Go with the grain on Valentine’s Day

If you’re looking for a healthy alternative to a box of heart-shaped bonbons for your true love, we’ve got just the right solution with whole wheat orange shortbread

By Louise Crosby

There’s a movement gaining steam to make baking more nutritious by using less white flour and refined sugar and more whole grains, nuts, seeds, fruit, good fats, and natural sweeteners. No doubt there have always been bakers who leaned in this direction, but Kim Boyce’s Good to the Grain: Baking with Whole-Grain Flours, published in 2010, may have been that groundbreaking book that brought healthy baking into the mainstream. Alice Medrich’s 2014 Flavor Flours built on that trend, and today there’s a profusion of specialty cookbooks focusing on everything from coconut flour to agave nectar.

In my little world, Genevieve Ko’s 2016 Better Baking: Wholesome Ingredients, Delicious Desserts, picks up where Boyce and Medrich left off. It’s a beautiful and inspiring book. She doesn’t give up butter and sugar altogether, but where possible substitutes more healthful ingredients. In the process, she makes magic out of matcha green tea powder (Green Tea Almond-Raspberry Rainbow Bars), tahini (Orange Marmalade Tahini Thumbprints), pistachio meal (Rhubarb-Lemon Bars with Pistachio Crust), beets (Beet Red Velvet Roulade with Strawberry Cream Cheese), coconut milk (Coconut Layer Cake), olive oil (Brown Sugar Pumpkin Bundt Cake), buckwheat flour (Buckwheat Blueberry Buckle) and pumpkin (Pumpkin Cinnamon Spirals). And that’s just a sampling of what’s in this book.

And isn’t it fortuitous that I got my hands on it just before Valentine’s Day so I could bring you these adorable Whole Wheat-Orange Shortbread Hearts? Ko adds the zest and juice of a blood orange to give the cookies a floral, citrusy note and a (very) pale pink hue. She also combines unbleached all-purpose flour with white whole wheat flour (also known as ivory wheat flour, see photo), to keep them delicate but add a depth of flavour and more nutrition. I didn’t know that ivory wheat flour existed, but there it was, made by Bob’s Red Mill, at Whole Foods here in Ottawa. I will be using more of it in future.

Bob’s Red Mill Ivory Wheat Flour is a whole wheat treat.

Ko suggests sandwiching these heart cookies with thick raspberry jam. Nutella, or a reduced-sugar chocolate hazelnut spread, is also nice, as is a light dusting of icing sugar. Happy Valentine’s Day everyone.

Orange Shortbread Hearts

Love Sandwich: Whole wheat orange shortbread hearts.

Whole Wheat-Orange Shortbread Hearts

1¼ cups (180 g) white whole wheat flour
1 cup (142 g) unbleached all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling
½ teaspoon salt
¾ cup (156 g) sugar
1 blood orange
½ pound (228 g) unsalted butter, softened
1 large egg yolk

Whisk both flours and the salt in a medium bowl. Put the sugar in a large bowl. Zest the orange into the sugar. Squeeze 2 tablespoons juice from the orange and reserve. Beat the sugar mixture with an electric mixer on low speed until the sugar is sandy and orange. Beat in the butter, then gradually raise the speed to medium-high, beating just until creamy and smooth. Scrape the bowl. Turn the speed to medium and beat in the egg yolk and then the orange juice just until blended. Scrape the bowl. Turn the speed to low and gradually add the flour mixture, beating just until all traces of flour disappear.

Turn the dough out and shape it into a 1-inch-thick disk. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm, at least 1 hour.

Line three large cookie sheets with parchment paper. Remove the dough from the fridge and let soften slightly. On a lightly floured surface, with a lightly floured rolling pin, roll the dough ⅛ inch thick. Cut out hearts using a 2½-inch heart cutter. Transfer to the prepared sheets, spacing them 1 inch apart. Gather the scraps, preroll, and cut. Freeze the cookies until firm if you can.

Position a rack in the centre of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees F. Bake the sheets one at a time until the cookies are golden brown around the edges, about 12 minutes. Cool completely on the sheets on wire racks. Sandwich thick raspberry jam between pairs of cookies, if desired.

Makes about 4 dozen heart cookies, or fewer depending on how thick the dough is rolled.

For more delicious recipes from Louise Crosby, please click here or visit KitchenonFourth.com

Photos by Louise Crosby
THE EX-PRESS, February 11, 2017

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