I’ve been thinking about this one for a couple of months. My friend Lisa has been after me to write something about wheat berries. She says it’s one of her favorite “health-food” things. The term “wheat berry” refers to the entire kernel of wheat except for the hull. That means the bran, the germ, and the endosperm. They can be toasted and sprinkled over salads, soaked and sauteed with an Asian slant–garlic, ginger, soy, scallion, and sesame see oil–and done lots of other ways, many of which come out looking and tasting a bit like health food. That’s good for me, but I think the term “health food” can put some people off (you know, those “meat-and-potatoes” kind of people). You can get wheat berries at most health food stores, just don’t tell anyone.
I’m going to do here is introduce wheat berries to you in a luscious dessert, one that is perfect for this kind of weather, because this one will taste absolutely yummy served warm. And who doesn’t like a nice warm dessert? The pudding is a lot like rice or tapioca pudding, but the berries make a nice different flavor.
Wheat Berry Pudding
1 cup wheat berries
2 tablespoons plus 3 cups low-fat milk, divided
1 cinnamon stick
1 strip orange zest (1/2 by 2 inches)
Pinch of Kosher salt
1/2 cup pure maple syrup
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Sort through the wheat berries carefully, looking for small stones, discard if you find any. Rinse well, and then place the berries in a large heavy saucepan, and add water to cover by 2 inches. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to medium-low, cover and simmer, adding more water if necessary, until the wheat berries are tender, about an hour. Drain well.
Place the wheat berries in a food processor with 2 tablespoons milk. Process, scraping down the sides as necessary until most of the wheat berries are coarsely chopped (some may remain whole).
Combine the chopped wheat berries, the remaining milk, cinnamon stick, orange zest, and salt in a large heavy pot, bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium-low and cook, stirring often to prevent sticking, until the mixture is thick, 25-30 minutes. Remove from the heat, discard the cinnamon stick and orange zest, and stir in the maple syrup and vanilla.
Serve warm or chilled with a light drizzle of maple syrup and a sprinkle of ground cinnamon, and perhaps a dollop of maple yogurt, if desired. If the pudding gets too thick as it stands, stir in a bit of milk.