Meet Miss March: teff. It’s as tiny as a poppy seed, so tiny, in fact, that the nutrient-rich bran and germ aren’t ever removed in processing, so it’s always a whole grain.
That’s whole teff on the left and teff flour on the right. It’s a dietary staple in Ethiopia, where the flour is used for injera, the flatbread that’s eaten daily in practically every household. Ever wonder why those Ethiopian marathoners do so well? Forget powerful muscles and good genetics. It’s the teff, people.
Here in the US, teff has grown in popularity, in part because it holds promise for being a suitable substitute for wheat, appealing to those looking to avoid gluten. Some folks are predicting teff will be the next “big thing.” Watch your back, quinoa!
Teff is particularly appealing because of its nutrient density. A tiny powerhouse, teff tops ALL grains for calcium content. One cup of cooked teff has 123 milligrams of calcium, roughly the amount you’d find in a half cup of cooked spinach or a scant 1/2 cup of whole milk yogurt. It’s also rich in fiber, vitamin C, and protein.
For baking, teff flour can be a magical addition. It worked wonders in these Coconut Walnut Scones, a recipe that’s been in the works for nearly a year. The scones were never quite right until I swapped out some of the whole wheat flour for teff. The soft, dark grains add a beautiful brown to the color and a mild nuttiness to the flavor. The result is a tender, tasty, sweet, and textured scone that to my tastebuds, beats out more traditional white flour ones. I also tinkered with teff in a blondie batter, substituting one-third of the all-purpose flour for teff flour to deliciously winning results.
Not so successful, at least according to my children, was cooking teff on the stove top into a warm breakfast cereal. I used three parts water to one part teff, simmered it for about 20 minutes, and topped it with fruit, nuts, and honey. If you are a fan of cream of wheat or cream of rice, this might be a nutrient-rich alternative. Just be warned that your kids may not fall in line on this one.
My overall takeaway on teff? It’s well worth adding teff flour to your whole grain pantry for enriching and beautifying baked goods, most especially these scones. I figure if I eat enough teff, I’ll be right in there with the Ethiopians at the next marathon.
COCONUT WALNUT TEFF SCONES
If you can’t find teff flour, feel free to substitute another mild-tasting whole grain flour or up the amount of whole wheat flour to 1 1/2 cups. These are best served while still warm, preferably with apricot, sour cherry, raspberry, or another tangy jam.
1/2 cup teff flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/2 cup cold unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup chopped pitted dates
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Cover two baking sheets with a Silpat or parchment paper.
In a large bowl, add the teff flour, whole wheat flour, coconut, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cardamom. Mix well with a fork. Add the cubes of cold butter and use a fork, your fingers, or a pastry cutter to break the butter into the flour until it is in tiny, pea-size pieces evenly distributed into the flour mixture.
Add the dates and walnuts to the dough and mix well. Drizzle the buttermilk over the dough and gently stir with a fork just until the ingredients are evenly mixed in and the dough comes together. Don’t over mix.
Spread a little flour over a cutting board and invert the scone dough on top of it. Gently pat the dough together into a round so it is about 8 1/2 inches in diameter. Use a large knife to cut the dough into 10 triangles.
Space the scones apart on the two baking sheets. Bake until the scones are cook through and slightly darker around the edges, about 30 minutes.
Remove and enjoy while still warm with your favorite jam.
Makes 10 scones.