Since I got my hands on Kim Boyce's Good to the Grain a few years back, I've been interested in using wheat-alternative grains and flours. But it wasn't until last year that I really started playing around with a wider variety of them.
See, a good friend of mine was coming up to visit us from California. Briana is the world's best pediatric occupational therapist (OT), a person who is always smiling and shining her light out onto the world. I had the opportunity to work with her and learn so much about helping traumatized children with sensory issues.
She was also diagnosed with MS several years ago. When Bri told me she and her family were coming to visit, we talked about her health. She told me that cutting gluten out of her diet was helping her to feel significantly better on a day-to-day basis.
They were going to be with us for a few days and I wanted Bri to feel good while she was with us. So, I started to do some deeper exploring.
With further guidance mostly from Alice Medrich, I baked enough to feed the neighborhood using alternatives such as rice and oat flour, teff, buckwheat and sorghum. I handed out "extra" scones, cookies, cakes and biscuits to those willing to take them.
One grain I came across during my exploring and experimenting seemed especially interesting: teff. I recalled that it was used to make the spongy, fermented Ethiopian bread, injera.
The grains are tiny, about the size of poppy seeds. Because they are so small, they are ground whole to make flour, keeping all the nutrition from the bran and germ intact. They are loaded with high amounts of calcium, vitamin C and amino acids, as described here.
The teff flour I found locally was a light brownish-slate color and slightly gritty to the touch. But I soon found that when cooked whole, it could be made into a porridge resembling polenta. It could also be added to soups and stews as a thickener.
While Bri was here with her husband and kids, we enjoyed lazy days at the lake, dangling our feet from the dock and into the cool water, chatting and catching up with one another.
We cooked and ate plenty too, including Pacific Northwest salmon and blackberries picked from around the neighborhood. I even made her a birthday cake (coconut flour) filled with plum jam. But I forgot about using the teff I had!
They're planning to come back next year, at which point I will pull the flour jar out of the freezer to make these waffles just for them.
Teff and Coconut Waffles
This recipe, adapted from Alice Medrich, is free of both dairy and gluten. You might feel that it's a bit of work to separate the eggs and beat the whites separately. However, the fluffed up whites do give the waffles lightness that I find worth the effort. The shredded coconut adds texture, and the coconut oil provides crispness. If you prefer to use butter instead, go for it! I am a staunch member of the I Love Butter Club. Just make sure you eat these waffles while they are warm and crisp. That is when they are at their very best.
Makes 5 large waffles or 8 smaller ones.
1 cup teff flour
1/4 cup dried, shredded coconut (unsweetened)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2 large eggs, separated and at room temperature
1 cup warm coconut milk (or, substitute whole milk or other milk of your choice)
1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar
2 tablespoons coconut sugar (or, substitute brown sugar)
Preheat oven to 200°. Prepare a baking sheet and set aside.
In a medium bowl, whisk together teff flour, coconut, baking powder and salt. Add the two egg yolks and milk, stirring together until combined and no flour lumps remain.
In a clean, dry mixing bowl place egg whites and cream of tartar. Beat until egg whites start to form soft peaks. Sprinkle in the sugar and continue beating until the sugar is incorporated and the whites just start to form stiff peaks but are not dry.
Fold egg whites into flour mixture, using a light touch, until just combined.
Pour batter into waffle iron and cook according to the manufacturer's instructions. Place waffles on baking sheet and keep warm in the oven as you cook the remaining batter.
Serve warm with the topping of your choice. We're plain sorts around here when it comes to waffles. Or, call us purists, as our household preference is for a generous pour of maple syrup.