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The Secret to Delicious Whole Grain Cooking
Of course, whole grains are good for you: They contain fiber, vitamins B and E, and minerals such as iron, potassium and magnesium. Eating them helps prevent heart disease. We all know we should incorporate more of them into our diet, and now even supermarkets that once offered only white flour and maybe whole wheat carry barley, rye and other grains.
But how do you actually bake with these flours? To start with, don't try to disguise them, says pastry chef Kim Boyce, who this fall is opening a retail store, Bakeshop, in Portland, Oregon, and developed the recipes here for O. Boyce started playing with a variety of flours when she took a break from restaurant kitchens and wrote her first cookbook, Good to the Grain, a whole grains baking bible that won a coveted James Beard Foundation Award this year. "I just started fooling around—you know, a little bit of this, a little bit of that and see what happens," she says. "And it was frustrating. The textures I was used to were no longer there. I asked myself, 'What am I going for here, health or flavor?'"
Ultimately she decided on flavor, which meant focusing on the taste of the grains themselves and combining them with ingredients that bring out their full character. Barley, for example, is naturally sweet; it's terrific in pancakes, which Boyce serves with a poached-blueberry syrup. Rye, a nutty grain, is mild enough to allow the coconut to come through in her Coconut Muffins. Boyce usually includes some white flour for texture but ensures that about half the flour in every recipe here is whole grain. If you want to substitute whole grain flours for white in a favorite recipe, keep on hand a multigrain mix that's equal parts barley, rye, whole wheat and white flours, like the one in Boyce's recipes for Sweet and Salty Cookies and Maple Scones. Half a cup of the mix is usually okay as a straight substitute for white flour, she says, and you can experiment with more.
"I want these every morning for breakfast," said my son the other day, his mouth full of warm, chewy ricotta bars I'd made from one of Boyce's recipes.
So do I. And I'm guessing that you will too.
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