05/13/2010 10:53 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Forget 'Stone-Ground' and 'Multi-Grain': For Health and Taste, the Right Answer Is 'Whole Grain'

In the interest of eating your way to eternal life, you have no doubt bought wheat products that you believed were righteous.

And why not? The package said "stone-ground," "100% wheat," or "multi-grain."

Don't get fooled again.

The magic words -- the only magic words -- are "whole grain."

What do you gain when all three parts of a grain -- bran, germ and endosperm -- are present in a bread, cereal, cake or muffin?

First, antioxidants and vitamins. Whole grains are richer in Vitamin E, iron, fiber and magnesium than other grains. Why? Because most of the vitamins and antioxidants are packed in the bran and germ -- which you lose in processed grains.

Second, better health. Whole grains reduce cholesterol and blood pressure, cutting your chance of getting heart disease. If you have diabetes, whole grains regulate blood glucose; if you don't, as recent studies show, women can reduce the risk of diabetes by eating more whole grains.

The USDA Dietary Guidelines for Americans say you should eat "half your grains whole." That means at least three servings of whole grain foods -- every day.

Right there is where you turn off. Ugh. Tasteless cardboard bread. Dark dull pastries. Gloomy granola. Better to die happy and young than endure meal after meal of foul-tasting virtue.

Cheer up: Popcorn is a whole grain. Now you just need two more...

This is where King Arthur Flour comes in. In our house -- and many others -- it's the gold standard of whole grain purity, at every step of the process. The company was founded in 1790, after all. It's headquartered in Vermont. It's now employee-owned.

And the King Arthurites are not narrow-minded about whole grains -- they make a whole grain white flour. Let me say that again: whole grain white flour. That means you can make a cake or bread that looks exactly like the most poisonous product from the least conscious bakery in town. Your cakes and breads won't taste "funny." And you get all that whole grain goodness. (King Arthur flours are available in some supermarkets and in many health-minded groceries. Here's a store locator for King Arthur flour.)

My wife is a baker. She's not crazed -- not a single loaf of bread has been made in our oven, nor is that likely -- but every week or so, she and our daughter slip on their aprons and have a kitchen baking party. The cookbook she uses? King Arthur Flour Whole Grain Baking: Delicious Recipes Using Nutritious Whole Grains.

This is a brick of a book: 612 pages, 400 recipes, lots of color photographs and informative charts. But it thins out quickly. There are, for example, 175 pages of breads. Eliminate a few other categories, and the thing becomes quite manageable.

Note: Many of these recipes call for parchment paper. STOP! Click here and buy a few Silpat 11-5/8-by-16-1/2-Inch Nonstick Silicone Baking Mats. Martha Stewart turned my wife on to these fiberglass and silicone mats a few years ago, and, like everyone who uses them, she's an evangelist. Truly, nothing sticks, they're easy to wash, and they're cost-effective -- a Silpat costs no more than three rolls of parchment paper.

Here are three of my wife's favorite recipes from the King Flour book. I affirm their excellence. And if you need more endorsements, I can name several dozen business associates and friends who wish she baked more often.


Baking time: 14-16 minutes
Yield: 30 cookies

1/2 cup (1 stick, 4 ounces) unsalted butter
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 large egg
2 cups (7 ounces) old-fashioned rolled oats
2 cups (8 ounces) salted cashew pieces or coarsely chopped cashews
extrafine salt, for topping

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease (or line with parchment) two baking sheets.
Grind the oats for 30 seconds in a food processor. Set aside.
Beat the butter, sugar, salt, baking powder, vanilla and egg in a medium bowl. Beat in the ground oats, then stir in the cashews.
Drop the dough by tablespoonful onto the prepared baking sheets. Sprinkle them with a very light coating of extrafine salt (like Diamond Crystal brand). It's best to witch the pans halfway through (top goes to bottom rack, bottom to top) . Using your fingers or the flat bottom of a drinking glass, press the cookies to about 3/8-inch thick.
Bake the cookies, one baking sheet at a time, until they're golden brown, 14 to 16 minutes. Remove the cookies from the oven and allow them to cool right on the pan.


Baking time: 2 hours
Yield: 16 cups

7 cups (24 1/2 ounces) old-fashioned rolled oats
1 cup (3 ounces) flaked coconut
1 cup (4 ounces) wheat germ
1 cup (5 ounces) almonds, sliced or broken up
1 cup (3 3/4 ounces) pecans or walnuts, chopped or broken up
1 cup (5 ounces) sunflower seeds, raw or toasted
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup (11 ounces) maple syrup
3/4 cup (5 1/4 ounces) vegetable oil
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 cup (5 1/4 ounces) golden raisins
1 cup (4 ounces) dried cranberries
1 cup (4 1/2 ounces) chopped dried apricots

Preheat the oven to 250 degrees F.

Combine the oats, coconut, wheat germ, nuts, seeds and salt in a very large bowl. Mix well. In a separate bowl, whisk together the maple syrup, oil and vanilla. Pour the syrup mixture over the dry mixture, stirring and tossing till everything is very well combined; it's probably easiest to do this with your hands.

Spread the granola over 2 large baking sheets with rims. Your cleanup will be much easier if you line them with parchment paper.

Bake for 2 hours, stirring the mixture after 1 hour or so. Remove the pans from the oven and let cool completely. Transfer the granola to a large bowl and mix in the dried fruit.

Store in an airtight container at room temperature.

Nutrition Information Per Serving: (1/2 CUP, 68g): 19g whole grains, 292 cal, 15g fat, 7g protein, 28g complex carbohydrates, 8g sugar, 5g dietary fiber, 47mg sodium, 344mg potassium, 70RE vitamin A, 1mg vitamin C, 2mg iron, 48mg calcium, 214mg phosphorus.


My wife notes: If you don't have the white whole wheat flour, use part whole wheat and part whole wheat pastry flour. For sugar, consider a mixture of natural sugars -- maple sugar and evaporated cane juice sugars.

2 1/2 cups white whole wheat flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon (heaping) ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon (heaping) ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1 cup unsalted butter
2 cup packed light brown sugar
3 large eggs
1/4 cup boiled cider
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 cups peeled chopped apples
1 cup chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Grease and flour 2 nine inch cake pans.

Whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt and spices in a medium bowl and set aside.

Cream together the butter and sugar in a large mixing bowl until light and fluffy.

Beat in the eggs one at a time, stopping to scrape the sides of the bowl between eggs.

Mix in the boiled cider and the vanilla.

Mix in the dry ingredients, stirring until evenly moistened. Fold in the apples and walnuts.

Divide the batter between the two pans.

Bake until a cake tester inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean, 30 - 35 minutes.

Remove the cakes to a cake rack and cool completely.

Brown Sugar Frosting Ingredients
5 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons milk
1 1/2 Cups confectioner's sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Melt the butter in a small pan over medium heat.

Stir in the brown sugar and salt and cook, stirring until the sugar melts.

Add the milk, bring to a boil and pour into a mixing bowl to cool for 10 minutes.

After 10 minutes, stir in the confectioners sugar and vanilla. Beat well. If the mixture appears too thin add more confectioners sugar.

Spread on the cake while the frosting is still warm -- it will firm up and be more difficult to spread once it cools.

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