Guest Author - Deborah Markus
Between writing about a whole-wheat brownie mix and receiving the gift of a bag of very fine whole wheat flour, I've been thinking about whole grain flours and chocolate baking.
I toyed with the idea of crafting a whole-grain brownie recipe, but have hesitated to do so because, in my experience, the best brownies contain very little flour. Certainly my own favorite brownie recipe does. So the nutritional value of making that bit of flour whole-grain seems hardly worth the effort.
It might be worth it for a cake-type brownie; but why not just try a whole-grain chocolate cake and be done with it?
So I decided to play with my two favorite whole-grain flours and my favorite chocolate cake recipe, and see what I could do with them.
First, I mixed up my cake batter as usual, but replaced the flour with King Arthur White Whole Wheat flour. I like this because the texture is so delicate and the flavor is subtle. It's a very pale flour, but it really is whole wheat. So I snuck it in.
Then, while that cake was cooling, I mixed up another batch of batter, this one with oat flour. Oat flour can be purchased online or at a health food store, and is nothing but oats ground very fine. If I'm ever short of this flour, I make it myself simply by throwing some rolled oats into the food processor (though this does make a grainier flour).
The cakes came out pretty much as I expected. Oat flour is very soft and buttery, but it really hates to rise. Even in a non-yeast baking project, a certain amount of rising is natural; but oat flour baked products tend to lie a little heavily at the bottom of the pan.
However, oat flour is naturally incredibly moist. So, although this cake didn't rise as high or have as light a crumb, it felt much richer than my ordinary chocolate cake. And it really didn't taste any different, especially after I frosted it. (I tried both cakes plain before putting frosting on, just to get an unbiased sample.)
The King Arthur flour cake rose higher, and had a beautiful crumb. But it did taste a bit toasty when eaten by itself. The wheat has a more distinct flavor than the oat. Under frosting, however, the difference in taste was indiscernible. My son didn't notice anything amiss.
So -- cake-baking with whole-grain flours is feasible and delicious. Just don't fall into the trap of thinking that because these desserts are made from whole grains, you have a free pass to eat more of them. But if you're going to have dessert anyway and you don't have a bigger piece than you usually would, this whole-grain baking is a great way to slip a little extra nutrition and fiber into your diet.