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Using More Whole Wheat

I have what appears to be a lifelong quest for the perfect whole wheat pie crust.  So far, I haven’t had much luck with a 100% crust.  But there has been moderate success with adapting recipes to include an admirable amount of whole wheat.  I’ve heard that the general rule of thumb for modifying recipes is that you can swap up to 1/3 the amount of white flour for whole wheat.  I generally make 50% my starting point because I don’t mind if it tastes a little healthier, and I will even replace more than that, sometimes 100%.

Certain things lend themselves better to whole wheat.  Brownies, for example, should never even be made with white flour; it’s a waste because you could be eating 100% whole wheat and not even know the difference, honestly.  Denser foods, spice cakes, oatmeal cookies, those sorts of things take well to whole wheat.  Things that need more rise, springiness or flakiness, say, croissants, angel food cake, or the ellusive, flaky pie crust, tend to be more particular.

I get more adventurous with my savory crusts as I think a healthy tasting crust is more forgivable in a quiche than in a coconut creme pie.  The method I’ve settled on is to take a good pie crust recipe and substitute half the white flour for whole wheat.  You may want to actually add a tad less whole wheat (say 4/5 cup whole wheat to 1 cup white) flour than called for.  I also adjust the fats.  Most pie crusts call for a combination of crisco and butter.  If you swap the crisco straight out for butter the pie crust just sorts of melts all over the place.  If the recipe calls for a stick of butter and an equal amount of shortening, I’ll do about a stick and a third of butter and a few tablespoons of olive oil.  I haven’t yet ventured into the world of lard, but I am contemplating it…

So, I have no perfect recipe to offer, only some vague guidelines and the encouragement to just jump in and give it a try.  Don’t be afraid of whole wheat; you may be surprised to find that you love the depth of flavor and complexity it gives to dishes.  I really prefer the flavor of whole wheat, though I’m still working out the kinks in how it performs…  Good luck and let me know if you hit upon the perfect whole wheat pie crust!

What recipes do you “upgrade” by using whole wheat in place of white flour?

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