Thursday, November 10, 2005

Cooking From Scratch, Part III: Whole Wheat Flour and Honey

Read Part I: Beef Stew and Cooking from Scratch here.
Read Part II: Cream Soups and Broths here.

For those looking for healthy choices when cooking from scratch, try using whole wheat flour and honey (or other natural sweeteners) in place of white flour and refined sugar.

From my first post on cooking from scratch:

The overwhelming problems Americans have with their health today is
largely due to poor eating habits. I'm not just talking about Big Macs and Coke
(term used generically in Atlanta for any soda) here. Just look at all the
chemicals listed on the back of most food packages today. Processed foods
contain so many by products. By putting unnatural products into their body
systems day in and day out, Americans are eating themselves into a plethora of
health problems and an early grave. For example, 40% of all cancer is caused by
lack of fiber, easily treatable with a well-balanced, natural diet.
Lack of fiber is mainly due to the current American diet, full of white flour and other fiberless foods. We need an adequate amount of fiber in our diet to maintain a healthy digestive system. One of the best ways to get fiber is to eat whole grain foods such as baked goods made with whole wheat flour, cornmeal, bran, etc. After wheat kernels are milled, they rapidly lose nutrients, so the whole wheat flour one buys at the store, while superior to white flour, is still far inferior to fresh ground flour.

My family has a Whisper Mill that grinds wheat kernels with electric power. Any flour we do not use immediately, we store in the fridge in a ziploc bag. Storing it in the fridge helps the flour retain nutrients for an extended period of time, and prevents the wheat germ from becoming rancid. We used to store our flour in the freezer until I read that freezing whole wheat flour destroys most of the vitamin E.

We often replace part of the flour in a recipe with whole wheat flour so the texture of the food is not drastically altered while still providing some fiber. When I make homemade pasta (with a machine) I usually use 1/2 white flour, 1/2 whole wheat. I've varied results with my attempts at pasta, but when it works it is tasty, healthy, and economical.

Mr. Baggins said:
On the cancer issue, researchers have found that the number one cause of cancer
is sugar: white, processed sugar. The solution? cook with honey. Of course, you
have to use less (says my wife), but it is much healthier. And get the raw
uncooked variety from a local apiary, not the processed honey you get in a
grocery store. It tastes soooo much better, not to mention being much healthier
for you.
We also use honey as sweetener in many recipes, either as a replacement or as part of the sweetener for the recipe. If you do use honey as a substitute, you need to use less honey than sugar, as Mr. Baggins' wife said. I use about 3/4 cup of honey to replace 1 cup white sugar. It varies for each recipe, though. Molasses and brown sugar are also good alternatives to white sugar. We've never bought unprocessed honey, but my sister and I would like to try some soon. I've heard from many people that it is superior to the store variety.

Breads, rolls, and heavier cakes and cookies are good foods to start with when trying whole wheat flour and natural sweetener. Don't try making an angel food cake with whole wheat flour and honey - it's not going to work!

It's difficult to find good recipes that don't sacrifice flavor for nutrition. I've tried some recipes that are supposed to be so tasty, but in all honesty the food tasted more like horse food than people food. Two cookbooks I have for whole foods recipes are Whole Foods for the Whole Family and Whole Foods from the Whole World, both published by La Leche League. I've had varied success with their recipes. Some are really good and some are really bad. My favorite healthy recipes are mostly ones I've adapted from a regular recipe.

Here are a few healthy recipes my family enjoys:

Whole Wheat Bread

8 c warm water
1 c honey
2 1/2 T salt
3 T yeast
approximately 24 c wheat flour

Before I make this recipe I grind two full loads of flour in our mill. This will make enough for the bread, with some to spare to store in the fridge for later use. Add honey, water, 1/2 of the flour (one load), and yeast to mixer (we have a Bosch with dough hooks). Mix on #1 (low). Add flour until sides are clean. Add salt. Knead on #2 for 8 minutes. Knead some by hand. Form into 1.5 lb loaves or into rolls. Let rise until almost twice height of pan (the rising time varies quite a bit for us). Bake at 375 for 22 minutes. Bake any rolls for 10-15 minutes.

Oatmeal Cookies (my sister and I had fun creating this recipe)

3 eggs
1 1/2 c raisins
1 t vanilla
1 c butter, slightly softened
1 c brown sugar
1 c honey
2 1/2 c whole wheat flour
1 t salt
2 t baking soda
3 t cinnamon
3 cups rolled oats

Beat eggs well, add raisins and vanilla, let stand 1 hour to soften raisins (optional). Cream butter and sugars. Add eggs and raisins. Whisk flour, salt, baking soda, and cinnamon, and add gradually. Add oats. Chill in refrigerator for firmer cookies (recommended). Spoon dough onto lightly greased cookie sheets and bake at 375 degrees for 7-9 minutes.


Oat Muffins

1 c water
1 stick butter
3/4 c honey
2 c oat flour (grind rolled oats in blender)
1/2 c whole wheat flour

1 t baking soda
1/2 t salt
2 t cinnamon
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 c buttermilk

Combine water, butter, and honey in 3-quart saucepan. Bring to a boil; remove from heat. Mix dry ingredients together. Add to honey mixture; mix well. Add eggs and buttermilk; mix well. Spoon into muffin pan. Bake at 375 degrees for 30-40 minutes. Top with cream cheese frosting if desired.

Cream Cheese Frosting (this was surprisingly good!)

8 oz cream cheese, softened
1 stick butter, softened
2-4 T honey
1 t vanilla

Beat cream cheese and butter in bowl until fluffy. Beat in honey to taste. Add vanilla; mix well.

8 comments:

Mrs.B. said...

I didn't know that about the whole wheat flour.....I keep mine in the freezer---YIKES!! I'll have to stop doing that.....with it only being my husband and I, I thought it would keep better than in the fridge...thanks for the tip. I can't wait to try these recipes, I printed out all the other ones from your previous posts. (o:

Heather said...

Hi! I found your blog from Crystal. I have enjoyed your posts on cooking from scratch. Have you tried using pastry wheat? It is Soft white wheat berries. They recommend using it in recipes that do not require yeast.
www.urbanhomemaker.com &
www.marmeeskitchen.com are great resources for cooking more healthy.
P.S. I have really enjoyed your blog.

Christi said...

breadbeckers.com is a good place to get wheat.

This was a good set of articles these past few days.

Susan said...

Heather,

I've never tried whole wheat pastry flour, but have wanted to try it, as it is supposed to be better for daintier dishes. To make pastry flour do you just buy different wheat?

Thanks for the links. I have visited Urban Homemaker before, but I don't think I've visited Marmees Kitchen. I will have to check it out soon.

Christi,

Thanks for the Bread Becker's link. My family used to order wheat through a friend who purchased it from Walton Feed, but she has since stopped selling wheat. We live pretty close to Bread Becker's, so that would be a good option for our next order.

zan said...

About the cancer thing. I learned that in certain countries where the main diet is rice and grains, colon cancer is almost non existent. This is a little gross, but one of the best preventions of colon cancer is having regular, normal bowel movements. If you have bowel issues related to poor diet this is a big risk factor.

I know we are talking about eating. Hope I didn't gross anyone out.

Thanks for the info about cream soup. I might try it. Right now I am kind of busy around supper so I am thankful for the Campell people. :) It took me two hours to make a stupid pie last night because my toddler is so hard to keep track of it.

-Zan

Michelle said...

Susan,
Hi, just found your blog through another link and I think it's fantastic! I love the fact that you cook from scratch as it is my preferred method as well.
I am just learning about whole wheat flour. Have you used store bought wheat flour before? That is what I'm currently experimenting with seeing that I don't have a wheat grinder...yet ;0). Will your recipes work with store bought whole wheat flour as far as amounts are concerned? Sorry for all the questions, I'm just excited to have finally found some good recipes! LOL Blessings

Susan said...

Michelle,
I've never used whole wheat flour, but I think it could be substituted directly for fresh ground whole wheat flour. It isn't nearly as healthy, but still better than white flour. Good idea to do some experimenting before investing in a mill :).

Susan said...

*I've never used store-bought whole wheat flour.