2nd Resolution: More Whole Grain Flours/Banana Choc Chip Cake
My second New Year’s Resolution is almost as simple as my first: incorporate more whole grain flours into my baking repertoire.
For years, I have used Kim Boyce’s Good to the Grain as my whole grain baking guidepost. I fell hopelessly in love with Kim’s recipe for spelt olive oil cake as well as her take on whole wheat chocolate chip cookies. But, overall, I wasn’t very adventurous. For every 80 desserts I made at home, I suppose only 5 or so would incorporate some sort of whole grain flour.
But then…over the past few weeks (and during the dreadful Polar Vortex) I have been on a mad-scientist-whole-grain immersion crash course. I plan on posting various results and recipes over the next few months. Until then, a few things I learned:
One, I love this brand of whole grain flours (pic below). They are local-ish and organic and best of all, they are sold in small bags. I have a small apartment. I need small bags. I am already at that point where I am storing some flours on my bookshelf.
Two: Besides a few instances (bread, pancakes, and those chocolate chip cookies I previously mentioned) I am not loving whole wheat flour as a general flour replacement. It is best in very small doses – and it definitely leaves a bitter undertone.
Three: I am loving spelt flour. Obviously. It is easy to work with (caveats below) and provides a nice nutty flavor. In fact, I think it makes some baked goods much more interesting. And, it is beautiful. Take a look at the sifted spelt flour below:
Lastly, I am still working/playing with rye flour (tends to work well in chocolate desserts) and buckwheat flour (which is providing all manner of strange and “interesting” results).
I will continue to update/post on the more successful whole grain recipe adaptations. But, for today, I thought I would post one of the first recipes I worked on during the severe cold snap: Spelt Flour Banana Chocolate Chip Cake, which I happened across (and subsequently bookmarked) on the Poppytalk website over a year ago.
Spelt is slightly nutty, slightly tart, and slightly sweet (depending on your taste buds) and it marries extremely well with banana. And everything tends to go well with chocolate (IMHO). This banana cake was proclaimed “best banana cake I have eaten” by my partner. And he eats A LOT of banana cake.
A few caveats about working with spelt:
-It is super water-soluble compared to regular flour. If you are replacing regular flour in a recipe with a one-for-one substitution of spelt flour, you will most likely need to add more liquid. For instance (and this is not a hard and fast rule), if you are replacing one cup of regular flour with one cup of spelt flour in a recipe, I would add a heaping tablespoon extra of oil (or water, or milk, or whatever is the predominant liquid in the recipe).
-Spelt is low in gluten, but not considered gluten-free. Also, the glutens are a little hard to get used to (i.e. items made with spelt can be over-mixed in a heart beat). That said, I would suggest experimenting with spelt variations on bars and brownies and even scones first. My all-spelt cakes and loaves are coming out of the oven all over the place (sunken on some days, explosive on others). Though a cake I made with half regular flour and half spelt flour turned out dreamy.
-Heads up: like most whole grains, spelt flour has a shorter shelf-life than regular flour.
That’s it for now. More experiments to come. And, if you have an awesome buckwheat (or rye) cake recipe, please send it my way…
3 cups spelt flour
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 cup unsalted butter at room temperature
1 cup dark brown sugar, packed tightly
1 large egg, room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3 very ripe medium bananas, mashed
1 1/4 cups whole milk
1/4 cup canola oil
10 ounces dark chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter the sides and bottom of a glass or light-colored metal 9-by-13-inch pan. Line the bottom with a sheet of parchment paper, and butter the parchment.
In a large bowl sift the flour, salt and baking powder together. Turn out any bits of grain caught in the sifter back into the bowl and stir to combine.
Using a stand mixer or handheld beaters, cream the butter on high speed in a large bowl for a minute, then add sugar and beat until light and fluffy, about 2-3 minutes. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl.
Add egg, mashed bananas and pure vanilla extract and beat until incorporated, about 1 minute. Stir together the milk and oil.
Turn the mixer to low. Add the flour mixture to the mixer in three parts, alternating with milk mixture, beginning and ending with the flour mixture. Mix until just combined. Scrape down the bowl and use a rubber spatula to fold in any remaining dry bits. Fold in the chocolate chips.
Bake in oven on middle rack for 30-35 minutes. Turn pan halfway through bake time. Cake is finished when a clean toothpick inserted in middle come out clean. Allow to cool until just warm to the touch, about 25 minutes, before serving. Or cool completely before eating (I personally love this cake warm). The cake will keep, tightly wrapped, at room temperature for up to 2 days.