Back to Basics – Whole Wheat Bread

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Whole wheat bread is our favorite around here. Rarely do I make white bread and I usually throw at least a little whole wheat flour in just about every baked good I make. To the uninitiated, baking with whole wheat flour can be fraught with issues: dry, dense bread and crumbly loaves. There are a few tricks in the trade that can make the difference between stereotypical dense, dry whole wheat bread and light, soft bread that tastes mildly of nutty whole grain goodness.

If you have never baked bread before, check out my post on white bread first. Baking with whole wheat can be just a tiny bit tricky and it helps if you are already familiar with yeast and the steps of making bread.

White whole wheat flour
When I first started baking with whole wheat, way back in the early 90s, I only had access to standard whole wheat flour. It was dark and strongly flavored and if I wasn’t careful it made heavy, overly wheaty bread.

Then I discovered a new product: white whole wheat flour. It is a different strain of wheat from regular whole wheat and it was a revelation. White whole wheat is basically albino wheat. And its flour has all of the nutrition of regular whole wheat flour with none of the bitterness. It is usually ground as finely as all-purpose flour, which helps make baked goods come out with a texture similar to white flour products.

That said, if you have traditional whole wheat flour, as long as it isn’t stoneground, your bread will turn out very similar to mine. It will, however, be a little darker and have a stronger flavor.

A word on stoneground flour
Don’t get me wrong, stoneground flour is a wonderful product. And if you are used to baking with it, it can produce lovely baked goods. But if you are a novice baker, you probably want to wait to use stoneground flour until you have at least a few loaves of bread under your belt. Stoneground flour requires a little more liquid, a longer rest time and a light hand with flour during kneading.

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Bran and its challenges
The problems most people have with whole grain baking (not just whole wheat) stem from the bran in the flour. Whole grain flour is the whole grain, ground into flour. That sounds a little obvious, but stick with me. Because you have the whole grain, you have the bran and the germ, along with the rest of the kernel (called the endosperm). White flour contains only the endosperm. The germ has lots of nutrition and a little fat (the good kind) and doesn’t really affect the texture of the bread. The bran contains most of the fiber in the grain (which we all want to eat more of) and is what can cause problems when baking with whole wheat flour.

Bran absorbs liquid slowly. This can cause an issue if you mix your whole wheat bread dough exactly as you would mix white bread dough. If you don’t build in extra time for the bran to absorb the liquid you can end up with heavy, dense bread.

One simple trick solves all, though: a rest period. Mix up the dough, including all of the whole wheat flour, and then stop. Cover the bowl and do something else for fifteen minutes. It doesn’t matter what. Wash the dishes. Start a load of laundry. Or take a rest yourself. While the dough is resting, the bran will have plenty of time to soak up all the liquid it wants. When you come back, your batter-like dough should have firmed up just a bit. Now you can proceed with the rest of the recipe without worry about adding too much flour.

That’s pretty much it. Start with white whole wheat flour, which you can find in any grocery store. Take a pass on stoneground flour until you have a little baking experience. And give the dough a rest. Now all that’s left to do is get your ingredients and your bowl ready. Just think, in about two hours you can have your very own loaves of warm, soft whole wheat bread. The butter is waiting.

Download or print the recipe.

Basic Whole Wheat Bread
Adapted from Better Homes and Gardens
Homemade Bread Cookbook
Makes 2 loaves

If you don’t have 9 by 5 inch loaf pans, you can use a large baking sheet. Follow recipe directions for shaping and simply place the loaves on a lightly greased baking sheet, far enough apart so they have room to rise. Bake as directed, but for only 20-25 minutes.

2¼ cups milk
3 cups whole wheat flour (white whole wheat or regular)
2¾-3½ cups all-purpose flour, approximately
1 package instant or active dry yeast (2¼ teaspoons)*
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon butter, room temperature

*Be sure you don’t buy rapid rise yeast. That particular yeast only works in recipes written specifically for it. Look for instant or active dry yeast packets in the baking aisle of the grocery store.

Heat milk until very warm (120-130 degrees). It will feel very warm if you test it with your finger. If it is hot, let it cool a little before you use it. Combine the 3 cups whole wheat flour, yeast, sugar and salt in a large bowl. Add butter and warm milk. Stir vigorously until well-mixed. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let rest for 10-15 minutes. This will allow the whole wheat flour to absorb more of the liquid and help guard against adding too much flour during kneading.

Add 2½ cups of all-purpose flour gradually, about a cup at a time. The dough will become stiff and hard to stir. Continue to work in flour until the dough is firm enough to knead. You might need up to an additional cup of flour, but try not to make the dough dry.

Lightly sprinkle a kneading surface with flour. Turn dough out of the bowl onto the flour. Flour your hands and start to knead, adding sprinkles of flour as needed. If you are used to baking with white flour only, the dough might feel a bit rougher to you and not quite as bouncy. It is supposed to feel like that.

Knead gently at first: pull the far side of the dough toward you and fold over, pressing it away from you with the heels of your hands. Turn dough a quarter turn and repeat. When dough is less sticky, you can be less gentle. At first you might need to scrape your kneading surface with a rubber spatula if dough sticks. Add flour as necessary to the dough and your hands to prevent sticking. Try to add flour gradually, only until the dough doesn’t stick to your hands. Knead the dough 5-8 minutes or until it is no longer sticky. It will become smooth and elastic.

Lightly grease a large bowl (at least 3 quarts). Place the ball of dough in the bowl and cover tightly with plastic wrap. You don’t want the dough to dry out while it is rising. Let dough rise in a warm place until doubled, about 60 minutes. I like to use the turned-off oven with the light on. It gets surprisingly warm.

While the dough is rising, lightly grease two 9 by 5 inch loaf pans.

If you aren’t sure if your dough is doubled, poke your finger into it at the edge. If the hole doesn’t fill in immediately, your dough is ready. Turn the dough out onto your kneading surface and knead briefly to press out any large air bubbles. You shouldn’t need any flour.

Divide the dough in half. Working with one half at a time, flatten the dough into a rough rectangle about 9 inches wide (as wide as your pan is long). Starting from one 9-inch side, tightly roll the dough into a cylinder. Pinch the seam and the ends closed. Roll the top side against the surface to smooth. Turn seam side down and fold the ends under slightly. Place in pan, seam side down. Repeat with the second half of the dough.

Lightly cover the loaves with a sheet of parchment or waxed paper. Let rise at room temperature for about 30 minutes, or until the middles of the loaves are about 1 inch above the tops of their pans.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees while the loaves are rising.

Bake the risen loaves for about 30 minutes, or until they are golden brown and sound hollow when tapped with your finger. Check the loaves after 20 minutes, and tent loosely with foil if the tops are browning too fast.

Remove loaves from the pans and cool on wire racks. Try to wait at least a few minutes before cutting into the loaves. Ideally wait until they are fully cool before slicing. You are going to want to sample your bread before it cools. I know you are. That is fine, but be very gentle when you slice the warm loaves or you will crush them.

Store at room temperature in an airtight container or ziplock bag. Homemade bread dries out much faster than commercial bread. Slice loaves and freeze if keeping for longer than a couple of days.

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Cream Scones with a Hint of Vanilla

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“A surplus of heavy cream – what a horrible burden to have,” said no one ever. I wrote about our cream saga last week, but I never gave you any resolution. Rest assured, we managed to use the cream before any of it went bad. It was a hard task, but we persevered.

The first thing I thought of to use up our cream was a batch of cream scones. I had read a recipe years ago that used cream as the fat and the liquid in scones, no butter at all. I was intrigued, but never made any. Of course, when I wanted it, I couldn’t find that particular recipe. A quick internet search found plenty of recipes that called for both cream and butter, but very few that called for only cream. I found a good one from King Arthur flour.

I mixed up the dry ingredients in the evening to have them all ready to go in the morning for an easy, lazy Saturday breakfast. Mixing the dough in the morning literally consisted of adding a dash of vanilla and pouring in cream. I had the scones mixed and ready for baking before the oven was preheated.

The cream scones did not disappoint – they were flaky, buttery (with no butter in them), soft inside and slightly crunchy outside. And they were big. We each only ate one. I put the rest away for the next day. My mother-in-law was here for the week and we proceeded to make our way through the area’s pastry and doughnut shops on the following days, leaving the scones to sit in their container on the counter.

I give you this background because I did not have high hopes for the leftover scones. Scones usually are not good keepers and I was kicking myself for not freezing the leftovers as soon as they were cool. Sometimes coffee shop scones are stale, even in the morning, just hours after they were baked. I was pleasantly surprised that our scones were fabulous, even three, four and five days after we first made them, reheated in the toaster oven and spread with a little jam. They were a little crumbly toward the end, but they were still soft and not dry at all.

We were able to eat the scones for so many days because the recipe made a lot. I got twelve large scones from the recipe. While they were very good leftover, they were really best when they were fresh. I have cut the recipe in half for future scone adventures. I also give directions for making the scones smaller than the original behemoths. I doubled the vanilla from the original, because, why not? And I replaced half the flour with white whole wheat because I like the nuttiness that gives the scones. Can you use only all-purpose flour? Sure. You might not need quite as much cream, in that case, but I’m sure you can find a use for it.

Download or print the recipe.

Cream Scones with a Hint of Vanilla
Adapted from King Arthur Flour
Makes 8 small scones

¾ cup all-purpose flour
¾ cup white whole wheat flour (or all-purpose flour)
1½ teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup heavy cream, approximately*
2-3 tablespoons cream or milk, if needed*

Topping:
Cream or milk
Coarse, pearl or granulated sugar

*If you use all-purpose flour instead of the white whole wheat flour you will probably not need as much cream to get the dough to come together.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Lightly grease a baking sheet, or line it with parchment paper. Set aside.

Stir together the flours, baking powder, salt and sugar. Add the vanilla and about three quarters of the cup of cream. Stir gently. If there is still a large amount of dry flour, add the remaining cream. If dough is still very dry, add more cream, or milk, a tablespoon at a time, just until most of the flour is wet, turning and mixing the dough with your spoon. The dough will be moist, but not particularly sticky. There should be only a small amount of dry flour, if any.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Divide dough in half. Lightly flour the top of the dough and your hands and gently shape each half of the dough into a round ball and then flatten into a disk ¾-1 inch tall. Try to make the edges straight and even. Cut into 4 wedges.

Place wedges on prepared baking sheet. Brush each scone with cream or milk and sprinkle with your choice of sugar.

Bake scones for 10-12 minutes, or until just golden on top and darker golden on the bottom.

Serve scones hot or at room temperature, with butter and jam.

These keep for several days in an airtight container at room temperature. Reheat in toaster oven, oven or microwave. Freeze for longer storage, thawing overnight at room temperature, or in the microwave for about 30 seconds.

Homemade Hamburger Buns

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Spring is coming! At least I think it is. It is still mighty chilly here in St. Louis. We have had a few teases of warm weather, but not as many as usual. The leaves on the trees are still no-shows, though the daffodils and crocuses are blooming. Grilling season is coming, which means I will start making hamburgers buns again. I didn’t actually stop over the winter, but we filled them with deli meat or tuna, which I guess makes them sandwich buns instead of hamburger buns.

Homemade buns leave mass-produced buns in the dust – this recipe makes slightly sweet, soft, yeasty buns with none of the too squishy texture store buns sometimes have. Never baked with yeast you say? You can do it. Repeat after me, “Yeast is not scary.” Say it again. Then pick up a strip of yeast packets at the store (and flour if you never bake) and start mixing. You can do it. And you won’t be sorry.

I have to admit, I baked bread for years before I ever thought to make my own hamburger buns. I made bread, cinnamon rolls, bagels, dinner rolls and pizza crust, but never hamburger buns. Now I almost always make our buns. They are that good. And not just for hamburgers, either. Homemade buns raise a humble turkey and cheese or tuna sandwich from ordinary to knock your socks off delicious.

The original recipe is from a fellow member of King Arthur Flour’s online baking forum, The Baking Circle. If you have time, check out the forum. It is a great place to get baking tips, ask questions and share recipes.The original poster’s screen name was Moomie and she came up with the recipe for her bread machine. I further adapted it for hand mixing or a stand mixer. And then I kept changing it. Thanks, Moomie, for the recipe and for free rein to tinker with it.

I have figured out a few tricks after mixing up many, many buns. First of all, make the buns really, really flat when you are shaping them. Otherwise you will end up with small, tall buns, which make sandwiches that require you to unhinge your jaw to bite. They rise after shaping, and they will rise a bit in the oven too, so make them flat. Did I mention flattening the buns?

It also doesn’t matter if the buns touch after rising. You want the sides soft. And commercial buns are usually connected at the sides anyway.

You can make the buns with white flour or whole wheat flour (or any other whole grain flour, for that matter). I make just about everything whole wheat, and the buns are no exception. The original recipe called for only all-purpose flour, but I have tinkered with the technique to make them whole wheat without sacrificing taste or texture.

The first whole grain secret is to use white whole wheat flour. Check my post on whole grain flour to get the full scoop. The second secret is to use milk instead of water. Milk makes a softer bun, no matter if you are making them whole grain or not. Finally, give the whole wheat flour time to absorb the moisture in the dough. This is as simple as mixing up the dough using part of the flour, and letting it sit, covered, for fifteen minutes. After the rest period the whole wheat flour will have absorbed some of the liquid, making it less likely that you will add too much flour during mixing or kneading. Especially with whole grain baking you need to be careful with the flour or you will end up with heavy, dry baked goods.

Because the dough is so soft, it will probably stick to your hands a bit as you start to knead. If you have a bench knife, dough scraper or even a regular rubber spatula, you can use it in one hand to help work the dough until it is slightly less sticky. If you have a stand mixer, use it to mix and knead the dough – it doesn’t care if dough sticks to it.

Now, repeat it again, “Yeast isn’t scary.” You can make your own buns, and they will be fabulous. Do your hamburgers and deli turkey a favor and try out some buns sometime soon. You won’t be sorry.

Download or print just the recipe.

Hamburger Buns
Adapted from Moomie’s Buns by The Cook’s Life
Makes 10 large buns

I usually use 2 cups of white whole wheat flour, though I sometimes use up to 3 cups. Be sure to give them the rest if you are using the whole wheat. This allows the flour time to absorb some of the moisture in the dough. It also helps you to avoid adding too much flour during kneading, which will make the buns heavy and dry.

If you have a stand mixer  (like a KitchenAid) use it to make these. You can use less flour if you knead the dough in the mixer since stickiness doesn’t matter as much. If you do use the mixer, let the dough rise right in the bowl, covered. If the dough is still sticky after rising, you can knead it briefly by hand before shaping the buns.

3 to 3½  cups all-purpose  flour (use 1-2 cups white whole wheat flour, if desired)
¼ cup sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 package yeast (2¼ teaspoons)
2 tablespoons canola or vegetable oil
1 egg
1 cup warm milk

Mix 2 cups flour (add all the white whole wheat flour now, if using), sugar, salt, yeast, oil and egg in a large bowl. Add warm milk and mix vigorously. If using whole wheat flour, let dough rest about 15 minutes, covered.

Add remaining flour until a very soft dough forms. Knead about 5 minutes, adding flour as needed (see headnote). Try to be sparing with the flour, but not so much that the dough sticks to everything. Add flour only until the dough doesn’t stick to your hands or kneading surface.

Let rise in a greased bowl, covered with plastic wrap, in a warm place for 1 hour. Lightly grease a large baking sheet, or line with parchment paper. Set aside.

If the dough is very sticky, knead it for a minute or two, adding about a tablespoon of flour. Divide dough into 10 pieces. Form each piece into a smooth ball. Place each ball on the baking sheet and FLATTEN with your floured hand. You really want them flat so that they are shaped like buns after they rise.

Cover loosely with waxed or parchment paper and let rise 30 minutes.

After 15 minutes of rising, preheat oven to 375 degrees. After 30 minutes of rising, bake 12-15 minutes, or until nicely browned on top and bottom.

Cool buns on a rack until room temperature before slicing and serving. Freeze if not using within a couple of days. They dry out rapidly, which is especially noticeable with hamburgers. Slice before freezing.

Homemade Rolls in One Hour

What can I say about these rolls so that you will try them? You need to try them. They easily go together, rise and are ready to eat in an hour. Nothing about the process is hard, and they are certainly worth an hour. They turn out buttery, though they aren’t high in fat, with a nuttiness from the white whole wheat flour that gives them much more depth of flavor than your average dinner roll. I love white whole wheat flour and use it in almost all of my baked goods. Check out my post on whole grains to get the full story on my favorite flour.

The rolls contain both yeast and baking soda, a combination that allows them to rise and be ready to bake in no time. You truly can start mixing these up an hour before you want to eat dinner and have them come to the table hot and ready when you are. They don’t have the exact texture of a roll that has two rising times and a longer mixing time, but they come pretty darn close. Did I mention they are ready in an hour?

The original recipe called for a lot of shortening and butter, both in the dough and poured on top during baking. I made them as written once, and they were good, but actually kind of greasy. I switched the shortening for butter, and reduced the amount in the dough by half. I greased the pan with cooking spray instead of pouring in melted butter, and used just one tablespoon of butter on top of the dough. You can still taste the butter, but they are much easier on the waistline and cholesterol levels.

Even if you have never baked with yeast, you can make these. Try them and let me know what you think.

Download or print recipe here.

One Hour Rolls
From The Cook’s Life
Makes 24 rolls

These rolls require only a few minutes of actual work – the rest of the hour is rising or baking time. These are perfect to mix up before dinner – they can rise and bake while you are cooking the rest of the meal.

2 packages active dry yeast
¼ cup sugar (or less, to taste)
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon baking soda
3½ cups white whole wheat flour, divided (you call use all-purpose flour, if you prefer)
1 cup all-purpose flour, approximately
1½ cups buttermilk (or 1 cup milk and ½ cup plain yogurt)
¼ cup butter, cut into small pieces
1 tablespoon butter, melted

In a large bowl, stir together yeast, sugar, salt, baking soda and 2 cups white whole wheat flour. In another bowl, heat buttermilk and ¼ cup butter in the microwave until warm, but not hot. It might curdle, which is fine. If you get it too hot, wait for it to cool down a bit so you don’t kill the yeast with the hot liquid.

Add buttermilk mixture to yeast mixture and mix, either by hand or mixer, until well combined. Add 1½ cups white whole wheat flour and mix well. You should have a soft dough. Cover bowl and set aside for 5-10 minutes. This allows the whole grain flour to absorb more of the liquid and helps ensure you won’t add too much all-purpose flour, which will make the rolls dry.

If dough is too soft to handle after the rest period, sprinkle with about ½ cup of all-purpose flour and mix well. Spread ¼-½ cup all-purpose flour on the counter and scrape dough onto the flour. Knead until dough is smooth and no longer sticky, about 1 minute. You might need to add a bit more flour if dough is still sticky.

Lightly grease a 9 by 13 inch pan. Pat dough evenly into pan. If dough springs back, allow it to rest for a minute or two and try again. With a sharp knife, cut the dough into 24 pieces, cutting almost through to bottom of dough. Cover loosely with plastic wrap or a damp towel. Let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 425 degrees about halfway through the rising time.

Brush tops of risen rolls with 1 tablespoon melted butter, taking care not to deflate them. Bake 12-15 minutes, or until rolls are golden brown and sound hollow when tapped. Immediately remove from pan and serve hot. Cool any leftovers on a wire rack before storing. Once completely cool, store in tightly closed container. Freeze if keeping for more than a day or two. Reheat rolls in a 300 degree oven, covered loosely with foil.

Easier Buttermilk Biscuits

 

I wrote a post last week on buttermilk biscuits. They were the traditional roll and cut biscuits, complete with flaky layers. I have talked to several people since then who really wanted biscuits after reading the post, but haven’t had the time to make them. Or some of them are dieting and don’t want to fall off the wagon with biscuits. I can’t help with the dieting thing, but I can give you a recipe for drop biscuits that will have hot, homemade biscuits on the table in no time.

If you aren’t familiar with drop biscuits, the dough is wetter than regular biscuits. Instead of rolling and cutting the dough, you use a spoon to drop the dough onto the pan, using your finger or another spoon to help. It is very similar to making cookies, but the dough is stickier and wetter than cookie dough. I usually make drop biscuits instead of rolled biscuits, because they are quicker, make less mess and are sometimes lighter.

My dad made a lot of biscuits when I was growing up, and they were usually drop biscuits. In fact, when you say, “biscuits,” to me, I think of drop biscuits. It was my mom who made rolled out biscuits, only occasionally and usually to go with dinner instead of breakfast. Not sure why that was, and I probably have selective memories when it comes down to it. Maybe Mom and Dad will chime in on the comments to set the record straight.

Mom and Dad used white flour and Crisco when I was growing up, as did my grandma. I usually use butter now, along with a good portion of white whole wheat flour. These biscuits will work just fine if you prefer to use only all-purpose flour. You can use butter or Crisco, depending on your preference.

If last week’s post got you thinking about buttermilk biscuits, but you were intimidated by the directions, or just didn’t want to deal with the mess, try drop biscuits. They soak up the butter just like regular biscuits, if that helps convince you to make them. Sorry to all my dieting friends!

Drop Biscuits
From The Cook’s Life
Makes 9-12, depending on size

1 cup white whole wheat flour*
¾ cup all-purpose flour
¼  teaspoon salt
2 ½ teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
4-6 tablespoons butter or shortening (the larger amount makes a richer biscuit)
1 cup buttermilk
2-3 tablespoons buttermilk, regular milk or water (if the dough is dry)

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Grease a baking sheet or one large or two medium cast iron skillets or flat griddles. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, mix together white whole wheat flour, all-purpose flour, salt, baking powder and baking soda.

Cut in butter or shortening until mixture looks like coarse crumbs. Make a well in the center and add 1 cup of buttermilk all at once. Mix well, until dough forms. If there are still dry pockets of flour, add buttermilk, milk or water, a tablespoon at a time, until the dough comes together. There should still be wet-looking patches and it will be too soft and wet to knead.

Drop by heaping tablespoons on prepared pans. Leave space between the biscuits, as they spread as well as rise. Err on the side of small, because they rise quite a bit. Bake 10-12 minutes, depending on size and desired doneness. Biscuits should be brown and crispy on the bottom and lightly browned on top when done.

Serve hot, with butter, jam, honey or your choice of toppings.

*You can use all-purpose flour in place of the white whole wheat flour, if you prefer. You may not need the extra liquid in this case.

Download the recipe here.

Buttermilk Biscuits

When I say, “biscuits,” what do you think about? Maybe the kind the doughboy puts in the can? What if I told you that you could make biscuits from scratch in less than half an hour? You can absolutely do it, even if you don’t consider yourself a baker. Think how accomplished you will feel when you bring your own hot biscuits to the table. If homemade biscuits are old hat for you, take this as a reminder of how good they are and make some soon.

When I was probably eight or nine, Dad decided he was going to learn to make biscuits. He attempted time after time to make biscuits like he remembered his mother making. We always thought they were pretty good, though there was a learning curve – some flat biscuits, and some crunchy biscuits, but we always happily ate them. Somehow Dad’s biscuits became the menu for Sunday mornings. Every week Dad made biscuits, eggs and sometimes sausage or bacon. Later, as we all became more health conscious, we had fruit more often than breakfast meat, but the biscuits were ever present.

Dad usually uses shortening in his biscuits, and so did my grandma. I used to use shortening too, but lately I have started using butter in my biscuits. There is the trade-off between the saturated fat of butter, the trans fats of shortening, or the palm oil they use to make the new trans-fat free Crisco. I am currently trying to avoid palm oil since I read a few too many articles about the rain forests they are cutting down to plant palm oil plantations. Not that my efforts are going to save one scrap of rain forest, but you do what you can live with, right? The long and short of it – you can use butter or shortening in these and they will work just fine.

Dad always bakes his biscuits on two cast iron flat griddles. I have one that he gave me that was my grandma’s (of course there is a story). This recipe makes enough biscuits for two 10-inch griddles, so I use a cast iron skillet for the other half. Or I use my 14-inch cast iron pizza pan. You can always use a regular baking sheet, of course, but if you have a cast iron pan, use it. The cast iron makes the bottoms of the biscuits extra crispy. We coveted biscuit bottoms when I was a kid. I still eat the tops first and the bottoms second, to save the best for last.

Whether you like crispy biscuit bottoms, with butter and honey soaking through, or if you prefer the fluffier middles, make some biscuits soon. And be sure to post in the comments about your biscuit making adventures.

Buttermilk Biscuits
From the Cook’s Life
Makes 9-12, depending on size

1 cup white whole wheat flour*
¾ cup all-purpose flour
¼ teaspoon salt
2 ½ teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
4-6 tablespoons butter or shortening (the larger amount makes a richer biscuit)
¾ cup buttermilk
2-3 tablespoons buttermilk, regular milk or water (if the dough is dry)

*You can substitute all-purpose flour for the white whole wheat if you would rather. You probably won’t need the extra buttermilk/milk/water if you do this.

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Grease a baking sheet or one large or two medium cast iron skillets or flat griddles. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, mix together white whole wheat flour, all-purpose flour, salt, baking powder and baking soda.

Cut in butter or shortening until mixture looks like coarse crumbs. Make a well in the center and add the buttermilk all at once. Mix well, but gently, until dough forms.

If there is still dry flour, add buttermilk, milk or water, a tablespoon at a time, until the dough comes together and there are no dry patches.

Lightly flour the counter or a large cutting board and turn dough out of the bowl. Sprinkle dough lightly with flour and knead it gently, about ten times – fold the dough in half, turn it one quarter turn and repeat the folding, pressing down gently each time. Add flour if the dough sticks to your hands.

Pat the dough into a rough square.

Use your floured hands, or a rolling pin, to pat or roll the dough about ½ inch thick. Use a round biscuit or cookie cutter to cut out biscuits. After you have cut as many biscuits as possible, remove them to the prepared pan.  Place them about a ½-inch apart if you want them to rise together and have soft sides, or farther apart for crispier sides.

Push the scraps together so the cut sides stick together. Gently press the dough together until you have one solid piece again. Press or roll dough out to ½ inch again. Cut out as many biscuits as possible and place on the pan.

Or you can cut the biscuits in squares or triangles and completely eliminate any scraps or the need to re-roll. I sometimes do circles for the first cutting and squares with the scraps, as I did here.

Bake the biscuits for 10-12 minutes, or until the tops are lightly browned and the bottoms are deeper brown. Serve immediately.

Download the recipe here.

A Word on Whole Grains

I know, I know, whole grains. Some of you are going to stop reading right now. But if you bear with me I will tell you the secret of getting all the fiber and nutrients of whole grains without the “graininess.”

Several companies make a white whole wheat flour that is easy to find at major grocery stores. Trader Joe’s has their own brand, though I haven’t personally tried it. King Arthur Flour has a good one. And here in St. Louis we can get Hodgson Mill, which is also good. In most grocery stores the white whole wheat flours are right next to the other flours in the baking aisle. You don’t even have to venture into the health food aisles.

White wheat is an albino form of wheat and isn’t bitter like traditional whole wheat can be. The white whole wheat flours are usually ground more finely than traditional whole wheat flours for a smoother texture. If you are just starting out adding whole grains to your baking, start by substituting white whole wheat flour for about a quarter of the all-purpose flour in the recipe and see how you like it. You can substitute for more of the all-purpose flour each time you bake if you like the results.

Other Whole Grains

Check out the other whole grain flours in the health food and organic sections of the grocery store. You can get barley, oat, rye, spelt, quinoa, rice, buckwheat and many other flours. Start with small amounts until you see if you like the flavors.

You can add whole grain flours to pancakes, quick breads, cookie dough and breads. Really, the possibilities are endless. Buy a bag of white whole wheat flour and try a little in a recipe. My Buttermilk Pancakes are a great way to ease into whole grain cooking. I use almost all white whole wheat in them, and you would never know. Trust me! And let me know how whole grain baking works for you.