On Grießbrei and Cream of Wheat

This post originally launched April 18, 2008. I bring it back today because we’re going back into fall, but also because I finally have a recipe to share with you.  See the notes below, and enjoy!  This breakfast is perfect as the weather cools, and a great alternative to oatmeal.  

Cream of Wheat or Grießbrei?

I go through stages of preferred breakfast foods. Last year, in Radeberg, I ate cream of wheat (Ger. Grießbrei) every day for breakfast. I’ve never had a recipe for it. It’s the first thing I learned to make on the stove. In kindergarten I spent half days at school, and for lunch my mom and I would cook a pot of cream of wheat, as even with sugar and cinnamon it’s considered a verifiable lunch food in Germany. I remember my mother teaching me to stir constantly and all over the bottom of the pot to prevent anything from burning. It was the first culinary technique I mastered, and I had it down pat before I was six.

I had a routine every day in my sunny Amelie kitchen to turn on the water kettle for tea and pour whole milk in a pot to boil on my two-burner hot plate. Sometimes I’d get side-tracked and the milk would bubble up and overflow in the bat of an eye. The stench would then penetrate the whole apartment all day.

The proportions were always eyeballed, which is why I’ve never blogged about it before, but the goal remained the same: a thick custard of minuscule wheat kernels, cooked to their swelling point and held together by creamy starch. I quickly learned in my Amelie kitchen that whisking in the tiny granules produced a fluffier, more delicate cereal. I also learned I liked the smallest grind possible, which adds a velvety texture.

Just before sitting down I would steep the tea and pour a glass of Multivitaminsaft. This is a juice made from tropical fruits and available at any German supermarket. One sip tickles your tongue with the pleasures of many different flavors and is much more stimulating than regular orange juice. Its acidic, fruity flavor goes nicely with the tannic tea and thick, sweet Grießbrei. To me that year, nothing was more satisfying than sitting down to this wholesome, steaming breakfast every morning.

I’d make it now, but no American brand of cream of wheat I can find grinds the wheat the right way. Americans insist cream of wheat should be made from hard wheat. Both Cream of Wheat and Farina brand cereals (which are the closest things I could find in the States), use farina wheat, which as far as I know is a hard wheat. However, Germans only use soft wheat (Weichweizen) for their Grießbrei, and reserve Hartweizengrieß for noodles. Using hard versus soft wheat creates a very different texture, one which I think is undesirable.

Update: I have found that while the name brands at regular American grocery stores are undesirable, you can find cream of wheat in Indian grocery stores under the name of “sooji.”  There is regular ground “sooji” and fine-ground “sooji,” and for this you want the regular grind (labeled just as “sooji”).  The fine grind will make it too mushy and just the wrong texture.  I have also measured out proportions, so here is my recipe for Cream of Wheat:

Cream of Wheat

1 cup 2% or higher milk (whole milk is delicious, skim will have no flavor you may as well cook it with water – yuck)
2.5 Tbsp sooji (yes, scoop out exactly five tablespoons – you will not regret it)
1/2 cup applesauce, canned pears or other fruit, or a sprinkling of cinnamon & sugar for topping

1. In a saucepan, bring milk to the boil and then remove from heat.

2. Whisk in the sooji and return to a medium heat.

3. Whisk constantly at the boil until thickened, making sure kernels do not stick to the bottom of the pan.

4. Serve hot with fruit, or refrigerate and eat chilled (hot is best though!).

Yields 1 serving.

3 Responses to “On Grießbrei and Cream of Wheat”

  1. I tried substituting a cup of egg nog left over from Christmas (crossing my fingers that the time between holidays and New Years is not to be fraught with gastro-gram) in my double serving of Grieß. It may, or may not, have been a bad idea.
    What I did, after tasting the original I added more cinnamon (double dashes) and luckily (since, it wasn’t exactly swimming) we were gifted a plum jam (it looks like a preserve to me) so I put in a big spoon scoop of the preserve/jam. (Longer than I would have liked to spend making breakfast but,) It’s wintry taste left me feeling prepared for the cold months ahead. tyvm
    Die Hälfte davon still on the stovetop. =\

    • Will, I’m glad you experimented! The best successes sometimes come from trying new things, and some flops are certainly a part of the process of cooking. The plum preserve sounds delicious! -Kerstin

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