Definitions of Food Ingredients
A Glossary of Grains and Food Ingredients
You can also call this plant “pigweed” but “amaranth” sounds so much better. Cultivated widely for its grains during the times of the Incas and Aztecs, amaranth is a great source of protein, dietary fiber and valuable minerals. It is also rich in the amino acid lysine, which is rare for a cereal crop. The plant grows in many vibrant colors and can be used as a leafy vegetable or in dyes.
But we love it for the versatile grains, which can be ground into flour, popped like popcorn or even flaked like oatmeal.
Though barley has attained its fame for the alcohol fermented from it, it’s a grain first and foremost. Actually, second-most, behind wheat importance-wise. The most nutritional barley is “hulled barley”, which unlike “pearl barley” still has its bran. Barley requires a lot of effort to grow from start to finish. A heavy rain close to seed time will kill the crop and the harvest is difficult.
But for its problems, there are also benefits. Barley will grow in soil with high salt content and withstand cold temperatures. As long as they keep growing it, we’ll keep using it.
- Black Sesame Seeds:
Similar in all nutritional ways to unhulled sesame seeds, this black variety has more concentrated flavors.
- Blue Cornmeal:
With a sweeter, nuttier taste than other corns Blue Corn, and the cornmeal made from it generally has 30 percent higher protein content than yellow corn. True blue corn is still rather rare, so be on the lookout for products that just add blue food dye to regular corn. Most of this grain is still grown in Central and South America, but many southwestern U.S. states have started picking up the crop.
All cereal grains have bran, which is the hard outer layer of the grain. Along with the germ, it is what makes a grain a whole grain. All bran is rich in fiber, starch, protein, fats, vitamins and dietary minerals. Though it can be used on its own after being separated from the grain, a significant portion of the nutrients are lost in the process.
- Brown Rice:
Brown rice had a bad rep for a long time because it was thought of as less pure than white rice. Luckily, today we know better! What makes the rice brown is the layer of bran that surrounds the grain. That little layer contains great B vitamins, oils, fiber and minerals. All that lends brown rice its nutty flavor and slight sticky flavor. Brown rice is also a complex carbohydrate, whereas white rice is a simple carbohydrate.
When you think of buckwheat, your first thought is probably of pancakes. Or maybe those little pillows you use for your neck — which are stuffed with the grain hulls. Most buckwheat people eat is from buckwheat flour. The grain is gluten-free and is an excellent wheat substitute. Buckwheat has an earthy taste some people compare to mushrooms. It also contains rutin, a medicinal antioxidant that also strengthens capillaries and is used to treat vascular disorders.
- Cereal Grain:
A term for the collective group of grains harvested from grasses with edible seeds such as wheat, oats and corn. Those seeds are technically fruits, called caryopsis, but we all know them as “grains.” The world “cereal” stems from the Roman goddess of harvest and agriculture, Ceres. As a group, cereal grains are the largest crop in the world and are responsible for feeding more people than any other crop.
Though each grain has its specific values, they are all great sources of starch and protein. When used as whole grains, cereal grains also provide dietary fiber and essential fatty acids.
Flax is one of the most versatile cereal grains in the world. Also known as Linseed, it was first domesticated by humans in the Fertile Crescent thousands of years ago and since then has been used to make fabrics, dye, paper, soap — and bread, of course.
Some of the earliest linen in the world was made from flax fabric over 5.000 years ago. The seeds are used to make linseed oil, a key ingredient in painting as it dries relatively fast.
The oil contains high quantities of Omega-3, a necessary fatty acid, but studies have shown people have a harder time digesting the omega-3 from flax as compared to other sources, like fatty fish.
Though natural flax seeds come in yellow and brown varieties, scientists created a new yellow flax seed called “Omega” which makes the acid more digestible. Plus it has a buttery nut flavor.
Vegans often use one part flaxseed oil combined with three parts water as an egg substitute. Flax is so ingrained in the human experience, that it is a symbol on the flag of the Northern Ireland Assembly and was also minted on the back of the British One Pound coin for a time.
- Folic Acid:
Folic acid is a form of Vitamin B9, which is essential for producing new cells. Because of that role, B9 takes on particular importance during pregnancy. You’ll find it in leafy vegetables, and it’s used to fortify many breakfast cereals.
Gluten is what makes bread as we know it possible. It’s a mixture of proteins and starch found in many of the cereal grains. If you’ve ever kneaded dough, you know the way it sticks and stretches. Gluten is what allows the dough to flex like that and still hold together. Similarly, that elasticity allows the bread to be leavened and fluff up when it bakes. You’ll notice breads made from low-gluten grains such as spelt have a smaller, denser profile. Most wheat allergies are due to people’s inability to process gluten. There is a severe autoimmune disorder called celiac disease (coeliac disease) which requires a gluten-free diet.
The germ is the "heart" of the cereal kernel, the embryo of the seed, and a concentrated source of several essential nutrients including Vitamin E, folate (folic acid), phosphorus, thiamin, zinc and magnesium. You can buy germ that’s been separated from its grain during milling (such as wheat germ).
This is one of those confusing things about diet, because it’s a mineral we eat, but it’s also used to make skyscrapers. Thought to be the tenth most abundant element in the universe, we use iron in our bodies to create proteins and blood cells. Whole grains and molasses are great sources of iron in breads. Iron absorption from vegetables is not as effective as from meat.
- Kamut (pronounced “ku’ moot”):
Kamut is a funny grain because it’s trademarked. The actual name of the grain is QK-77 and “Kamut” is just a fancy brand name taken from the Egyptian word meaning “Soul of the Earth.” We’d say it’s all a bunch of hype, but Kamut is a seriously super grain. The new cereal is two to three times the size of common wheat with 20–40% more protein, higher in lipids, amino acids, vitamins and minerals.
Not so much one thing as a blanket term applied to various grass seeds with similar qualities. The five major millet varieties are proso, foxtail, barnyard, browntop and pearl. All are rich in B vitamins, calcium, iron and zinc. Millet flour can only make flatbread on its own because it is gluten free. But, as it’s almost identical to wheat in nutritional value, millet is the go-to alternative for people with wheat allergies or celiac disease. Though wheat has stolen the spotlight from millet in the baking world, millet has a great history as food for the masses. The production of millet has been traced back as far as 7000 BCE in China.
Also known as vitamin B-3, niacin plays essential roles in energy metabolism and DNA repair. Not having enough in your diet can actually make you less tolerant of cold temperatures. Alternately, too much niacin is a problem and can lead to blindness. Niacin is in almost everything from meats to mushrooms.
Even though oats aren’t suitable to make bread on their own, they are still an important and nutritional cereal grain. You can eat them raw or cooked, but usually we bi-peds go for the latter variety. Oats were, at one time, known as “haver” and a remnant of that old age lingers in the term for livestock feeding bags – still called “haversacks.” Oats grow best in regions with cool, wet summers — like Scotland. Because of its hardiness, oats have been a staple food for populations in Northern Europe for more than 2,000 years. The Scots loved oats because it grew better in their climate than wheat, which requires more sunshine and warmer temperatures to grow optimally, and it was relatively cheap. The importance of the crop led Scottish farmers to perfect its growth; hence the premium priced paid today for their oatmeal. The Brits, however, considered oats inferior to wheat because they could not be used for bread making. “In England, oats are fed to animals. In Scotland, they feed the people,” a British critic once said. A saucy Scotsman replied: “In England they have the finest horses. In Scotland, we have the finest men.” Leaving aside cultural grudges, in the 1980s scientists discovered oats are especially good at lowering cholesterol. A very happy day for oatmeal lovers worldwide. Oats are high in protein – nearly equivalent to soy protein. They are also part of a gluten free diet, but they must be “pure oats” – not grown or stored near wheat, barley or other gluten-containing cereal grain.
- Omega 3:
Omega-3 is a fatty acid and there is no doubt that it’s beneficial – in fact, it’s “essential.” The Omega-3 that is in our bread is ALA, which is a precursor to EPA and DHA, which are predominantly available from animal sources – though recently they have been taken from algae sources. It is pretty easy for meat-eaters to get EPA and DHA, but vegetarians need to synthesize it from ALA. Flax is one of the best vegan sources of Omega-3. There are lots of people who will tell you that the ALA doesn't convert that readily, and that you can't get enough DHA and EPA that way. But that hasn't been proven. It just might be a good argument to use if you wanna sell fish oil. The fact is that people like flax, and they believe in its Omega-3, especially vegetarians, like myself. If I listened to the naysayers, there would be no Dave's Killer Bread. When your bread is the most expensive out there, it has to be good. When it comes to creating new products, and improving existing ones, I can't let up. 7 days a week, I havta be dave.
- Poppy Seed:
It’s likely that the poppy seed will never live down its infamous reputation after Elaine tested positive for opium on Seinfeld. Funny as it is, edible poppy seeds come exclusively from opium poppies (despite the many colorful floral varieties). We’re not sure how many slices of killer bread you’d need to eat to get kicked off the football team, but you probably know how Dave likes to load his breads with stuff so be warned.
- Pumpkin Seed:
The largest pumpkin on record weighed in just under 1,500 pounds. You gotta wonder how many seeds they got out of it. When cooked, pumpkin seeds are very similar to sunflower seeds in consistency and nutritional value. Who knows why most people only eat them one time a year? Not so in Latin America, where the word “pepitas”, which mean literally means “seeds”, is common slang for the roasted snack. Of course, it’s hard to break a habit that’s been around since the Aztecs.
Similar to amaranth, quinoa is classified as a pseudograin because it is a leafy plant, not a grass. That doesn’t diminish its historical importance to South American cultures, where the Incas called it the “mother of all grains”. Quinoa is very high in protein –12 – 18 percent – and its balance of amino acids gets more mileage out of the protein. Though the percentages are similar, it takes less quinoa protein than wheat protein to meet dietary needs.
A.K.A. Vitamin B2 (seriously, who decided all the B vitamins got cool names?). Like the other B vitamins, Riboflavin is important for the metabolism and cell growth.
A close relative of wheat and barley, rye is a cereal grain. It should not be confused with ryegrass, which is better suited for tennis courts than bread making. Since the Middle Ages, rye has been a staple bread ingredient in Central and Eastern Europe. Rye flour has lower gluten content than wheat flour, and contains a higher proportion of soluble fiber. Traditional Pumpernickel is made only using rye flour and meal.
- Sea Salt:
This one’s pretty self-explanatory. Though not supplemented with iodide, as much table salt is, the minerals present in the sea water give sea salt a rich flavor.
- Sesame Seed (unhulled):
Sesame is one of the oldest cultivated plants in the world — we’re talking Babylon, here. As with most whole grains, the unhulled seeds have way more nutrients than their naked brethren. Sesame is rich in calcium, vitamins B and E, and an antioxidant called lignan which has been proven to have cancer-fighting properties. Though sesame originated in Africa and Asia, it’s now grown world-wide.
Spelt is considered an ancient grain and is an ancient form of wheat. Spelt went out of style for a couple centuries but is coming back as people recognize its value as structurally simpler, nutritious wheat alternative.
Spelt doesn’t require fertilizer to grow, so its easier to farm organically, but supplies are lower, so organic spelt is about twice as spendy as organic wheat. Spelt gluten is suitable to leaven bread, and yet it has a simpler structure that is easier to digest. While not a choice for folks with celiac disease, people who have mild sensitivities to wheat can often tolerate, even thrive on, Spelt products.
Some people prefer spelt for its sweet, nutty flavor and rye-like texture. Spelt contains gluten.
Also known as Milo, sorghum is very similar to corn in nutritional value but can withstand more extreme climates when being grown. As a result, most of this grain from the U.S. comes from hot and dry states from Texas to South Dakota. It’s gluten free and has more protein and fat than corn – both of which are good things.
- Sunflower Seed:
Sunflower seeds come in two main varieties, which you can distinguish by the color of their husk (the part you don’t eat). The black-husked variety is rich in nutritional oil that is used in margarine and even a peanut butter-like concoction. The black and white “striper” variety is what we commonly eat. One of the few crops native to the Americas, sunflower seeds can be eaten raw or roasted. Either way, they’re full of good stuff like essential fatty acids, protein, vitamin E, magnesium and dietary fiber. And, like oats, they also lower your cholesterol.
Another of the B vitamins (B1, to be exact), Thiamin helps convert carbs and fat into energy. Whole grains and yeast are excellent sources of Thiamin.
Though in a different way than livestock, grain crops are domesticated and even bred. Trticale is one grain bred by man as a cross of wheat and rye. The result is a crop more durable than wheat and with less gluten, but almost all of wheat’s other beneficial properties. Though flour can be made from the grain, we only use rolled triticale as a whole grain in our Nuts & Grains and 21 Whole Grains breads. It’s not very structure-friendly —kind of like building blocks made of sand.
There are 21 species of walnut trees, all of which produce edible nuts. However, 99 percent of the walnuts available are Persian Walnuts. Walnut nuts are rich in Omega-3.
Wheat is the most important human food grain in the world —an even larger crop than rice. In the 10,000 years since its domestication in the Fertile Crescent (a.k.a. The Cradle of Civilization) wheat has proven itself most useful for making flour. Most bread is made with a wheat flour base even if it is called a “rye” or “oat” bread. Organic wheat halves the yield of the average wheat field, but actually costs less to grow because expensive fertilizers and pesticides aren’t used in its production. But prices at wholesale are generally more expensive due to the higher labor costs.
Yeast is a microorganism classified with mushrooms and molds as fungi. There are around 1,500 species of yeast, though predominantly one species, Saccharomyces cerevisiae is used in baking as a leavening agent. The yeast ferments with sugars in the ingredients to create carbon dioxide gas, which, trapped by the gluten, allows bread to rise when baked.
- Yellow Cornmeal:
Compared to wheat, corn (or maize) gives you much more flour and less bran, but is gluten-free and won’t rise – which is why cornmeal is used predominantly for tortillas, chips and the like.
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