I want my kids to eat barley for breakfast every morning — but it wasn’t happening. My passion was fueled by the research I found; eating barley and rye for breakfast can keep your blood sugar levels down for 10 hours, and improve cognitive function throughout the day. They’d end up being the school geniuses if I could just get them to eat that barley! A serving of barley contains as much protein as a cup of milk. Research by Anne Nillson at Lund University found that, no surprise here, that when the barley was refined, the barley was not as effective.
Searching through two of the latest and greatest whole grain cookbooks, King Arthur Flour Whole Grain Baking and Whole Grains Every Day, Every Way, I found no recipes containing barley, save for non-breakfast foods like stews and soups, (hey kids, we’re having stew for breakfast!) barley flour was used in all the recipes for any sweet and savory bread.
The problem with barley, according to King Arthur Flour Whole Grain Baking is that “although it is a high protein whole grain, the gluten it produces is weak and unsuitable for building structure. ”
I tried cooking it as a porridge, but I ended up eating all of that. Then, the kids started picking up the whole kernels of barley (always buy unpearled for maximum nutrition) and started chewing on the dry kernels, not bad, as I continued to read. Then, I found the breakthrough I needed.
Here in King Arthur Flour Whole Grain Baking was a paragraph that saved me lots of trouble: Adding cooked grains to bread:
We encourage you to add those leftover bits of porridge, cooked brown rice or other cooked grains to your bread dough; they give bread wonderful flavor and texture… Mix all the dough ingredients till they’re combined (using a few tablespoons less liquid, if you’re using more than 1/4 cup or so cooked grains), stir or knead briefly ( a couple of minutes should do it), cover the bowl, and let the dough rest.
Using this simple tip, you can add barley to virtually any bread recipe you have. So, I adapted my blueberry pancake recipe with barley — these also make great muffins — just pour into muffin tins. The first step, of course, is building up a stash of barley to have on-hand, waiting in your freezer. Just cook 2 cups dry barley with 6 cups of water (3-quart pot) for 40-50 minutes to get 5-6 cups cooked barley. Freeze on a cookie sheet, then store them loosely in a zip-lock freezer bag — and pull out what you need. Whole Grains Every Day explains this in detail.
So here’s my blueberry recipe, which I tripled, and store the baked goods individually in the freezer. The frozen pancakes, we treat like pop tarts — just pop them in the freezer and go. The muffins get zapped in the microwave.
- 1 cup milk
- 1/2 cup buttermilk – minus 1 tablespoon (Or use yogurt, or add a teaspoon of vinegar to a 1/2 cup of milk. Let it sit until it curdles — a few minutes.)
- 1 cup whole wheat flour
- 1/2 cup yellow stone-ground cornmeal
- 1/2 cup cooked barley
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 – 1/2 cup ground flax-seed (always keep this in the freezer.)
- 1 cup blueberries
In a large bowl, combine the flour, cornmeal, barley baking powder, baking soda, flax-seed and salt. Stir in the milks until combined. Fold in the blueberries and let the batter sit for 5 minutes.Lightly oil a skillet heat over medium heat. When hot, pour the batter into little puddles. When bubbles start to form on top, it’s time to flip.
For muffins, pour into muffin tins half-way, and bake at 400 degrees until golden brown, 18-20 minutes.
Substitute any fruit — strawberries, raisins, or how about chocolate and banana? I make these with my kids around — they know exactly what’s going in and why, and they help. I’ve even added pureed beets and canned pumpkin to the batter, totally Deceptively Delicious.