How a Pastry Chef Spends $100 at Whole Foods

January 23, 2017

What would I do with $100 to spend on baking ingredients at Whole Foods? First, let me say that Berkeley, California, where I live, is a paradise for cooks and bakers. It’s hard to think of ingredients one can’t find in independent stores and farmers markets. This shaped my cunning strategy for spending a $100 at Whole Foods.

I decided to seek out ingredientsI haven’t seen elsewhere and ones I’ve never tried and that subsequently sparked my interest in experimentation. I filled my cart with unusual flours, powders, and a couple of fats, one of which is familiar as a component of chocolate, but not normally used in baking! It’s a quirky list to be sure, but at least you’ll know where to find these items if they show up in my future recipe posts.

Here’s what I grabbed, and what (the heck) I was thinking when I reached for it:

  • Tiger nut flour ($11.99): I have heard of this non-grain, non-nut flour made from a tuber, but never used or tasted it. I couldn’t resist. I often get acquainted with a new or unfamiliar flour by making a simple whole egg sponge cake (genoise) with it. This tells me about its flavor, texture, and functional properties and gives me ideas for what to do next.

  • Green banana flour ($5.99): I’ve never even heard of this one. It’s a resistant starch, which might mean it’s a good swap for other starches in gluten-free baking. I’ll likely first try my usual genoise with it.

  • Jovial flour blends ($6.99 each): At last a gluten-free flour blend—one for cakes and one for breads—made primarily with flavorful whole grains (including ancient grains). Most of the gluten free flour blends on the market are made mostly from starch and designed to emulate the flavor, texture, and performance of wheat flour. I’m far more interested in new flavor experiences—and I like the nutritional profiles of whole grains rather than starches. I can’t wait to find out how these taste and whether they deliver pleasing textures.

  • Powdered peanut butter ($5.69): This powder is made from roasted, ground peanuts with a lot of fat removed and nothing weird added. I don’t plan to make instant peanut butter with it, but I do think it might be an inspired way to flavor marshmallows, meringues, and fluffy frostings.

  • Tiger nut oil ($19.99): I’m crazy about flavorful unrefined oils, such as extra-virgin olive oil, walnut, and hazelnut nut oils. Perhaps tiger nut oil will be a good addition to a nutty or seedy savory cracker, and even a non-grain cracker. Of course, I’ll try it my salad, too—which will showcase its pure flavor.

  • Raw cacao butter ($22.99): Given my chocolate connections, I can get plenty of cacao butter when I need it, but I rarely see it in stores (where others can buy it if I call for it in a recipe!). I was excited to see a one-pound package for sale at Whole Foods. Cacao butter is good for all kinds of chocolate work, but I’m most interested in how it works in baking experiments. It might make a great flakey pastry, or interesting substitute for butter or even suet in other baked goods. If this works, you’ll be reading about it.

  • Carob powder ($5.50): When I was growing up, carob was considered a chocolate substitute—it’s brown after all—and always suffered horribly in this comparison. Carob’s own flavor is earthy, with notes of coffee, tropical fruit, and caramel. I plan to reacquaint myself with it by making a creamy carob ice cream, perhaps with ripple of carob sauce or crunchy carob brittle.

  • Freeze dried fruits and fruit powders ($15 each): I’ve never seen such huge variety in one store! I was attracted to the power fruits powders: goji berry, golden berry, pomegranate, and açaí. I’m thinking about making vibrant chiffon or angel food cakes and fruit-infused caramels with these. Of course I’ll use them to flavor marshmallows and frosting.

Tell us: What are some of the baking products you'd buy with $100?

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Alice Medrich is a Berkeley, California-based pastry chef, chocolatier, and cookbook author. You can read more about what she's up to here.

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  • Ivonne Guio
    Ivonne Guio
  • Smaug
  • Riddley Gemperlein-Schirm
    Riddley Gemperlein-Schirm
My career was sparked by a single bite of a chocolate truffle, made by my Paris landlady in 1972. I returned home to open this country’s first chocolate bakery and dessert shop, Cocolat, and I am often “blamed” for introducing chocolate truffles to America. Today I am the James Beard Foundation and IACP award-winning author of ten cookbooks, teach a chocolate dessert class on, and work with some of the world’s best chocolate companies. In 2018, I won the IACP Award for Best Food-Focused Column (this one!).


Ivonne G. January 30, 2017
the thing with cacao butter is that is doesn't have a "creamy" state, either is solid or is liquid, no stage in between, so I don't think it could be use in pastrys as a replacement for butter :(. But, if you find a way, let us know!
Smaug January 23, 2017
Had to look up "Tiger Nut"- I never heard of them. Turns out that they come from cyperus esculentus, a common and obnoxious weed in the western U.S. and much of the rest of the world. The genus Cyperus (commonly known as sedges) is a group of grasslike perennials growing mostly in marshy conditions- Papyrus (Cyperus Papyrus) is the other most prominent member of the group. The most recognizable food use given in Wikipedia is a sort of Horchata made in Spain and Latin America.
Riddley G. January 23, 2017
Hi! Here's some more info (which we have now linked to in the post) that you might find helpful:
Smaug January 23, 2017
Sort of an interesting blog, and one of the more informative "comments" sections. I wonder if a Paranthropus Boisei restaurant would fly.