Whole wheat flour (Recipe: apple spice cake)
When Ted and I moved to Boston thirty years ago, we discovered a health food store called Erewhon.
Nowhere, spelled backwards.
Nowhere -- oops, Erewhon -- sat north of Harvard Square, in a part of Cambridge that could have been called Hippie Central, with a tea and incense shop a block away, and stores that sold old oak furniture and long granny dresses.
We lived in Boston, but made the trip across the river to Erewhon for earthy foods sold out of bins, things like nuts and beans and whole wheat flour.
These days, whole wheat flour is easier to find, and closer to home; the little grocery store in my town, which really is nowhere, carries several brands, including King Arthur Organic and Bob's Red Mill.
Made from the whole kernel of wheat, whole wheat flour comes in different grinds; the more coarse the grind, the more bits of bran and germ you'll see in the flour, and the higher the amounts of beneficial fiber, potassium, iron, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus and selenium.
While the number of calories is the same, all-purpose white flour has no sodium and less fat than whole wheat, though the amount of fat (really oil from the germ of the wheat berry) is insignificant.
That oil does cause whole wheat flour to turn rancid, which gives it a bitter taste. The solution? Store your flour in the freezer from the moment you bring it home from the store. Let the flour come to room temperature before you use it, and return the unused portion to the freezer. Properly stored in the freezer, it will keep for up to one year.
Makes me want to slip into my red Birkenstocks and head over to Erewhon, circa 1972....
Apple spice cake
A family favorite from The New York Times Bread & Soup Cookbook (also circa 1972) by Yvonne Young Tarr, this recipe is my go-to during apple season. It does call for vegetable shortening, though, and I'd love to convert the recipe to something healthier without overwhelming the apple-spice flavors. Readers, can you help? Makes 1 loaf, serving 8-10.
2 cups all-purpose unbleached flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/4 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup vegetable shortening
3/4 cup light brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
3 large tart apples (I use Cortland or Macoun), grated
1/2 cup buttermilk (fresh or powdered)
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Sift together first 6 ingredients. Stir in whole wheat flour. Set aside. In a large bowl, or stand mixer, cream the shortening and sugar. Add vanilla and eggs, and stir to combine. Then, alternating a little bit at a time, add dry ingredients, buttermilk and apples to the egg mixture. Spray a bread pan with baking spray and pour in the mixture. Bake for 1 hour. Let cool for 15 minutes, then turn out onto a rack and let cool to desired serving temperature. Serve slightly warm with fresh whipped cream or vanilla ice cream, or serve cold. (Can be frozen.)