Pros: A ton of delicious whole grain recipes with handy tips
Rating: 5 out of 5
Also published on Epinions.com.
Once again I find myself in need of a lousy book to review. I’ve lucked into so many good books lately that I feel as though I’m being derelict in my duty as a reviewer by handing out so many high ratings. I suppose I could excuse and simultaneously flatter myself by claiming it’s due to the books I choose to buy and take for review… yeah! That’ll do it. Better that, anyway, than to somehow try to make myself look “fair” by handing out a poor rating to a wonderful book–like, say, the King Arthur Flour Company’s “Whole Grain Baking.”
I’m a long-time customer of the King Arthur Flour Company. I grew up on goods baked with their unbleached flours, and I used to live near their bakers’ store. That place is a candy-land of bakers’ equipment, specialty ingredients, and even delicious baked goods (I fondly remember their Napoleons, and have yet to taste their equal). Setting me loose in there with a credit card was a guaranteed disaster, so my mother was kind enough to give me gift certificates to the place for my birthday each year. I try not to remind myself that they have an online store, or that you can now buy many of their items through Amazon.com–I fear the consequences to my credit rating.
A family history of diabetes and some mild blood sugar issues of my own have sent me down the whole grain road, as I’m unwilling to give up carbs. I love to cook, so naturally this meant it was time to get some whole grain cookbooks. While I’ve found some marvelous recipes in books such as Secrets of a Jewish Baker, I’ve long found that nothing matches a KAF book for thoroughness and instructional content. Luckily for me this is still true–and they recently produced a book on whole grain baking.
The King Arthur Flour Company is employee-owned and operated, and it’s far more than just a flour company. They offer many baking classes at their facilities, have an on-site bakery that’s beyond compare as far as I’m concerned, and spend a great deal of time and effort perfecting recipes and techniques. One of the things I always loved about their catalog, in fact, was that it was clear from their item descriptions that they’d kitchen-tested and used every single item they recommended, and they often recommended uses for things that went beyond the obvious.
All of this effort has been expertly translated onto the printed page in their whole grain baking cookbook. It’s a huge cookbook filled with hundreds of recipes for everything from pita bread to tortillas, scallion pancakes to muffins, multigrain pancake mix to yeasted breads of all kinds. Recipes go hand-in-hand with plenty of instructional content to help you make the most of unusual flours and grains–not just whole wheat, but everything from rye to spelt, buckwheat to barley.
Recipes come with plenty of handy notes to tell you what to expect and why the recipes were constructed in a given manner. They also come with nutritional information (including the number of grams of whole grains in a serving) as well as related bakers’ tips. There are whole sections on how to make use of various grains–including wheat berries, cracked wheat, wheat flakes, wheat bran, and vital wheat gluten. The tips address not just how to achieve the physical results you want, but how to achieve the tastes you’ll enjoy.
The book does make use of a number of unusual ingredients that you might have difficulty finding without using mail order sources, but there’s a list of several in the back. And frankly, that’s a hard problem to avoid when it comes to whole grain baking. The ingredients are out there, and you’ll need to hunt them down anyway, so you might as well take full advantage of them. However, there are also plenty of recipes in here that use more common whole grains such as oats and whole wheat, so there’s plenty to make regardless.
How about a whole grain pancake mix that you freeze, then combine with buttermilk (or milk and plain yogurt) and an egg whenever you want pancakes? We have some in our freezer right now, and I can assure you it’s as delicious as it is simple. One example of KAF’s ingenuity is the use of a very small amount of orange juice in the pancake batters to help offset some of the taste that people tend not to like in whole wheat. If you’re okay with the taste of whole wheat you can leave it out, but it’s a great, simple technique if you need the help.
What about whole grain tortillas and pita breads? This is the first time we’ve made those particular flat breads for ourselves, and they were absolutely delicious, not to mention surprisingly easy.
KAF applies whole grains to everything, including pies, crumbles, turnovers, quiches, croissants, doughnuts, granola bars, cookies, scones, biscuits, sticky buns, bread pudding, and of course all manner of breads themselves: micro-brewery honey-wheat bread, walnut whole wheat bread, Irish porridge bread, hummus bread, golden malted wheat bread, and on and on. Everything we’ve made from this book has come out perfectly, and that isn’t an exaggeration.
I could continue to sing this book’s praises, but I think I’ll go now. After writing all of this I’m incredibly hungry, and you’re probably impatient to go get the book!