12/21/2011 01:19 pm ET

Whole Wheat Cookies That Taste Good Are A New Scientific Challenge

Everyone's trying to eat more whole wheat these days -- anything to make Michelle Obama and your doctor happy. The brunt of the effort to eat more whole grains will fall on shifting meal choices toward things like quinoa and steel-cut oats. But people are only going to change the items in their diets so much. The rest of the battle will be won by changing recipes for things we already eat -- things like pasta and cookies.

Whole wheat noodles, even if they aren't particularly good substitutes for white flour ones, at least have a charm all their own; the heartiness of whole wheat stands up well to spicy, salty sauces like puttanesca. Cookies, on the other hand, can just taste stale and sad when they're made with whole wheat flour.

That's why scientists at the USDA's Agricultural Research Service have been working hard to try and develop a strain of wheat that produce a cookie-ready whole wheat flour.

But the researchers are blindly testing strains and baking up batches of cookies a year after planting new seeds. Instead, the team, based out of Wooster, Mass., are using a time-tested pair of techniques to test both "solvent retention capacity" and milling softness. These two show measures promise to lead the way to a cookie that's good for your colon and tastes good on your tongue at the same time.