A few months ago, a co-worker told me you can bake with flour made from birch bark. I assumed my co-worker was exaggerating, but checked it out.
Surprisingly, birch bark can be made into flour and used in baking. In fact, bark flour was at one time common. The Scandinavians and Native Americans used it in bread. Once believed to be the food of paupers, evidence now shows that the wealthy ate bark flour too. Baked goods made from bark may have even been a status symbol.
How to Make Birch Bark Flour
You can harvest your own bark, but it’s not as simple as it sounds. Harvesting bark from a living birch can kill the tree. You can gather bark from a recently fallen tree. But the tree mustn’t have any signs of rot, and the harvesting requires a special cutting technique. Instead of harvesting the bark myself, I ordered organic birch bark from Amazon for this recipe. Why risk killing a tree if you can buy the bark ready to use?
Birch bark flour is easy to make and fills your kitchen with a pleasant woodsy scent. I used these 5 simple steps to make the flour:
- Roast the birch bark in a pre-heated oven at 350° for 20 minutes.
- Allow the bark to cool for 20 – 30 minutes.
- Pour bark into a food processor and grind into a coarse salt consistency.
- Using a mortar and pestle grind the cooled bark into a fine salt consistency.
- Sift the flour to remove larger pieces. Repeat as necessary.
How to Use Birch Bark Flour
Cooking with birch bark flour can be a tricky. Bark flour doesn’t bind well in baked goods as all purpose flour does. It is best to substitute small amounts of all purpose flour with birch bark flour. I suggest substituting only 1/4 to 1/3 bark flour in the entire recipe. This is the recipe I followed:
Shortbread Cookies Recipe
- 3/4 cup of all purpose flour
- 1/4 cup of birch bark flour
- 1/4 cup of white sugar
- 1/4 cup of butter
- pinch of salt
- Mix the white flour, bark flour, sugar, and salt together.
- Blend in the butter until it’s incorporated.
- Give the mixture a few quick kneads until it comes together.
- Roll the cookie dough into balls and flatten with a fork or your hand.
- Bake for about 15 minutes at 350° degrees.
- Finally, set your timer! By the time I realized I forgot to set the timer, my cookies were burnt.
Finished Baked Goods
The texture was unusual and was nothing like your typical shortbread biscuit. It reminded me of when I was a child and I chewed my wooden popsicle stick. So not the best texture, not terrible, but not appetizing either.
The flavour surprised me. My research showed bark flour has a somewhat bitter flavour and a strong wintergreen scent. Although I didn’t taste any wintergreen, the bitterness was mild in the finished baked goods. But the raw cookie dough was tasty.
If I hadn’t burned the cookies, they would have been decent. The flavour of the cookies was good. And the texture was better than expected. Would I make them again? As long as someone else makes the flour, I will make these cookies again. Next time though, I’ll remember to set the timer.
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