Traditional, Nourishing Ingredients for Holiday Baking

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traditional ingredients

In our home husbie and I typically hold to a healthy diet.  For us healthy is defined by unprocessed ingredients that are as fresh as possible and, time and forethought permitting: traditionally prepared.

With the arrival of the holiday season however, healthy eating pretty much goes out the window. I love to bake.  I love to cook.  We love to eat.

I decided though that I want this year to be different.  This year, I want to avoid the “I can’t believe I ate the whole thing“, feeling following the holiday season. So this year,  I decided to try to bake with as many traditional ingredients as possible using the traditional approach as often as possible. Apricot Crescents from Black Fox Homestead

In last week’s post, I offered my take on traditional foods in a nutshell.  If you missed it, you can catch it here.  When I talk about traditional foods, I’m referring to basic food preparation methods that were used before food became an industry: cultured dairy, fermented foods, soaked and sprouted grains, sourdough bread.

Following are some of the staples and ingredients I plan to use in my holiday baking along with some of the resources for where they can be purchased.  The resources I’ve listed are mostly mail order or through a co op (Azure Standard) simply because that is where we can get them most easily.  My local Dollar General does not carry sprouted flour, and Whole Foods is an hour away.   If you live close to a health food store, and that is more accessible, I’d encourage you to try those before going the mail order route.

Over the next few weeks we’ll periodically invite you “in to tea” to sample what we’ve prepared by sharing the recipes: some new and some revamped holiday favorites. I’ll also share how easy we felt they were and whether or not we’d give them a thumbs up or down.

So then, here are some items in our traditional larder:

Arrowroot

A flour  obtained from the stock of a tropical American plant.  It is white, tasteless, and easily digestible.  It contains calcium ash which is important for balancing alkali and acid in the body.

Arrowroot has a texture much finer than conventional flours, very similar to cornstarch.  In fact it can be used in place of corn starch as a thickener for gravies and puddings.  (Although I tried it in pudding and the texture was similar to….well let’s just say, don’t use it in pudding)  I have used arrowroot along with blended nuts in place of flour in some cookie recipes and the result was lovely: very tender, similar to a shortbread.

To Purchase:  I purchased my batch from Azure Standard where it was much less expensive but you can also get a smaller amount here from Amazon if you want to try it out first.

Crispy nuts

The technical term for these I think would be sprouted nuts but crispy nuts is how they are described in Nourishing Traditions and crispy is much more fun to say than sprouted.

This refers to nuts that have been soaked overnight in warm water and a small amount of salt to taste, then drained and dehydrated either in a low temp oven below 150 degrees or a dehydrator until they are “crispy”; a process of about 24 hours.

The result is a nut that has been predigested and therefore much easier on your system. They are frequently blended in a food processor and used along with arrowroot, or other ingredient for cookies.  I use almonds almost exclusively.  They are delicious.  They are expensive, but I try to have them on hand at all times for baking or just for snacking.

To purchase: The catch here is to find nuts that have not been pasteurized, tricky ~ because selling unpasteurized nuts is illegal in the U.S.

If you want to spend a bit you can purchase raw almonds here through Amazon that have been imported from Spain.

Azure Standard offers almonds that have been pasteurized enough to satisfy government standards, but claims they can still be sprouted.  They are organic and affordable so I have chosen to go that route.

Sprouted flour

This refers to flour whose berries have been processed in a similar fashion to the crispy nuts and then milled.  The resulting flour is, again, more easily digested.   You can sprout and mill the grain yourself (quite a process), or purchase sprouted flour already processed.

I’m going to be honest here: you won’t yet find sprouted flour in my pantry.  It isn’t because it is something I don’t believe in, it is because logistically this isn’t possible for me yet.  1. I don’t have the time to sprout the grains myself and sprouted grains will ruin my mill.  2. Sprouted flour is expensive when one is already buying some of these other ingredients.

I’ve had to make a choice and for now we either soak our baked goods, or just make them as healthy as we can otherwise.  There it is.

To Purchase: If you want to purchase it you can find it on Amazon here, through Azure Standard,  or your local health food store should have it as well.

Bread

Soft white wheat flour

According to Azure Standard this is the choice for sprouting if you want to try sprouting yourself.

I buy the grains in 25# bags and mill them myself, keeping a bag in the freezer to have on hand.  I use this flour for soaking, and as I said above, if the recipe can’t be soaked, or I forgot to plan ahead, I just go ahead and use it substituting it for white flour in a recipe.  Either way this is my favorite  for baking because it results in such a great texture.  It was what I used for husbie’s Boston cream birthday cake posted here.

To purchase: Azure Standard has a great price for buying the grains in bulk, and Amazon has a few here.  Otherwise give your local health food store a try.

Spelt flour

Spelt was introduced to me a few years ago by an acupuncturist I was seeing at the time as something that was better digested than regular wheat due to its being one of the “ancient grains”.  We gave it a try and really enjoyed the texture.  Spelt is what we use in our artisan bread.

As with any grain or flour, it is best eaten soaked or sprouted, but I have taken the same position with spelt that I have with the soft white wheat flour.  The best that I can do at this point is to mill my own.  If I have the time and have planned ahead, I will soak it before using. muffin

Spelt has a great texture in baking and the whole grain can be used without causing the baked goods to feel heavy.  It is a bit finer though than regular wheat so I use 1 1/4 cups of spelt for every 1 cup of flour.

I purchase the grains in large 40# buckets and mill them myself, keeping a bag in the freezer to have on hand for baking.

To Purchase: We purchased our initial batch through an emergency preparedness site but have since found Azure Standard to have the better deal.  If you want to just try a small amount Amazon has the grains here and the flour here.

Maple syrup

Maple syrup is a great natural sweetener, rich in trace minerals, but expensive.  I prefer to use in moderation or use some of the other sweeteners listed below.

Maple sugar is also available, and while I have been tempted, I’ve held back at this point due to the cost.

To Purchase:  The syrup should be pretty easy to find.  Just be sure that formaldehyde has not been used in processing.  I purchase grade B as it is less processed and less expensive through Azure Standard.  Although I just discovered this product through Amazon and with subscribe and save seems to be the better deal.  So there’s that.

Azure also carries maple sugar or it can be purchased here on Amazon.

Raw Honey

Raw honey is honey that has not been heated over 117 degrees and contains all sorts of lovely enzymes.  In order for the honey to remain raw however, it should be used in desserts that are not baked.  I’m not stipulating whether or not one should or shouldn’t, just be mindful of the fact you’ll lose those enzymes if you use honey in cookies.

To Purchase: Local honey is the best.  Our local grocery store carries local raw honey.  If yours doesn’t see if you can’t get in touch with the local chapter of a bee keeper’s association.

Molasses

The waste product when refined sugar is made.  It has a strong taste: way too strong for me but it is wicked good for you containing many minerals such as iron, calcium, zinc, and copper.  While the flavor is strong,  I do use it in recipes like gingerbread.

To Purchase: Honestly?  I just grabbed mine at the local grocery.

boston creamRapadura

Also referred to as sucanat, Rapadura is dehydrated cane sugar juice.  It has a dark color (beware if using in something you want to remain light colored), and something of a molasses flavor, but I have found this to be my favorite sweetener for baked goods and has completely taken the place of conventional brown sugar in my canister.

The amount can be used cup for cup in a recipe but because of cost and the fact that sugar is still sugar, I reduce amounts by anywhere from 1/4 to 1/3 cup and sometimes even by half.

To Purchase: I have found the best deal on Rapadura to be here through Amazon where I buy it in bulk.

Organic cane sugar

This is a sandy brown colored sugar that is less processed than white sugar but is, still nevertheless: sugar.  I use it occasionally in small amounts when I’m not wanting the molasses flavor of the Rapadura, or my baked goods to take on a brown color.

To Purchase: I buy mine in five pound bags through Azure Standard where I get the best price but I have also purchased this product through Amazon.

Butter

Obviously.  I always have and always will bake with unsalted butter.   We make our own butter from the raw cream of grass fed cows, but when I’m doing a lot of baking for a birthday or over the holidays, I’m hesitant to use that precious stuff in our cookies, and the cream isn’t always available at our dairy.

In the past, I have used cultured butter such as Kerrigold,  when I feel I can justify the expense.  When I can’t,  I just purchase conventional unsalted butter that came from cows that were not injected with rBGH and rbST, and use it only in treats that we eat in moderation.

To Purchase: Azure Standard carries cultured European style butter in bulk.  Most grocery stores these days will carry Kerrigold or at least a product that claims to be rBGH and rbST free.

Coconut oil

An excellent fat discussed in more detail in this postI use coconut oil in Irish Brown Bread from Black Fox Homestead.combaking when I don’t have the butter available, or as I said, when I’d just rather not use it due to expense.  Coconut oil can also be expensive, but I order it through Tropical Traditions and recently got some on sale buy one get one free.  The two buckets have lasted me a long time.

Coconut oil can be substituted  cup for cup for butter or shortening, or melted and substituted for vegetable oil.  I have found that when a recipe calls for creamed butter, coconut oil doesn’t hold up the same so I try to be gentle when using it in that manner. I’ve also found that in some recipes such as pie crust, the dough/crust does better to be refrigerated prior to being rolled out.  I learned that one the hard way.

If you are new to coconut oil, be mindful of the flavor.  It isn’t at all unpleasant, but it is distinctive: mild, vanilla like, and a little bit coconutty. Whatever you are baking may take on that flavor.

To Purchase: Tropical Traditions in my opinion has the best deals. Here is the product we use the most.

Ground hazelnut meal

Ok I’m cheating here.  These are not technically “nourishing”  since they haven’t been sprouted.  Now if you want to purchase your own hazelnuts, sprout them, and then grind them into your own meal, you can do so.   However for me, this is another one of those ingredients that falls somewhere in between the sprouted flour, and the organic cane sugar categories:  expensive so I won’t be sprouting my own, but a divine ingredient that I love to use so I do allow the splurge.  It can also be substituted in part for flour of any sort in a recipe.  I see that as a good thing.

To Purchase:  Hazelnut meal is still costly sprouted or not, but I have found the best deal to be purchased in bulk  here.  I use it in moderation.  A single package will last us several months kept in our freezer.

Other ingredients:

I use these often  but did not include them as they are pretty straightforward:

Ginger: I like to use fresh provided I’m not too lazy to get the root out of the refrigerator drawer, peel it, and try to locate my grater.

Vanilla:  I’m not yet making my own, but that is on my agenda for someday.  Right now I just use the best quality I can find.

Cocoa: At this point I use Ghirardelli.  I know, I know there are probably better brands out there but for now…this is what I can do and my local(ish) grocery thirteen miles away actually carries it.

Bittersweet chocolate: Again, I use Ghirardelli.  I always have semi-sweet on hand but I like bittersweet the best.

Shredded unsweetened coconut: I purchased a 2# bag through Azure Standard.  We’re set for a while.

Ingredients I avoid when I can:

I think these are pretty obvious:

  • Corn syrup
  • White sugar
  • Brown sugar
  • Food coloring
  • Candy and Candied fruit

How do you approach the holidays with regard to baking?

What are some of your secrets for keeping it healthy?

What are some of your favorite healthy ingredients?

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You can find this post and others like it linked to: The Homestead Barn Hop, Mostly Homemade Mondays, Frugal Days Sustainable Ways, Tutorials Tips and Tidbits, The HomeAcre Hop, From the Farm Fridays, Rural Wisdom and Know How

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Comments

Traditional, Nourishing Ingredients for Holiday Baking — 13 Comments

  1. I want to sit down over tea and talk about holiday baking with you! These are the kinds of changes I’m making in my kitchen. I still want to bake yummy holiday things, but with no white sugar or white flour, it will look a little different.

    Have you tried Azure’s organic cocoa powder? I’ve been happy with it.

    • Heidi I’d love to have you over. :) No I haven’t tried Azure’s cocoa powder. I’ll have to take a look. I was in the market for some a while back. Thanks for the head’s up.

  2. So how would you make a traditional Southern Pecan Pie? For a long time, I have wanted to make my pecan pie without the corn syrup and brown sugar, but am afraid that it will not taste as good. I have molasses, sucanat, maple syrup, and spelt flour. I already use our own eggs. I look forward to your posts and “tea” with you. Thank you for all of your hard work and sharing the results.

  3. Pingback: From Scratch Pumpkin Pie and a Thanksgiving Menu | Black Fox Homestead

  4. I’m learning so much! I did check with my library & I have Nourishing Traditions on hold. :) I can’t wait to start reading! I just made a homemade pumpkin pie yesterday but it did have condensed milk. I’ll have to see how to omit that next time. Great post!

    • Let me know what you think of it! I’ve been able to use cream in my pumpkin pies in place of the condensed milk and it turns out really nice.

  5. What a great post!
    I’ve been using spelt the past few years, and even sprouted spelt with good success depending on what I’m making. Some stuff doesn’t work at all with spelt as it’s so crumbly. Coconut oil has replaced butter in many of our baked good and sweet loaves recently. We always use cane sugar although I find it doesn’t create the same effect as regular white sugar, much better though! I’ve yet to try cultured butter, that sounds intriguing. We don’t have a raw milk source at the moment but we do have a local grass fed organic dairy that we get our cream & milk from and then make butter with the cream.
    You have me in a baking mood now! Oh I need to finish off those gingerbread cookies & ornaments!