I had my introduction to unique, staple grains long before I ever started eating or baking gluten-free. When I was a student at Ohio University, I interned for the Appalachian Staple Foods Collaborative (ASFC). The ASFC mission is to build a regional bean, grain and perennial nut staple food system in the Appalachia region of Ohio. Some of the first crops ASFC experimented with were millet, amaranth, buckwheat, black turtle beans and adzuki beans.
I participated in ASFC’s work by attending meetings with the Athens Food Policy Council, photographing events and creating presentations. A business called Shagbark Seed & Mill grew out of ASFC collaborations shortly after I graduated and moved to Columbus. Shagbark is a staple food hub, connecting Ohio farmers to millers and local chefs, bakers and consumers. Today Shagbark offers everything from organic stone ground flour from spelt, corn, and buckwheat, to corn tortilla chips and crackers, heirloom popcorn, pinto and adzuki beans. I personally love their tortilla chips the most!
Once I went gluten-free in 2010, I started my own series of experiments at home. Figuring out which flours work well together and how to adapt favorite recipes to suit my gluten-free lifestyle were definitely a learning experience! I have made hard as rocks biscuits and have had more bread and cakes fail to rise during baking than I care to admit. But I have also had successful baking experiments.
The successful recipes have quickly become favorites in my home. I love baking citrus loaf cakes and use everything from blood orange to Meyer lemon or pink grapefruit to flavor them. Ginger gem cookies that I used to make in college when I was venturing into vegan baking have become gluten-free holiday staples. I baked my first apple pie for my birthday one year, adapting a recipe inspired by the television show Pushing Daisies to be gluten free. It was entirely an experiment and completely perfect… so perfect that I have been unable to recreate it!
That’s the beauty of experimenting. I love the challenge of not knowing and having to solve puzzles and work by trial and error. Then there’s the eating – the best experiments are ones with edible results. 😋🍪
That’s where Tenera Grains, a fellow experimenter, comes in. Tenera Grains is a 2,500-acre family farm in southern Michigan. The Smith family has been farming this land since 1837 — that’s seven generations! Prior to 2015, the Smiths grew corn, soybeans, and wheat. But when the price of corn dropped a few years ago, a family friend from Ethiopia suggested they try growing teff. Despite the fact that teff, a grass crop with a very small seed, is native to the hot and dry climate of Eritrea and Ethiopia, the Smith family decided to give it a go. By experimenting and adapting not only their farming but also their harvesting methods, they were able to make farming teff in Michigan work! Today Tenera Grains uses no-till farming and crop rotation to grow teff in a way that is sustainable and works in Michigan’s humid climate.
Prior to Claire Smith reaching out to me to see if I would review Tenera Grains teff flour for my blog, I had only experienced teff in Ethiopian cuisine. The small, ancient grain is used to make injera, a fermented flatbread with a slightly sour taste and an amazingly spongy texture. Not only is teff a gluten-free grain, Tenera Grains is also a farm that is working to grow unique staple crops in my region – I was definitely on board to try some of their teff flour!
The first recipe I made with the brown teff flour Claire sent me was an adaptation from an I Quit Sugar recipe for banana bread. In addition to teff flour, I used one of my favorite gluten-free flours, buckwheat. The teff and buckwheat both give this bread a nice nutty flavor. Instead of mashing my bananas and having a more textured bread, I put all of the ingredients into the blender. Not only does this significantly speed up the time between making and eating the bread, but the smooth batter gives the bread a spongy texture, reminding me of my first taste of teff in injera.
Teff has a ton of health benefits, including a nice amount of protein, calcium, iron and the amino acids leucine and lysine. I plan to try a few more recipes with teff, focusing on healthy, low sugar baked goods. But first, I think I need to make some peanut butter and teff cookies! 😉
This GF Tenera Grains Teff Banana Bread is the perfect accompaniment to a warm cup of tea and a good book on a cold winter day. Enjoy!
GF Teff Banana Bread
Makes one 9×5 loaf of bread
- 1/2 cup buckwheat flour
- 1/2 cup Tenera Grains brown teff flour
- 1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon cardamom
- 2 teaspoons cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon ginger
- 1/2 teaspoon allspice
- 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
- 2 large eggs
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1/4 cup full-fat milk
- 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
- 3 medium, ripe bananas
Directions Preheat oven to 350ºF and line a loaf tin with baking paper. In a blender, combine all ingredients. Blend until smooth. Pour the mixture into the prepared loaf tin. Cook in the oven for 45 minutes or until a skewer inserted comes out clean. Once cooked through, allow the loaf to cool slightly before removing from the tin and slicing into 12 slices. Serve with a slather of butter if you like.
Adapted from Chai-Spiced Banana Bread by I Quit Sugar.
Address: The Farm 14191 Calhoun Rd Addison, Michigan 49220
Social Media: Instagram
Thank you to Tenera Grains, a seventh-generation family farm in southern Michigan, for sponsoring this post.