What to Make with New York’s Regional Grains

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Greenmarket wants you to bake this holiday with bounty from the local bread basket. We’ve got your shortbread and pancake recipes to start.

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The New York City Greenmarket is hoping to give gluten-naysayers a change of heart and palate with its Regional Grains Project.

Much has been made of the shortcomings of modern flours. Complaints of gut and girth have led many to go against the grain and forgo any bread. And with many of today’s overly processed offerings so wanting in flavor, texture and personality, in truth, the sacrifice may not be so great. The New York City Greenmarket, however, is hoping to give gluten-naysayers a change of heart and palate with its Regional Grains Project.

Initiated as an effort to help bakers comply with Greenmarket vendor requirements for locally sourced flours in baked goods, the project has expanded to full-on public outreach: spreading the good word about the burgeoning upstate breadbasket, shining a light on lesser-known regional grains with raucous names like freekeh and einkorn, and enticing marketgoers to take a second look at traditional barleys and oats, buckwheat and spelt.

The benefits are manifold. While anecdotal, reports are coming in that these traditionally grown “ancient” grains do not have the same inflammatory effect as their modern counterparts (we encourage you to try for yourself). Moreover, increased consumer interest and sales support our local farmers and in turn help strengthen the local ag economy.

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Mysterious-sounding grains accent fine restaurant menus everywhere, adding dimension to salads and vegetable dishes while filling the gap for recommended reduced meat portions.

Chefs, bakers and brewers have caught on. Mysterious-sounding grains accent fine restaurant menus everywhere, adding dimension to salads and vegetable dishes while filling the gap for recommended reduced meat portions. In-house, high-quality bread programs, while not ubiquitous, are no longer anomalous. And, well, the craft brewing scene has always seemed happy to try out the latest traditional grain.

But it’s one thing for the pros to take on new ingredients, and another for the time-strapped New Yorker. To assist Greenmarket in their worthy endeavor, Edible reached out to Amy Halloran, acclaimed author of The New Bread Basket: How the New Crop of Grain Growers, Plant Breeders, Millers, Maltsters, Bakers, Brewers, and Local Food Activists Are Redefining Our Daily Loaf, for holiday baking ideas that let these flours shine. The below recipes can be prepared and shared with friends, family and co-workers, or wrapped as gifts that side-step consumerism while supporting the local farmers we love.

Grains can be purchased Wednesdays and Saturdays at the Union Square Greenmarket Grain Stand and on a rotating basis at other Greenmarkets. See website for locations and dates.  

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Shortbread
12 ounces unsalted butter, softened
¼ cup sugar
1¾ cups whole-grain spelt flour or 1 ½ cups emmer flour
½  teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 350°. Cream together the butter and sugar thoroughly. In a separate bowl whisk the salt and flour together; add to the creamed butter and sugar.

Roll out to ¼ -inch thickness on a lightly floured board, using more flour as necessary to keep the rolling pin from sticking to the dough. Cut into desired shapes. I like to make 1- by 1-inch squares. Place on parchment, silicone mat or very lightly greased cookie sheet. Keep sizes similar for even cooking.

Bake for 12 to 15 minutes, until the edges are just slightly tan. Cool on the cookie sheet for a few minutes and transfer to a cooling rack. Store in a tightly sealed container.

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Scones
2 cups flour—spelt, pastry wheat, Frederick, Red Fife, or a combo of these
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
4 ounces unsalted butter, cold and cubed
1 large egg
2 tablespoons honey or maple syrup
¼ cup milk
1 cup vegetable or fruit mixture, made from about 1½ cups chopped apples or 1 cup chopped winter squash
¼ cup dried currants (for apples)
¼ cup chopped shallots (for squash)
½ teaspoon rubbed sage or 5 leaves fresh sage, cut fine (for squash)
½ cup chopped toasted nuts

Prepare vegetable or fruit mixture. Put fruit or vegetables in a small sauté pan with a tablespoon of butter. Cook over low heat with the lid on for 3 to 7 minutes, just until soft. For apples: Add ¼ cup currants and let the dried fruit absorb the apples’ liquid. For squash: Add shallots and sage.

Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.

Cut/rub butter quickly into flour mixture, until butter is fairly evenly distributed. Toss vegetable or fruit mixture and nuts into flour/butter mixture, and distribute the add-ons throughout.

Whisk together egg, sweetener and milk. Add to the rest of the ingredients, using a fork to bring all the ingredients together into a ball. Don’t knead or overmix, just gather the ingredients into a nicely mixed dough. Put a plate on top of the bowl and refrigerate for half an hour or up to a day.

When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 400°. On a lightly floured surface, pat the dough into a rectangle about 6 by 8 inches. Cut into 12 pieces, and place, a scant inch apart from each other, on a parchment or silicone mat on top of a cookie sheet. If you like, brush the scones with milk and top with either kosher salt or sugar crystals.

Bake for 20 minutes, or until golden brown. Cool on racks.

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Crackers
1 cup whole-grain rye flour
1 cup whole-wheat flour, such as Farmer Ground Flour whole wheat or spelt; Maine Grains Oland, Magog; or Red Fife
½ teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
½ cup tahini
½ cup water

Blend together flour, baking soda and salt. Add tahini—this may be easiest in a processor, or stand mixer. After the tahini is well incorporated, add the water. Knead together in the machine or mixer, or on a lightly floured board until the dough is just smooth and elastic.

Divide dough into 4 pieces and pat them into squares or rectangles—this makes for easier rolling later. Place in a sealed container and refrigerate for at least half an hour and up to 2 days. (Longer rests may make rolling out a little harder.)

When ready to bake, preheat oven to 400°.

Roll each piece of dough very thin on a floured surface, to about 1/16 inch. If desired, when the dough is about -inch thick, brush with water and press with sesame/pumpkin seeds and salt. Finish rolling to final thickness to press topping into the dough.

Cut into squares about 2 by 2 inches, and put on parchment- or silicone mat–lined cookie sheets. Prick crackers with a fork to allow steam to escape and avoid air bubbles.

Bake for about 7 to 9 minutes. Crackers will crisp up when cool.

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Pancake Mix
4 cups whole grain flour—see suggestions below
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda

1½ teaspoons salt

Mix all ingredients well with a whisk and put in plastic bag, canning jar or new coffee bag.

This mix takes well to variations in flour. Some great combinations are:

2 cups whole-wheat pastry flour, 1 cup rye flour, 1 cup cornmeal
1 cup whole-wheat pastry flour, 1 cup rye flour, 1 cup cornmeal, 1 cup oats or ground oats
2 cups buckwheat flour, 2 cups rye flour
2 cups buckwheat flour, 2 cups whole-wheat pastry flour
2 cups cornmeal, 2 cups rye flour
3 cups cornmeal, 1 cup rye flour

If you are making mixes for people who are not devoted to whole grains, you can use all-purpose flour in place of some or all of the whole-wheat pastry.

I never add sugar to pancakes, because I find whole grains sweet enough on their own. If you want, add ¼ cup of brown or white sugar per batch.

Please use a baking powder you know is strong and sturdy. For me, that is Rumford Double Acting baking powder.

If you really love the recipient, buy them an old cast-aluminum griddle at a thrift store. Aluminum griddles distribute heat very evenly, and nothing makes a better pancake.

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Pancakes
1 cup homemade pancake mix
2 eggs
½–1 cup milk, depending on flours used and how thin you like your cakes
1 tablespoon yogurt

Whisk together the liquids, add the dry mix, and blend well. If you like thinner pancakes, add the larger amount of milk. Let sit for 10 minutes before using. This helps the flour absorb the moisture thoroughly. Cook on a hot buttered griddle, flipping when the first side has little bubbles.

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Carrington Morris

Carrington is a food and food justice enthusiast and managing editor at Edible Manhattan and Edible Brooklyn.