A commitment to healthier eating is kept with small, consistent adjustments. That probably sounds like a ridiculous statement coming from the cook who shared steak & potato pizza and decadent bananas Foster ice cream within the past few weeks, but I don’t necessarily mean just counting calories. I’m referring to more sweeping lifestyle changes that incorporate healthier choices and become the norm. Every time I have tried to “diet,” my plan falls apart, and I am quite accomplished at beating myself up under those circumstances. It is better, I have found, to find a few things that I can do without feeling cheated and simply apply those things across the board in my cooking repertoire. Eating healthier in general helps me feel better about the more luxurious things I enjoy in “moderation.”
For example, I hardly ever eat highly processed foods—including meat with nitrites and pantry items containing high fructose corn syrup or hydrogenated oils. On the rare occasions that I do consume those things, it’s because I am ordering in a restaurant where the ingredients list is not easily reviewed. I ditched soft drinks a long time ago, and I make my own salad dressings most of the time, using vinegar or fruit juice, spices and extra virgin olive oil. We are diligent to seek out grass-fed beef (and we don’t eat nearly as much as we once did) and free-range chicken, and we are big supporters of the local butcher shop that carries responsibly raised pork.
The biggest change I’ve made over the past several years, though, is a shift toward whole grains in the baked goods I eat, and this got a lot easier when I started making my own bread at home. Not every recipe I make is 100% whole grain (including this one, which checks in at about 65%), but swapping white flour with some amount of whole wheat has been a smart decision that is easy to stick with. Nutrition experts rank whole grains more highly for two main reasons—the fiber they bring to a dish, and the complex carbohydrates that help keep our blood sugar levels regulated.
If you bake at home, and you want to try shifting toward whole grain, I highly recommend picking up a bag of “white whole wheat” flour, made by King Arthur Baking Company. I am not a paid representative of this company (though my friends and family have said I should be, as much as I rave), but from one friend to another, I don’t mind telling you that this one product has changed the way I bake and eat, and I can hardly notice a difference in a typical recipe. Unlike some whole wheat flours, which are made from hard red wheat and carry a slight bitter flavor, King Arthur’s white whole wheat flour is produced from exactly that—hard white wheat—and it behaves and tastes almost exactly the same as an all-purpose flour. It can be swapped in 1:1 in most recipes for breads, pancakes, cookies and muffins. If you want to make a gradual switch, start by subbing about one-fourth of the total flour with the white whole wheat, then increase it to your liking as you go. Over time, you may find all-white breads to be flat and bland. That has certainly been the case at our house.
For these soft wraps, I’ve taken a recipe that I posted in May 2020, when my blog was still in its infancy, and I’ve flipped the ratio of flours so that it uses twice as much white whole wheat as all-purpose flour. That earlier recipe for Soft Pita Breads is still great, and I’ve linked to it so you can check out the original. But this version, in all its whole grain glory, turned out so good with the falafel we made at home recently that it will become my go-to. What makes the pita breads so soft and bendy is an unusual technique of pre-cooking a portion of the flour before adding the rest of the ingredients. The pitas are “baked” on a griddle rather than in the oven, or you can use a dry cast-iron skillet if that’s what you have.
This recipe is easy even for beginning bakers, and unlike most of my bread-related shares, it does not depend on sourdough starter.
2 cups white whole wheat flour* (see notes)
1 1/4 cups boiling water (plus up to 2 Tbsp. additional water)
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 cup dried potato flakes*
1 Tbsp. milled flax seed (optional, but so good for you)
1 1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. onion powder (optional)
1 tsp. instant yeast*
2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
When measuring by volume, it’s important to fluff the flour first to avoid compacting it in the measuring cup. For best results, follow the fluff-sprinkle-level method.
Fellow label readers, you may find it difficult to find dried potato flakes that aren’t filled with dozens of unknown ingredients. Most “instant mashed potato” brands don’t make the cut in my recipes, but I have found two sources that are truly just potatoes, and that is the way to go. One is the 365 brand, available at Whole Foods and on Amazon, and the other is this one from Bob’s Red Mill. I promise, for my next batch, I will test a recipe that uses cooked potatoes.
Take note of what kind of yeast you have. Instant dry yeast is not the same as “active dry” yeast. The latter must be proved in warm water before using, whereas instant yeast can be added directly with the other dry ingredients. If you only have active dry yeast, try reserving 1/4 cup of the boiling water. Let it cool to bathwater temperature and dissolve the yeast in it for about 10 minutes. Add this mixture with the rest of the dry ingredients as directed in the recipe.