If you’ve had trouble substituting Grist & Toll whole grain flour for All Purpose flour in recipes at home, this post is for you! We’re introducing a monthly challenge to help home bakers become more comfortable and confident integrating whole grain flour into their baking repertoire- STARTING NOW! Send us a whole grain recipe failure and we’ll send free flour and a corrected recipe back to you. There’s no specific day for submissions, just follow the guidelines below and make your submission anytime that is convenient for you. Once a month we’ll select a recipe from the list of submissions and give it a whirl.
1. Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with Challenge Grist & Toll in the subject line.
2. You must include the full recipe, but can do so by any of these methods
-if the recipe is freely available online, just copy and paste the link to the specific web page
-attach a Word document of the recipe
-type the recipe into the body of your email
-take a photo of the recipe either hand written on a piece of paper or from a book and attach to your email
3. Tell us the specific G&T flour you used and any other adjustments you made or other important, relevant information, such as “I don’t own a stand mixer” or “This is from a cookbook and is not available online, so the original recipe shouldn’t be posted without the author’s permission”, and any insight as to what you didn’t like about the baking results.
4. Provide your full name and mailing address for the free flour and your Instagram handle if you’d like us to tag you once we’re ready to post the recipe.
The most common issues:
Deciding which grain/flour to use where
How to adjust liquids for thirsty, whole grain flours
As an example, pictured above is a crumb shot of one of the rolls from a batch of Lemon Sweet Rolls with Cream Cheese Icing from NY Times Cooking, written by Yossy Arefi, who has a beautiful blog, apt2bbakingco.com, you should definitely check out if you are not already familiar with her. Here are the minor tweaks I made to the recipe in order to accommodate G&T whole grain flour.
1. Choose the right flour for the job
Most home bakers probably gravitate towards Sonora for cinnamon roll, sticky bun and commercial yeast dinner roll recipes, wanting to keep them light and creamy and less whole-grainy. Sonora will definitely deliver on the pale and creamy aspect, but what it won’t give you is pillowy and soft. Why not? It’s a soft white wheat! Sonora has very low protein and weaker gluten strength, which means it’s simply not strong enough to expand significantly and carry the yeasted recipe to lofty heights and texture; it needs a little help. So, if I want a lighter, creamier colored (and flavored) result, I will partner Sonora with a wheat that has higher gluten strength and is also blonde: Hard White. Hard White will add strength and muscle, but will keep the color and flavor of the dough much more mellow than, say, Hard Red, which is darker and nuttier.
In addition, something that you just have to learn from your miller, is how there can be issues of fermentation intolerance with some of the heirloom, or landrace, softer wheat varieties. We’re going a little deep here, but hang in there for a second! Fermentation intolerance can show up during the final proof. When this happens, you will notice the integrity of the dough starting to collapse. It will look like the dough is beginning to shred or tear on the surface before it is fully risen and ready for the bake. There are other ways to address this, like building dough strength through preferments such as a biga or poolish (do some research online about those if you are not familiar), but one of the easiest ways to counter weaker wheat varieties without changing your process is to use a smaller percentage of the older grain and pair it with a stronger, more modern one.
This recipe is all about bright citrus flavors and tangy cream cheese in the icing, which made me more inclined to choose flour on the milky and mellow spectrum. However, had I been selecting flour for a more traditional cinnamon filling, I could just have easily have paired Sonora with French Renan or any Hard Red. The Sonora portion would have lightened the dough, the hard red wheat would provide structure and also a warm, rich flavor profile to complement the cinnamon and brown sugar filling. You have options!
2. Take care how you measure your G&T flour
You’re going to think whole grain flours are weightier than refined, but in fact they are by and large much lighter and fluffier. Even if most of the recipes you make are in Cup measurements, you absolutely need a scale for whole grain baking. This recipe gave measurements in cups and grams, which is extremely helpful, but still not always accurate for whole grain flour. Total flour was 4 to 4 1/2 C, or 512-576 grams. G&T flour will always be closer to the lower weight measurement. What I did just out of curiosity was to place a bowl on my scale and measure 2 C Hard White and 2 C Sonora into it, which weighed less than 512 grams. When I saw that I was able to mix in all 4 cups, still using the paddle attachment on my stand mixer, – too sticky – I decided to add the remaining 1/2 C (in this case I chose Sonora) to the dough.
3. How to adjust liquids to accommodate thirsty whole grain flour
Normally, I suggest a 15% increase in hydration when swapping whole grain flour for all purpose. In an enriched dough recipe such as this one, I’m going to let my main liquid ingredient do that work, which in this case was buttermilk. The remaining liquid ingredients I generally leave alone the first time around and only think about adjustments if something goes horribly wrong. They are: eggs, sugar, butter.
In writing this recipe, Yossy gave me some very helpful insight in the directions by telling us this dough would be soft and would stick to the bottom of the bowl during mixing. Soft, sticky doughs are whole grain buddies! That told me the recipe already had higher hydration and I probably wouldn’t need to dramatically increase hydration, so I made a more conservative choice: a 10% increase in the amount of buttermilk. The amount of buttermilk in the recipe is 1 cup. What’s 10% of one cup? Keep that scale on the counter. When recipes are written in grams, the math is easy. Most American recipes are in cups, so here’s what I did: I put my liquid measuring cup on my scale, turned it on and made sure it was displaying in grams. Then I poured my buttermilk in to the 1 C measurement and saw that it was about 240g, so I added another 24g. Easy peasy.
4. Final insights
Don’t be afraid when the enriched dough is in fact very soft and sticks to the bottom of your mixing bowl even after 5-8 minutes of mixing with a dough hook. Remember that whole grain flour absorbs liquids a little more slowy and leisurely. This dough never cleared the bowl for me and didn’t just stick to the bottom of the bowl under the hook, it was more like the entire bottom and a tiny bit up the sides. Soupy is very different from sticky,. Soupy is bad (add more flour!), sticky is generally ok. I went with it and didn’t add more flour, because I knew it would all come together and be more manageable after the first rise. It is in fact a very soft dough. In retrospect, I probably didn’t even need the additional 24g buttermilk. However, it rolled easily and the resulting buns were so soft and perfect that I would still do the same next time.