Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Sprouted Wheat Cookies, or In Which I Try Not to Really Want to be Driving a Luxury Car.

I can not tell you how often I think of George Costanza, specifically this quote: "I wish I was a Civil War buff". I guess, I don't care much to think about wars in general, but I frequently wish I was a buff about other things. Unlike Costanza, whenever I hear the "I wish" ringing proverbially in my ears, I do something about it. I may not have the credentials, but thanks in great part to my local library, the Internet, and my Husband (who affords me the luxury of my unemployed life), I can learn at my own pace about a whole mountain range of things. Lately, this predominately includes grains and sprouting grains.

Sprouted, and dried, spelt.

It took me awhile to actually set out learning about it, I won't lie. I do procrastinate, and get interested in goofy stuff that is time consuming outside of the food world. But, when finally I am properly obsessed, and armed with a plethora of information, I turn into a health food force to be reckoned with. For something as simple as cracking open a book or two, or spending a few unadulterated minutes with the computer, I can glean all I need to be a buff of sorts. A grain buff. That's right.

Whenever I feel a little broke and sad that I can't afford the things I'd like to have and maybe the things I'd maybe like to do if I was independently wealthy, I remember that I have one of the most marvelous pieces of machinery to be built on American soil: the Vita-Mix. I may daydream of German engineering, but I have a pretty well-designed, and tough-as-nails appliance at my disposal. I have nothing to wear to a 4 star restaurant, but man, I can grind grain in my own kitchen and that is amazing.

A few days ago, I sprouted some spelt to grind into flour. What is spelt? I actually never knew, despite my years of health-foodie shopping. Spelt is an ancient form of wheat, that is sometimes even tolerated by those with wheat allergies. It still contains gluten, allowing it to be used in bread making and in other baked goods. It may have also made a "comeback" because it requires less fertilizing than other grain. It has been cultivated in America since the 1890's, and interestingly (at least to me), the Germans have enjoyed it as Grünkern - unripened grain that is dried and eaten as is. Now, if I could be a R8-driving, Grünkern snacking, health food aficionado, I'd really have it made... A girl can only dream.

While I may have to daydream into the oblivion for the wheels, I'm probably closer to that Grünkern than I think. One thing that impressed me about the sprouted, then dried, spelt is that it was dramatically less tooth-breaking than it's wheat cousins. I actually chomped on quite a few of them in the process of checking it's dryness- and I also burned my left hand twice, since I've been doing my "dehydrating" in the oven for lack of a dehydrator. It was a bit less sweet than wheat in my opinion, but tasty. When ground into flour, it had all of the miraculousness of the other types of wheat I sprouted and ground: a blend of what I would call healthy and otherworldly sweet toothsome-ness. It is safe to say that I've never experienced anything like sprouted grain, and that I like it a whole lot.

There appears to be two camps when it comes to the nutrition in grain. One camp firmly believes that the phytic acid in grains is reduced only when the whole grain is left to begin it's enzymatic change via sprouting. The other camp affirms that already ground grains that are left to soak also are equally nutritious. I'm not sure which camp I belong to. I think that my sourdough bread is actually a bit better when using non-sprouted grains, and I have to think that the whole lot of it is cultured since it sits for nearly a day before I bake it. It is far less dense this way than when made with the sprouted flour. But on the other hand, sprouted flour is an entity to be reckoned with. It's almost too precious to be used on something for daily consumption.

Rather than be stuck in the middle of an unwinnable grain battle, I think I'm firmly Switzerland in that I will use the bulk of my sprouted grain flours in sweet baked goods. The flavor really shines, and I have no doubts that they are better for me than their conventional relatives. The first cookies I made used coconut oil and they were good. The second batch however, I used butter. They were fantastic.

After looking over a number of recipes, most are really very similar. About a half cup of butter or coconut oil and about a cup of sprouted grain flour is the common denominator in scores of cookies. If you start experimenting sprouted flour as I have, you will quickly find what appeals to you. What appeals to me is lightly sweetened, grainy tasting sweets, with a bit of chocolate to make me feel like I've eaten some dessert and not another piece of bread. I adapted today's version from Cheeseslave.

Sprouted Spelt Chocolate Chip Cookies (adapted from Cheeseslave)
makes 29 cookies with my small disher (about 1 1/2 T. balls)
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
  • scant 1/4 cup raw sugar (I am working toward a better sugar option, but haven't gotten obsessed with that yet...)
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 cup sprouted spelt flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 5 ounces tiny chocolate chips from Outpost (or your food co-op)
Preheat oven to 375.

Cream butter together with sugar until lightened, a minute or two.

Add egg and vanilla, and blend well.

Set a sifter over the bowl, and add the flour, baking soda and salt. Fold in with a spatula until combined, then add chocolate chips and fold until evenly dispersed.

Scoop out onto parchment lined baking sheet, and bake 10-12 minutes, rotating sheets half way through the baking time.

If you have ever had a little package of cookies from a vending machine and envied the texture, these are the healthful version for you. They are crumbly and buttery, slightly sweet and the teeny tiny chocolate chips really make it feel "processed" in all the best ways. Not to mention, I think the chips I can get in my co-op's bulk bins are organic to boot. Not bad for a little something sweet after supper!

As the wind and snow howl and we hunker down for the evening, and likely the bulk of tomorrow, I'll have slowly sprouting grain to keep me company. The garage, however, will likely pine for the dream car for years to come. A cupful or two of grain can easily keep my enthusiasm forever, and well within my meager means.

My Dad always says that I have "Champagne taste on a beer budget", and I really wouldn't have it any other way. I really wish I could say that I was a car buff, an "enthusiast" if you will, that had the USD's to take driving tours of Europe, but if I did I've never be crazy about grain or likely any foodstuff that enriches my life abundantly. I'll decide instead to be content, to settle for being a grain buff for now, eyes forward, looking for that next impossible infatuation - one that can be mine since I am not George Costanza.

1 comment:

  1. It's funny, that's always the quote my dad used to describe me as well... the joke while I was growing up is that I'd need to find a man with money to support my taste. :) Not sure I did so well with that -- but I have more than I need when it comes to HAPPY! And that, as you've found, is what really matters.

    On a more intellectual note, I actually do believe that the sourdough culturing process enzymatically increases the digestibility of the wheat flour. For years I've wanted a Vitamix so that I could sprout/grind flour. I'm still dreaming of my VitaMix, but I'm hoping my day will come...


Communication is a good thing, most of the time...