For many of us, December is baking season. My daughters and I have been baking Christmas cookies together since they were little; and it is always a special time. They're all grown up now, but we still make their childhood favorites! We usually get a system going where I prepare all the cookie dough and batters ahead of time and then the girls come in and do the rolling, cutting, dropping onto cookie sheets, baking and, of course, tasting!
You can easily make traditional recipes healthier by starting with organic ingredients, reducing the sugar or maybe using honey instead, substituting applesauce for some of the oil in cake and sweet bread recipes, or coconut oil for part of the butter. These simple changes will make your recipes more moist; and by replacing some of the all-purpose flour with organic whole grain flour you'll add a richer, slightly nutty flavor to your recipes, plus extra vitamins, minerals and fiber. Rather than using artificially colored sprinkles and food colorings, look for naturally colored and organic alternatives or get creative and decorate with raisins, chocolate or carob chips, nuts, cinnamon, etc.
Below is information about three types of whole wheat flours that I use for pizza, breads, cakes, pies and cookies; along with tips on how to use them in your holiday baking. For more information on whole grain baking, check out Oldways collection of whole grain recipes.
Courtesy of Oldways Whole Grains Council
Looking to incorporate whole grains into your holiday baking? Swap one of these whole grain flours for some or all of the all-purpose flour in your favorite holiday cookie recipe. Whole grains tend to absorb more moisture, so don't hesitate to add a few more tablespoons of liquid to the recipe if your dough appears too dry.
- Whole Wheat Pastry Flour: Unlike regular whole wheat flour, whole wheat pastry flour is milled from a soft, lower-protein wheat, which allows for a lighter, more tender texture in baked goods. It works best in conjunction with baking powder and baking soda, but not as well in yeast-leavened goods. Try it in brownies, cookies, scones, pie crusts, and cakes.
- White Whole Wheat Flour: While the name is confusing, white whole wheat flour is simply a whole grain flour milled from hard white spring wheat, rather than the traditional red wheat. This lighter-colored flour also has a milder flavor, making the whole grains nearly undetectable to the little cookie monsters in the family. The protein content is higher than that of whole wheat pastry flour, so try this flour in breads, muffins, pancakes, bars, and cookies.
- Sprouted Wheat Flour: This whole wheat flour (all sprouted grains are "whole") is made by allowing the wheat berries to germinate and produce a small sprout, before drying and milling them into flour. Sprouted grains have many benefits, including staying fresher longer (sprouting stabilizes the oils), a sweeter and lighter flavor, and higher levels of certain nutrients. Try sprouted wheat flour in breads, pizza dough, cookies, cakes, and muffins.
Diets come and go, but the Mediterranean way of eating has pretty much always been considered healthy and has certainly stood the test of time.
Studied and noted by scores of leading scientists as one of the healthiest in the world, the Mediterranean Diet is a delicious way of eating based on the traditional foods (and drinks) of the countries surrounding the Mediterranean Sea. It's actually more of a lifestyle, that includes foods, activity, meals with family and friends and wine in moderation with meals. There's even a Mediterranean Diet Pyramid! Learn more at The Mediterranean Foods Alliance and when you are gathering with family and friends this holiday season, enjoy and try eating Mediterranean style!