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“Good To The Grain: Baking with Whole-Grain Flours” by Kim Boyce – with a Foreword by Nancy Silverton

Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Healthy Baking, But Were Afraid to Try

Book Review
Jordan Wright
May 2010

Good to the Grain: Baking with Whole Grain Flours by Kim Boyce

Good to the Grain: Baking with Whole Grain Flours by Kim Boyce

It should come as no surprise, when the topic is about healthful foods, green lifestyles and fine wines…California will lead the way. So when I read author Kim Boyce’s bio, and noticed her background was carved from a career as a pastry chef at LA’s famous Spago and Campanile restaurants, I knew that “Good to the Grain: Baking with Whole-Grain Flours” was going to be a groundbreaking cookbook by a hands-on expert in baking.

In her book, Boyce tackles a subject where most bakers fear to tread…that of baking with whole grains. For anyone who has ever tried substituting whole wheat flour into a recipe that calls for white flour, the experience is deflating at best. The final product, whether loaf or crust, will no doubt emerge so tough and dense as to be edible by only the most virtuous among us.

But Boyce shows us not only how to incorporate more nutritious grains and flours like whole wheat, but also a wide spectrum of other flavorful grains like kamut, spelt, amaranth, oat, corn, buckwheat, rye, quinoa, barley and the malty Ethiopian grain “teff”, usually employed in a recipe for that nation’s spongy “injera” flatbread.

Using a novel approach she bakes the unique “teff” into Date Nut Bread, that once ubiquitous throwback that hasn’t been seen in stores in decades. I still harbor fond memories of the sweet, dense bread made into sandwiches filled with cream cheese and homemade preserves. Because she includes a handful of tempting recipes for jams and compotes in the back of the book…perhaps I’ll make her Rhubarb Hibiscus Compote to slather on my bread while the jewel-hued stalks are still in season.

Though the history of each grain is explored in these pages, there is no mention of the increased nutritive value the various grains contribute to our diet. Yet Boyce’s knowledge of the quirks and foibles of home baking and her friendly storytelling before each recipe, gently guide and inspire the reader with an invitation to share in her whole grain epiphany.

Plumbing the intimate relationship with baker and recipe are photographer Quentin Bacon’s evocative pictures that take us into an old-fashioned kitchen. His reverence for simple glass jars filled with Poppy Seed Wafers made with buckwheat flour; well-worn muffin tins filled to the brim with Ginger Peach Muffins made with oat flour; and wooden cutting boards that form a platform for Olive Oil Cake. A lush picture of Boyce’s Quinoa and Beet pancake batter bubbling off in a glistening cast-iron skillet, convinces the reader that here are simple recipes that anyone can master.

You’ll also find instructional pictures of kneading, rolling out and forming biscuits and pie dough, helpful to the neophyte baker, and the book abounds with informative tips from an experienced chef that has made all the mistakes for us and is willing to acknowledge the ofttimes humbling process.

You may want to try Fig and Nut Muesli made with quinoa, flax seeds and Black Mission figs, or rustic Apple Boysenberry Tarts made with rye flour and seasonal fruits. I’ll think I’ll serve the Corn and Blueberry Cookies in July when the berries are at their peak.

Here’s a delicious recipe to try as a Mother’s Day breakfast-in-bed treat.

Honey Amaranth Waffles
2 ounces (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted, for the waffle iron
Dry mix:
1/4 cup amaranth flour
1/4 cup flaxseed meal
1 cup whole-wheat flour
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon kosher salt
Wet mix:
2 cups buttermilk
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons honey
2 eggs
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
Greek yogurt, optional

1. Turn the waffle iron to its highest setting. Even if you don’t usually heat it this high, these waffles come out best when cooked at high heat. Sift the dry ingredients into a large bowl, pouring back into the bowl any bits of grain or other ingredients that may remain in the sifter.

2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the wet ingredients until thoroughly combined. Using a spatula, add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and gently combine. The batter will begin to bubble and swell as the baking soda begins to react with the buttermilk.

3. Brush the waffle iron generously with butter; this is the key to a crisp crust. Use a ladle or measuring cup to scoop 1/2 cup batter onto the spaces of the iron. Promptly close, and listen for the iron to sigh as the batter begins to cook. The smell wafting from the iron starts out like a freshly kneaded loaf of bread, then becomes toasty. Remove the waffle when the indicator light shows that it is done, or when a quick peek shows that it’s turned a dark golden-brown, 4 to 6 minutes. Remove the hot waffle with a fork, and repeat with the remaining batter.

4. The waffles are best eaten right off the griddle, with a bit of butter, a drizzle of honey, or a hearty spoonful of Greek yogurt, as desired.

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