Once upon a time, flour lived in a paper bag on the store shelves. You opened her up and ran your fingers through the soft white powder. Starchy and velvety, the flour absorbed moisture from the eggs and butter in the dough and its gluten proteins were worked just enough to creating a loose webbing for the cookies to lift in the oven, set and not crumble apart. It was all lovely and sweet until you met her mama; Whole Grain Flour.
Whole grain flour is as straightforward a product as you can get. Wheat is grown in a field, left to dry, then harvested with a combine and cleaned. The wheat berries, or seeds, are then ground by either steel rollers or stones; the miller choosing how coarse or fine to mill the flour. This whole grain flour has all the attributes that the original seed had, only in powdered form. The nutritious germ is there, the starchy insides and the flaky bran bits. And flavor.
So you’ve opened your bag of flour and are entranced by its sweet, nutty aromas. One problem: oils go bad. The bran and germ that make this flour so, so special are also what makes it go rancid. SO- as a miller, you’re better off sifting out the bran and germs and selling the starch in a bag- all purpose flour- because of its longer shelf life. You might toast the bran and germ to seal in the oils and sell these to cereal companies. When you’re buying whole grain flour, shop for it as you do eggs or milk and grab the freshest bag on the shelf.
The flavor is what we’re after here, and there are endless varieties you can choose from. Welcome to the Whole Grain Wormhole. For this cookie in particular, we chose a hard red wheat called Red Fife*. It’s really hearty, very nutty and a tad bit bitter, in a good way. It makes these cookies feel like a meal. The bran, these dry, flat flakes that protect the outer layer of the seed, cuts through the webbing of gluten strands, making the deep, intense cookies taste lighter and sandier than you’d expect. If you want something softer and more gentle, try a soft wheat like Sonora. The seeds of Sonora wheat have less bran, more starch and softer, sweeter notes.
Once you’ve crossed over to the whole grain side and reveled in its flavor and texture, you may want to start playing with replacing all of your all purpose flour with it. Hold up! Here are a few things you should keep in mind before tooling around. First off, bran is a dry, flat flake. It will rob you of moisture in your recipes, so if you’re making muffin batter and replacing all purpose for whole grain, you’re going to need to either cut back on the flour by 25% or add 25% more liquid. I recommend getting Kim Boyce’s fab book on whole grain baking to get the ball rolling. If you’re tooling around the flour aisle at the store, grab bag of whole grain rye flour and trying Roxana’s killer Focaccia recipe.
*If you’re lucky enough to live near a stone mill, like we do with Grist & Toll, you can get freshly milled flour in a larger variety than at the grocery store. Closest to it in the store would be King Arthur’s, this one from Bob’s Red Mill or Anson Mills’s.
Single. Best. Cookie. Ever.
This recipe calls for whole wheat flour, but we’ve found it works best with stone-ground, whole grain flours. If you’re looking for a tall, cakey cookie, go for a hard red wheat (like Red Fife), but we love a crisp outside and chewy middle, so Rye is our flour of choice for this one. Check out the rainbow of different options (Spelt will give you the thinnest, butteriest cookie, and Hard Red and Hard White the tallest) from our favorite local miller Nan of Grist & Toll. Makes 16-24 cookies, depending on their size.
Single. Best. Cookie. Ever
|1 cup||225g||Packed brown sugar|
|1-1/2 tsps||6g||Baking powder|
|1 tsp||4g||Baking soda|
|1 tsp||4g||Salt (omit if using salted butter)|
|1 cup||170g||Dark chocolate pieces|
|1 cup||170g||Milk chocolate pieces|
|1 cup||150g||Chopped, toasted hazelnuts|
|3 cups||390g||Whole grain flour|
- Grab the butter from the fridge (don't worry about getting it soft before you start) and cream it with the brown and white sugar until it looks fluffy using either a hand-held mixer, a stand mixer with the paddle attachment or a large, heavy bowl with a wooden spoon.
- While still mixing, add the eggs scraping the bowl well. Continue to mix for 1 more minute, then add the chocolate and nuts, and mix until well combined.
- Add the dry ingredients to the mixture and mix until just combined.
- Shape your cookies on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Scoop these BIG - they eat like a meal. Bake at 350° until golden brown on the edges (about 8 minutes for medium cookies and 10-12 for larger ones). These cookies can bake and cool on the cookie sheet - no need to transfer to a cooling rack.
*You can purchase Red Fife from the Kenter Canyon stand of local farmers markets. Take a class from us and mill your own fresh bag with Millie, our little mill provided by Wieser Farms, another local wheat grower.