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Wheat Germ

May 20, 2010

And, yet again, another bit of recycled food writing.

But I believe in recycling, so this is OK.


I must admit, I feel bad for it. For the most nutritionally dense and flavorful portion of the wheat to be called “germ” is unfortunate. Especially today, when folks do all they can to eradicate germs. However, despite its name, wheat germ is a gem. It’s one of the three major parts of wheat: bran (the outer covering, a source of nonsoluble fiber), endosperm (the starchy substance from which white flour is made) and germ, the embryonic portion that would sprout the next grain of wheat were you to plant it. Wheat germ is a terrific source of protein–20% by weight and fiber (13%). It is also a good source of potassium, thiamine, niacin, and zinc.

Once you purchase wheat germ, don’t waste a moment before you put it into the refrigerator or freezer. The oils in the germ that give it such a good flavor will also cause it to turn rancid if it is not properly stored. Though I am a big fan of wheat germ, I do take food writer Bert Greene’s wisdom to heart when he says, “There are no hard and fast rules for cooking or baking with wheat germ, except for one: do not go overboard.” Use a little wheat germ often and a lot of wheat germ never.
Here are two of my current favorite recipes for wheat germ. Of course, if you want to substitute white flour for the whole-wheat in either one, feel free to do so.

Twice-Textured Poppy Seed Pancakes
This is my adaptation of a Bert Greene recipe. The double texture refers to both the wheat germ and poppy seeds. (To sour milk, add about one tablespoon of lemon juice or vinegar to regular milk.)
½ C. whole wheat pastry flour
¼ C. toasted wheat germ
1 ½ t. poppy seeds
1 ½ t. sugar or honey
½ t. baking powder
¼ t. baking soda
¼ t. salt
1 egg
¾ C. buttermilk or milk soured with lemon juice or vinegar
1 T. unsalted butter, melted, or oil

1. Combine flour, wheat germ, poppy seeds, sugar, baking powder, soda, and salt. Mix well.
2. Whisk the egg, add buttermilk and butter or oil in another bowl.
3. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir until just mixed.
4. Heat a lightly-greased cast-iron skillet until hot. Cook the pancakes, a few at a time, using about 2 large tablespoons per pancake.
Makes about 12 2-3 inch pancakes, which serves 2 adults with no leftovers. The recipe doubles (and triples) quite easily.

Wheat Germ Cookies
I adapted this recipe from the classic More-with-Less Cookbook. In my edition, there’s a delightful comment written by the editor: “Tester’s husband says, ‘They’re good! You make them and I’ll eat them.’ A fair exchange of energies?” These cookies are not very sweet, yet quite delicious. They’re easy to mix up in an electric mixer. Get others to help you roll them out for a family activity!
2 C. flour
1 C. toasted wheat germ
1 C. shortening (I use and recommend Healthy Choice vegetable shortening, which is non-hydrogenated. You can also use butter, which I’ve also done.)
¾ C. sugar
1 egg
1 t. grated orange rind
1 t. vanilla
½ t. salt

Combine everything in a mixing bowl. Beat at low speed until well mixed. Chill dough at least one hour. Roll into 1” balls. Roll in more toasted wheat germ (1/2 – 3/4 C). Place on cookie sheet and bake at 350 for 12-15 minutes.

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