Experimenting With White Whole Wheat Flour: Cherry Pie

I’ve been meaning to try baking with King Arthur Flour’s white whole wheat flour for quite some time. White whole wheat flour is ground from a different variety of wheat–hard white winter wheat, to be exact–than the usual whole wheat flour which comes from hard red winter wheat. Lacking the tannin that comes with the coloring of the bran in red wheat, whole grain flour ground from white wheat is supposed to be milder in flavor and paler in color. (Not that the color of whole wheat bothers me, mind you–even when I was a kid, I preferred my bread to be brown–it had more flavor that way.)

But alas, I didn’t get down to experimenting until yesterday, when I decided to make my first cherry pie of the season using fresh local sour cherries, only a little bit of sugar, butter from grass fed cows and of course, the white whole wheat flour. Instead of just replacing a portion of the all purpose flour in my recipe with white whole wheat, I decided to try making pie with just the whole wheat.

And you know–it turned out pretty darned tasty.

I added an extra tablespoon of raw sugar to the dough to make up for the less mild flavor of the whole wheat flour, and added a tiny bit extra of water–about two tablespoons worth–to make up for the fact that the whole wheat flour is drier. Those were the only changes I made to my usual dough recipe and when the pie was in the oven, it smelled amazingly good. /it smelled like I had made the crust out of nuts or something, so intense was the deep brown aroma that wafted through the house.

How did it taste?

I really liked the flavor–it was sweet and nutty, with a strong wheat flavor–like bulgar wheat, in fact. It complimented the sour cherries rather well–their tart, sweet flavor and velvety texture went well with the rustic crust.

My one complaint was that the crust wasn’t very flaky, probably because of the gluten content in the flour. Next time, I will go half and half with the white whole wheat and all purpose flour and see if I can strike a balance between whole grain goodness and flavor and the flakiness that all purpose flour provides.

But, even so, I can see using this all whole wheat crust for something other than a fruit pie. Like a quiche, one with potatoes, kale, mushrooms and a mixture of strong cheeses like extra sharp cheddar and aged gouda. I also think this crust would be great for a Jamaican meat patty–imagine a turnover baked from this nut-like pastry dough filled with meat seasoned with allspice, Scotch bonnet peppers, scallions, garlic and thyme.

Or what about a samosa pie? Bake the curried potato and pea filling for samosas into a pie. Or mattar paneer. Oooh. Mattar paneer pie.

Geez, I am drooling just thinking about it.

Anyway, here is the recipe for the low-sugar all whole wheat cherry pie I made yesterday. If any of you try it out, let me know what you think. I mean, I know that pie isn’t an intrinsically healthy food, but it is kind of nice to eat it and not feel too awfully guilty over it.

Sour Cherry Pie With Whole Wheat Crust

6 cups pitted sour cherries
scant 1/2 cup raw sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons butter, cut into small cubes
2 3/4 cups white whole wheat flour
2 tablespoons raw sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup very cold butter
1/2 cup ice water, plus two to four tablespoons if needed–start with the 1/2 cup and go from there


Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Toss cherries, sugar, cornstarch and vanilla extract in a bowl. Set aside.

In a large bowl, mix flour, sugar and salt together well. Cut butter into very small pieces, and scatter over the top of the flour. Using a pastry cutter, cut the butter into the flour until the pieces resemble coarse crumbs, with the largest being the size of a a large pea.

Add the 1/2 cup of water, and with your hands, bring the flour and butter mixture together until it forms a dough. If you need more water, sprinkle more over the dough a tablespoon at a time. Handle the dough as little as possible, gathering it together and patting it into a ball. Do not compress it or squeeze it together.

Cut the dough into two roughly equal pieces. Pat these pieces into discs about 1″ thick. Wrap them in saran wrap and place them in the refrigerator to firm up.

Roll out one disc of dough for your bottom crust. Place in a pie pan and trim so that 1/2″ inch from the rim of the pie pan. Add cherry mixture and sprinkle the two tablespoons of butter cut into small pieces over the filling. Roll out the second disc, drape over the pie and trim to the same size as the bottom crust. Pinch dough together at the edges and flute using your fingers and thumb to make a decorative edge.

Cut a few holes in the center of the pie for steam to vent.

Put into the oven for thirty minutes. After thirty minutes, turn the oven down to 375 degrees F. and turn the pie 180 degrees. If the edges of the crust are browning too much, cover them with strips of foil to protect them. Bake for 35 more minutes or until crust is deep golden brown and the cherries are bubbly and the juices are thickened.


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  1. If I remember correctly, you’re not a huge reader of Cook’s Illustrated (with justified reasons), but they had something in an issue a few months back that I’ve experimented with and had some success in terms of pie crust. They suggested replacing about half the ice water in the dough recipe with vodka, to wet and adhere the dough without making the gluten develop. I’ve tried it several times, with several different alcohols and different flours, and I don’t agree with using half vodka/half water (it makes the dough too hard to work with), but substituting a tablespoon or two in seems to work well, especially for wheat crusts – it makes them flakier (and yeah, I use the KAF white whole wheat too). I prefer bourbon to vodka, but that may just be because I make more pecan and apple pies than anything else. I think any high proof alcohol would work, though…..

    Comment by Alexis E — June 19, 2008 #

  2. Oh, yay! I have just been promised some sour cherries off a friend’s tree and I’ve been trying to find a good recipe to use them in. This sounds perfect.

    Comment by bread and roses — June 19, 2008 #

  3. I’ve been a huge fan of white whole wheat flour subbing for some time now, but had not considered it in pastry (I too like to feel a little less guilty about my sweet tooth). Glad to see it worked so well.

    Comment by Laura — June 19, 2008 #

  4. Is white whole wheat flour the same as whole wheat pastry flour? If so, I think crusts made with it need a little extra salt.
    No sour cherries around here, unfortunately, or I’d have to try that filling.

    Comment by tjewell — June 19, 2008 #

  5. tjewell – The two flours aren’t technically the same, actually. Whole wheat pastry flour is a lot like regular white flour except that some of the bran and endosperm are still there. It’s a mix of hard (high gluten) and soft (low gluten) wheats (usually more soft), with a protein content of 9-12%. It’s usually made from red wheat berries.

    White whole wheat is from a different wheat berry (which is more common in other countries than here), but it’s essentially still whole wheat flour, with all the bran and endosperm included. However, it naturally has a lower gluten (and thus lower protein) content than red wheat, so in its whole wheat form is 9-12% protein. It lacks a lot of the tannins that give red wheat it’s “wheaty” flavor, which can be a plus or a minus depending what you want.

    I suspect that in terms of use in baking, however, they’re very similar, and that if your red wheat pastry crust requires more salt, a white whole wheat one might as well.

    Comment by Alexis E — June 20, 2008 #

  6. Crucial question, Barbara:

    Did I miss the only cherries of the season by missing the farmer’s market this week?? Or do you think they will have some tomorrow?

    Oh, heavens, I do love sour cherry pie. My favorite trick is adding a splash of almond extract to my cherry pie crust – there is just something sexy about the combo of sour cherries and almond flavor (come to think of it, if I were more of an experimental chef, I might try a crust that included some almond flour for this pie. MMMM)

    So have I missed my chance here in Athens?

    Comment by Tammy — June 20, 2008 #

  7. Hi Barbara, I’ve been experimenting for some months and am finding that brand makes a real difference. Since I transfer flour into flour bins, I haven’t yet figured out which is which, but one brand I used at Christmas made a great one:one substitution for everything from pie crust to Christmas cookies. This spring, another brand — I think King Arthur from Trader Joe’s but again, need to confirm — is much more whole-wheat-ish and thus needs tweaking with recipes to get the mix right.

    Comment by Alanna — June 21, 2008 #

  8. Thanks for explaining what white whole wheat flour is. I saw it at the store and was suspicious they had done something weird and artificial to whiten it.

    But if it’s just a different variety of flour I might go ahead and give it a try. I usually like whole wheat stuff, but there are a few things where the wheat flavor is a bit much.

    Comment by Neohippie — June 23, 2008 #

  9. Hi Barbara,
    I tried this recipe yesterday using white whole wheat flour I’d bought from a bulk bin at Whole Foods, and I must say it was really tasty! I halved the recipe and did an uncovered pie with a mixed berry filling rather than cherry. It was definitely a bit denser and less flaky than the standard pie crust but both the friends I served it to and myself loved the nutty taste of it. I think this might become my default pie crust recipe in the future, so thanks a lot for this recipe!

    Comment by EK — July 5, 2008 #

  10. I was thinking of subsituting white whole wheat flour for my Christmas cookies this year. Have you tried this flour for cookies? If so, how was the texture and taste as compared to regular white flour? Thank you!

    Comment by Pat Viglione — September 8, 2008 #

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