people think of grains or cereals when they think of buckwheat, but it is actually a fruit seed related to rhubarb. Despite what it's name suggests, it is free of wheat and gluten - good news for those with celiac disease or gluten sensitivities. Buckwheat is a good source of fiber, giving it the ability to reduce blood cholesterol, assist in healthy digestion, and regulate blood sugar. The proteins in buckwheat also help curb activity of angiotensin converting enzyme (ACE), thus reducing blood pressure (this is the same mechanism of popular blood pressure medication Lisinopril). It's low glycemic index, impressive fiber and protein content, and contribution to gut health make it a highly underrated food.
Lemony buckwheat pancakes with honey-vanilla whipped ricotta
Serves 2 people
Adapted from Hodgson Mills
These sweet breakfast pancakes are a great for satisfying a morning sweet tooth. For a heartier version, try buttermilk and an addition of a tablespoon flax meal. Good ricotta (or better yet - homemade ricotta) is important here. Ricotta has a tendency to be grainy, which isn't so good on pancakes. Or anything else, really. If the potential for a grainy texture is enough to scare you off, mascarpone cheese would make a creamier substitute.
1/2 cup buckwheat flour (for gluten-free, use 1 cup buckwheat flour and omit the whole wheat flour)
1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 cup unsweetened almond milk (regular milk or buttermilk will work too)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons oil or melted butter
1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
1/2 cup good-quality ricotta
1 teaspoon honey
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract or vanilla paste
- Combine buckwheat flour, pastry flour, baking powder, salt, and brown sugar in a bowl. Set aside. In a separate bowl, combine milk, egg, vanilla extract, and oil or butter. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and stir until just combined. Stir in the lemon zest.
- Heat a griddle over medium-high heat and oil lightly. Pour pancake batter onto the griddle in 4-5" rounds and cook for about 2 minutes, until the bubbles on the surface begin to pop and the edges start to brown. Flip and cook for 1-2 minutes on the opposite side.
- To make whipped ricotta: measure ricotta into a bowl. Whisk rapidly for 2 minutes, then add honey and vanilla extract. Whisk again until smooth.
- Serve pancakes with a dollop of whipped ricotta, seasonal fruit, a sprinkling of sliced almonds, and a drizzle of honey.
Labels: breakfast, bulk bins, gluten-free, vegetarian, whole grain, winter