Thursday, October 29, 2009

Cooking with Wheat

First of all, I am in no way an expert on wheat.  The first time I ever used it was after I got married.  However, it is a highly recommended food storage staple, and I am a nut about food storage.  But I am also a firm believer in using what you store.  I was not going to be one of those people with 500 lbs. of wheat in the basement and no idea what to do with it. 
One of my main priorities was to get my family accustomed to wheat in case there ever came a time when we had to rely on it for a more permanent food source. I didn't want our bodies to go ballistic (if you know what i mean).  So... this is what I found that works best for my family:

Wheat flour:
This is what I imagine to be the most popular use, although it is least popular for me.  Wheat flour can replace all-purpose flour for most or all of your baking needs.  However, it does not have a great shelf life.  Once wheat has been ground into flour, it should be used as quickly as possible.  I've heard some people say up to 1 week, and others say it lasts for months.  Personally, I would stick to within a 1-2 week range; especially if you are using it to make bread, which in my experience has the most noticeable difference the longer it ages.
If you are like me, and you don't prefer the taste of whole wheat flour, try using half wheat flour and half all-purpose flour (or 1/4 and 3/4), whatever works best for you.

Cracked Wheat (Bulgur):
Cracked wheat is whole wheat that has been broken (kind of the middle stage between a wheat berry and wheat flour). 

Cooking cracked wheat is the same as cooking rice (2 to 1 water ratio):
2 c. water
1 c. cracked wheat
1/4 tsp. salt
Boil water and salt. Add wheat. Cover, and let it simmer for 18-20 minutes.

This is by far the most popular form of wheat consumed in my family.  I will always make a large batch, and continue to use it throughout the week in various dishes, as it stores very well in the fridge. 
Some of our most common uses include:
 
- Hot cereal:
warm cracked wheat with milk and sugar (or honey, etc.)  Banana's, raisins, etc. can be added.  (Personally, I would rather fast than eat this, but my hubs likes it).
 
- Cracked wheat in bread dough:
 I LOVE this.  Just add cooked cracked wheat to any dough (bread, rolls, pizza, etc). and bake as you always do.  It makes the dough go a bit further, gives it some texture, is better for you, but doesn't leave a wheat flavor.  (Check out my 'Recipe - Breads' section)
 
- Cracked wheat in hamburger: 
I will often times use cooked and raw cracked wheat when using hamburger. 
When making hamburger patties, I sometimes add a small amount (up to 1/4 c. per lb. of meat) cooked cracked wheat to the mix.  It helps hold it all together, and makes them more moist. 
I use raw cracked wheat anytime I use hamburger that will be cooking for a longer period of time (ie: meatloaf, stuffed veggies, etc).  The wheat will absorb some of the fat and juices from the meat, and it blends in nicely (most of the time my hubby and kids can't tell that it is included).     

- Add to Casseroles:
Cooked cracked wheat can be added to practically any meal without being noticed; especially in dishes with strong or spicy flavors.  The key is in the quantity; a few spoonfuls of wheat will not be noticed.  I find it works best with casseroles or one-pot dishes. 
 
Wheat berries:
These are made by cooking the entire grain of wheat without altering it in any way first.  It does take a significantly longer time to cook, but has a unique texture.  When fully cooked they look very similar to popcorn kernals (size and shape).

Basic instructions for cooking wheat berries:
8 c. water
4 c. wheat
1 tsp. salt
Bring water and salt to a boil.  Add wheat.  Cover and simmer for 1 hour and 10 minutes.

These are 'nut' like me in the sense that they are small and still have a crunch to them.  They work very well in salads.
Some people do eat wheat berries as a hot cereal, but we don't prefer it.

Wheat berries will last several days in the fridge, and also freezes well.

Blended Wheat:
Blended wheat is made by putting cooked cracked wheat in a blender or food processor and blending (adding water) until desired consistency.
Blended wheat works as a great addition to soups, stews, stir-fry sauces, gravies, etc.  It is visible (especially in clear or light sauce recipes), but does not drastically alter the taste.

Blended wheat will last several days in the fridge, and also freezes well.


If any of you wheat lovers out there have any more helpful hints or uses for wheat I would love to hear about it!

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