For years, Kim Boyce, a pastry chef who sifted and stirred her way through some of Los Angeles' best kitchens — including Wolfgang Puck's Spago and Nancy Silverton's Campanile — worked only in white flour.
Her whole-grain epiphany came when she put beet and apple purées into a bowl of 10-grain pancake mix and made pancakes on a plugged-in griddle on her dining room table.
"It was nutty and chewy and had a depth of flavor I'd never tasted before," Boyce said. At the time of her discovery, she had a hungry 1-year-old on her hip, and, deep in house reconstruction, she didn't have a kitchen.
She'd roamed the grocery aisles that morning, in search of the healthiest food she could cook for her baby, but given that she was working without a sink, it had to be something that would end with the fewest pots to scrub in the bathtub. She settled on that 10-grain sack.
From that first delicious bite, Boyce said, she set out to conquer the whole-grain world. And she was set on stirring up recipes more delicious than all the white-flour financiers and puff pastries she had prepared in her professional past.
"I had never in a professional kitchen come across a bin of whole-wheat flour, or a bag of rye flour," said Boyce, who wrote Good to the Grain: Baking with Whole-Grain Flours (Stewart, Tabori & Chang, $29.95).
It wasn't the nutrition but flavor that led her to learn the fine points of baking with buckwheat, oat and spelt flour. Soon, her kitchen counters were lined with screw-top glass jars of flours she'd never heard of.
Baking with whole grains "is all about balance, about figuring out how to get the right combination of structure and flavor from flours that don't act the same way as regular white flour," she writes. "There is a reason whole-wheat pastry has a bad reputation."
Boyce suggests starting slowly. Choose just one flour for your first experiments; she recommends barley or rye flours, which are milder than whole wheat. (She suggests storing it in the fridge, not the freezer, if you don't think you'll use the flour quickly.)
Finally, she adds this dash of courage: Don't be disappointed. And don't give up.
Swap out slowly, starting with just a half cup of whole-grain flour for an equal measure of white flour. Eventually work up to one cup whole-grain flour to one cup white flour.
Also, remember, whole-grain flour needs more moisture than white in a recipe. You might need to add a bit of yogurt, fruit or vegetable purées, or molasses or honey. It depends on the recipe. You'll have to trust yourself to correct course as needed, starting with half tablespoons of moisture.
Five-grain cream waffles
The multi-grain flour mix gives these waffles their complex flavor. For multi-grain flour mix, mix in a bowl 1 cup each whole-wheat flour, oat flour and barley flour; ½ cup each millet flour and rye flour. Whisk. Two cups of cream make the batter delicate and keep the waffles moist. Serve with high-quality maple syrup and good butter.
1 cup multi-grain flour mix.
1 cup whole-grain pastry flour
¼ cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
¾ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon coarse salt
2 cups whipping cream
½ stick (¼ cup) butter, melted
Turn waffle iron to highest setting. Sift all dry ingredients into a large bowl.
Whisk eggs and cream together. Pour into dry ingredients. Gently fold mixtures together until batter is thick and pillowlike, with large pockets of deflated bubbles on surface.
Brush waffle iron generously with butter. Ladle on ½ cup batter; close. Remove waffle with fork when indicator light shows that it's done, 4-6 minutes. Repeat.
Makes 12 waffles.