Monday, June 22, 2015

First Tries Grinding Grain

Here I am, grinding my own grains, virtually on the cusp of living off the grid; well, not quite. I have no plans to buy and store a years worth of foods. But the advantages of grinding your grains extends beyond the possibility of extreme self-reliance. The aroma of the grain, wheat, so far, for me, is amazing. The taste, even on the two pretty mediocre-looking breads I've made, has been fantastic. 

The home mill is lovely, a testament to German ingenuity and skilled manufacturing. No snide remarks; the Germans excel in efficient, organized design. Just a few tips, however. 
(1) Be sure to put the bowl under the shoot. This is obvious, yes, but rushing around or lack of sleep can turn one second of forgetfulness into a kitchen mess.  
(2) Pay attention. Do not walk into another room; do not wash dishes. The bowl underneath the chute that is delivering the freshly ground flour must be continually or pretty frequently turned. Basically, the flour will pile up in one spot and overflow quickly. So turn the bowl and lightly pat down the fresh flour as the grinding continues.
(3) Be ready for less predictability. Flour companies can test the grain and flour to make sure the protein levels and other indicators stay consistent across most batches. When you purchase wheat, rye and other grain berries, and grind them at home, however, your freshly-milled flour may exhibit a broader range in terms of moisture absorption, protein levels, etc., that will affect dough development. This will require somewhat more attention to a specific dough and less heeding of strict recipe instructions.
So excited
Totally excited and nervous to use the new grain mill. Felt like I was stepping onto another planet or diving yet deeper into the bread universe. No question the taste was ramped up, a whole new level of flavor is achievable with freshly-milled grains. Maybe this is all fantasy and it is merely the aroma of the flour that magically produced in one's kitchen. Who cares? The experience of baking and eating the bread is improved. If this is a placebo, as it were, then so be it.

Recipe
This bread was 65 percent, approximately, whole wheat. The hydration percentage was 79 percent, which was, frankly, too high for how I developed the dough and baked it. But the taste was still fantastic.

Soaker
302g whole wheat flour
203g water
5g salt

Mix and cover. Leave out for a few to 24 hours. I left mine out for seven hours. After seven hours, this soaker was like an autolyse with developed gluten strands and requiring of much muscle to incorporate the starter later on.

Sponge
100g starter (110-120 percent hydration, using all-purpose flour)
100g water
100g bread flour

Mix and cover. Leave out until nice and bubbly. My kitchen was about 75 to 80 degrees and this process took about seven hours. The kitchen would have been over 80 degrees for most of the duration, but someone else in the household was displeased with early morning summer heat and turned on the air conditioner.

Dough
Soaker
Sponge
5g salt

Mix the dough and cover. I did three stretch and folds at 20 to 40-minute intervals. I let the dough rise for three hours, but I'm not really sure if it needed a little less time. 

Baking preparation
I did a stretch and fold on the wet counter and with wet hands due to the - you got it - wet dough. Left the dough, covered, to rest for 15 minutes and preheated the oven to 475 degrees with the dutch oven inside. During the 15 minutes, I also greased a bowl with oil and sprinkled flour and sesame seeds on the bottom.

After the 15-minute rest, I shaped the dough, as much as a wet dough could be shaped, and placed it, seam side up, in the oiled and floured bowl.

Baking time was only 36 minutes because this was a small loaf. 

And?
Incredible taste. A level beyond any 60 percent whole grain I've made from store- or farners'-market-bought flour. However, because I made such a small loaf, the dutch oven was really too big. It could have used a little side support. 

Now, to get myself to finish up the store-bought flours in the freezer and move on completely to grinding my own. I might throw away the completely mediocre whole wheat flour I have from a major flour manufacturer.

Now that I've been to a whole new land, as it were, cannot go back.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Intimate Look at Steam in the Oven

See postscript below for additional suggestions from freshloaf members.

Last night, I ruined a perfectly good dough, a dough waiting to turn into a beautiful bread, by forgetting to provide steam. The bread turned out flat and sad, like an emoticon in gray with a frown and tired eyes. This was a valuable lesson because it is pretty simple to make sure that the oven has steam, in fact, steam sufficient to fool your dough into feeling like it is baking in a professional oven or even a backyard brick oven or in an oven reminiscent of the Roman ovens.

This can get expensive. Easier strategies involve some money, but there are alternatives.

Foundation
Buy a baking stone or use oven-safe tiles to put the dough (or parchment paper) on. I have heard of using a baking sheet, preferably with parchment paper, but my breads improved significantly when I started using a baking stone. The bottoms of your breads will be equivalent to that produced by the best bakeries.

Perhaps this did not fit in a "steam" essay, but it has to do with crust and, further, what will go on the stone, if anything. I consider a baking stone a must. It needs little cleaning and no other maintenance. Just preheat before baking and keep it in the oven until it cools down. I generally just leave mine in.

Easiest
Pay the money, about $60, and buy a la cloche. The Wild Yeast blog has instructions to make a DIY la cloche top that will cost a lot less than buying one. Advantage: You get a Roman oven within your oven. The clay bell-shaped contraption covers the dough and becomes a small enough oven that the moisture from the one dough is sufficient for nice oven spring. Disadvantage: Only one bread at a time can be baked, versus maybe two to four without such a space-consuming accouterment. The DIY la cloche mentioned above is small enough for two to fit on an oven rack.

I just use the top of the la cloche over the baking stone. The exception is that I sometimes use an oblong la cloche, the top of which also works well over loaf pans to ensure that sandwich breads get a good rise as well.

Dutch ovens
As far as steam, dutch ovens do the same thing as the la cloche. They create a small oven within the oven and use the moisture from the dough to produce oven spring during the first 10 minutes of baking. Four caveats: (1) Check the maximum oven temperature for the dutch oven. Mine has a maximum of 475 degrees, but cast iron ones can go higher. (2) Aim seems to be everything: The dough has to be dropped into an incredibly hot receptacle. I have done terribly at this, getting my dough all over the side of the dutch oven, and somehow the breads and their shapes turned out fine. (3) Put flour, seeds, and/or parchment paper at the bottom of the dough so that it does not get stuck in the dutch oven. If it does, wait a few hours for the dutch oven to cool before fighting to liberate the bread. (4) Be careful. The dutch oven gets way hotter than anything else I've put into my oven at the same temperature. I use an oven mitt and a kitchen towel when handling it. Stay calm, breath, and be confident.

The dutch oven produces magnificent results in turns of steam. It retains heat like nobody's business and, in a very small space, efficiently converts moisture to steam to get a rise out of a dough while it turns into a bread. The only disadvantages are the intense heat and the spacial aspect as only one bread at a time can be baked.

Ice or water
Most bread books recommend that either ice or water be used to produce steam in the oven for those first crucial 10 minutes of bread baking. The advice will be to put a pan on the lower rack, underneath the baking stone. Preheat the pan with the oven before baking. I always preheat for an hour to make sure everything I am using - whether a baking stone, a dutch oven, or whatever - is sufficiently hot when the dough goes in the oven.

Immediately after placing the dough on the baking stone, pour a cup of water or ice cubes into the pan. Quickly close the oven door!!! The quicker the H2O is poured and the oven door is closed, the more steam that stays inside the oven and the more steam available to the dough for a lovely oven spring burst of rising.

Beware
The advantage of ice is that it is a solid and easier to throw quickly into the pan. It also will not turn to steam - in your face - as quickly. Water can drip. Be VERY careful not to let the water drip onto the oven door because it can crack the glass. Also, the steam from the water can be dangerously hot. These are the reasons why I have only used ice cubes, which, by the way, work quite well.

Rocks
Disclaimer: I have not tried this. Just intrigued. Many sources recommend preheating lava rocks, the kind used for barbecue, in a pan. They are available at local hardware stores or Home Depot. Pouring water over the rocks just after putting the dough in the oven provides sauna-quality steam. Some recommend pouring a cup of water right before loading the dough as well. Just google "lava rocks bread" and plenty of information will appear at your fingertips.

Dont' cry; eat
The ending to the ruined bread story is a happy one. The freshly ground whole wheat flour infused the bread that hardly rose with such a good taste that I enjoyed the bread and learned my lesson. The bread was dense and not very pretty, but delicious. 

P.S. Suggestions from the freshloaf that I have not yet tried - go at your own risk
These are quotes from a freshloaf (bread forum) conversation.
Steamed towel strategy - http://www.thefreshloaf.com/node/20162/oven-steaming-my-new-favorite-way   I can get an oven fully steamed five minutes before the bread goes in and then only need to add 1/2 cup of very hot water to the pan once the bread is loaded onto the baking steel.  The time the oven door is open is minimal and I don't have to remove a heavy, hot cast iron skillet full of lava rocks after the first part of the bake.
I wonder at the safety of putting towels, wet or otherwise, into a hot oven, but there are a few people who have tried this method and they have lived to proclaim its wonders.
Another hot-water-in-the-oven strategy - I find it helpful to preheat the water for two minutes in a Pyrex vessel in a microwave oven before putting it in the oven. It then turns to steam more quickly.
Using an aluminum roasting pan - Inverting an aluminum turkey roasting pan over the loaf "on the stone" with parchment underneath will yield perfect steam results every time (the baking bread creates its own steam).
Spritz the inside of the roasting pan with water before inverting over the loaf - bake the loaf for 10-15 minutes before removing to allow the crust to brown. Cheap roasting pans that come three or four-to-a-pack work great and they're reusable. Center it on the loaf and pooch up the middle of the roaster a bit if your loaf has that much spring (make sure the rim still sits flat on the baking stone's surface).
Wild-Yeast  
I love this idea; it's cheap, easy, and requires no hot water or heavy equipment. Plus, unlike my la cloche, with its two long, thin cracks, the roasting pan can be replaced for very little cost and will not fall apart when it goes quickly from hot oven to cold kitchen. Cheap and effective go well together.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Bakery Review: Bread Furst - A Bread Temple

You know Bread Furst is a temple of bread the second you walk in the door and the overpowering - in a good way - aroma of whole grain breads embraces you. Then you see the kitchen to your left and ahead, with gleaming subway tiles on the way, beautiful breads, not scored in an artful way, but with a look of quintessential hardiness. 

It gets better. 

I chose loaves of whole wheat and ancient grain (teff and rye) boules. Delicious. As good as my own. Maybe better. Jealous that I lack the bakery oven that produced the thick, dark crusts. (Perhaps I should be baking my loaves longer.) I resisted the temptation to purchase a regular or a whole wheat challah; I could not stand to taste a true competitor. We all have our limits. 

I do not know if commercial yeast is used and the website makes no definitive declaration. 

There are also croissants, a muffin or two, and a few pastry selections, I believe, though I was so focused on the bread that I did not pay much attention. There is quite a bit of non-baked food as well and I had a tasty red lentil salad. Also for sale are some jams and cookbooks.

There's also ham, which seems weird when you notice that all of the staff are wearing head coverings more than vaguely reminiscent of Bukharan kippot (quite a different shape than traditional yarmelkes or even the crocheted ones.)

Not a total groupie
Much as Bread Furst smells divine, the look is a bit upscale in keeping with the neighborhood. Nicer than Le Pan Quotidian and not as spacious, but reminiscent of that. After all, this is not Coney Island Ave. in Brooklyn. But one thing beyond the aroma did remind me of my New York childhood; the owner, Mark Furstenberg walks around with a perpetual scowl on his face, as though nothing is ever quite good enough. He looks like a waiter at the old Lower East Side (New York) restaurant Ratners. 

If you were lucky enough to frequent that now deceased establishment, may it rest in peace, if you remember the waiters, they had standards of their own and the customer was not always right. Mr. Furstenberg had the same look. This and the fact that he is a bread rock star, bread royalty really, made me way too intimidated and shy to approach him. Plus, he seemed as if the quality of the bread, the cleanliness of the tables and chairs, were way more important than idle conversation.


On the way out, I stared at the mixer and the dough being mixed. I stared at the couches and I sighed. One should be in awe at a temple. One should feel moved. Here, bread is holy.

I will have to return on a weekend to try the bialys. 

One comment, please
Okay, one small criticism. Small cookies should be added to the Bread Furst mix, if only to give 
away one at a time to the little children who come in. Just one tiny step to perfection. 

A plea
I trekked to Bread Furst all the way around the Red Line as if on a pilgrimage on one of my few days off. I built my day around the visit. Dear Mr. Furstenberg, Please open another storefront in Takoma or in Silver Spring. We need this bread, not in my house because I make my own, but all over there are people who are deprived of the delights of your bakery, a real bakery, a bakery that makes one feel nearer to the wheat and grains as they grow out of the ground. 



DC visitors
Forget the monuments; forget the museums; forget the halls of government. When you visit DC, take the Metro Red Line up to Van Ness, walk two blocks and eat at Bread Furst. 

(Also, all vistors should try some Ethiopian food. There is a large Ethiopian community in the DC area and some good restaurants in Silver Spring and on 9th and U.) 







Bread Number 77: A Rye/Flaxseed Meal Virtuoso of a Bread

A top pick
If there is a bread that shows I have learned lessons along the way from bread number zero to 77, this one is it. One word: fantastic. Though I started without all of the ingredients in the recipe from Local Breads, and rejected a couple, my instincts paved the way to an utterly delicious and interesting loaf.

By the way, Daniel Leader, the author of Local Breads, gets a lot of flack in the book reviews about poor editing, inconsistent measures, and bad recipes. One review seemed to sum up the consensus that the book is worthwhile if - and this is perfect for me - the recipes are considered as guides, but not as strict sets of instructions. The reviews also indicated that only the metric weights should be heeded. Another warning was that the bakers percentages are sometimes wholly inaccurate. 

Starting point
I read those reviews after making this bread and as I generally do not strictly follow recipes, all was good in modifying the flax, sesame, sunflower seed, rye recipe. I left out the sunflower seeds altogether and I only used sesame seeds sprinkled on top and not incorporated in the dough. I also added a sponge phase, refused the instruction to do a second kneading, and I did not use a rye starter. So perhaps the recipe was more a starting point than a guide.

Total ingredients
331g water
20g starter 
210g rye flour
290g bread flour
6g caraway seeds (and a bit more to sprinkle on top)
28g flaxseed meal
10g salt
sesame seeds optional for sprinkling on top

Sponge
101g water
20g starter (all purpose flour, not rye) (Used 50g starter for the second try and adjusted other ingredients accordingly.)
100g rye flour

I juggled the amounts of the ingredients so that I could add a sponge phase and to use as much rye as the 60 percent recipe. I used a small amount of starter due to the very warm night, about 80 degrees in the kitchen. This was my first foray beyond 30 percent rye, perhaps on the way to trying a truly dense rye. 

Here we leave the realm of recipe and enter into reality. I was going to let the sponge stay out all night, but I woke up with a start at 2:30 - six hours after making the sponge - and put the sponge in the fridge. The fright took hold that the sponge would be past peak by morning. Once I took it out, and accounting for the warm up delay, the sponge had a bulk fermentation time of 9.5 hours in a pretty warm kitchen. When I made this bread a second time, the dough fermented for about 12 hours, but the kitchen was about 10 degrees cooler.

Dough
230g water
290g bread flour
110g rye flour
28g flaxseed meal
6g caraway seeds (Used 8g the first time, but the caraway might be too overwhelming for some at that amount.)
10g salt
Sesame seeds and caraway seeds - sprinkle on top before baking.

Use what you have
Another departure from the recipe was that I had flaxseed meal and no actual flaxseeds. I used an equal weight and all turned out fine. I also added caraway seeds because I have the misguided notion that it is illegal to make a rye bread without them. That might be the case in Brooklyn. I admit that using a little less caraway for the second try, which was an improvement.

The recipe called for lots of kneading for a rye, so I did half the recommended time. I kneaded for 10 minutes. I also did not add any commercial yeast; the rising time ended up being about two hours longer than recommended. Mine rose for 3.5 hours both times I made this.

Trust your instincts
For about a nanosecond, I followed the recipe instructions instead of my instincts by just starting to sprinkle flour over the wet dough before shaping. A loud voice in my head screamed out "STOP!" as the first glop of dough began to stick to my fingers. Confident that voice was as it continued to instruct using water instead, which worked out much better; no sticking at all. Worked quite well with water the second time around as well.

I sprinkled water on the counter and my hands for a fuss-free shaping and transfer of the dough to a loaf pan. This dough was not going to hold any shape on its own. I also ignored the instructions that this dough should make two loaves and I made one decent-sized, not actually that large, loaf. Cover the loaf pan with plastic, or, in my case, a shower cap.

Baking
Preheat the oven at 400 degrees for an hour while the dough rests. I also preheated the top of the oblong la cloche because it kind of, sort of fits over the loaf pan. The top of the la cloche keeps the moisture in and, therefore, frees the baker from having to throw water or ice cubes into a pan when the oven is burning hot.

At one hour, the dent test passed as much as is possible with a wet dough, it was time for baking. I sprinkled water on top and then sprinkled sesame and caraway seeds. 

Oven time at 400 degrees was 47 minutes, two of which were uncovered. 

For the second go around, I preheated the oven to 450 degrees and immediately reduced the temperature to 400 when the dough went in. Somewhat more oven spring resulted.

Hello beautiful
Next to the word "gorgeous" in the dictionary should be a photograph of this bread. And taste - amazing. Total agreement on this in the household. A top pick, to be sure.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Bakery Review: Spring Mill Bread Company

Our town has graduated from only having baked goods at the farmers market to now having an actual bricks-and-mortar bakery, a shop. Spring Mill Bread Company is a local DC-area chain of bakeries, but the feel is intimate and unique. There are always customers and I see people walking down the block with loaves. No small cookies to buy or to give away to child customers (that's my platonic bakery ideal), but they give away pretty big slices of different breads.  [Note: Photos taken with permission.]

We've now sampled baked treats, plain bread, and sandwiches.

In its favor
  • Very friendly - always a smile
  • Lots of whole grain choices
  • Clean
  • Well decorated - a nice spot to hang out
  • Outside tables
The flour is from Montana and Spring Mill grinds its own, so all of the bread is from freshly-milled whole grain flour and not from bags that have been sitting around for ages. They even sell flour and jams as well. 

Note of caution
There are no boules, ciabattas or any breads except baguettes and identically-sized sandwich loaves made in loaf pans. The breads are, despite the variety of whole grains, sandwich breads. In terms of added sweetener, only honey is used; no refined sugar. This is Takoma Park after all. (If you do not know Takoma Park, our nickname is "the People's Republic of Takoma Park.") Spring Mill also sells challahs on Fridays, something I appreciate for the infrequent occasions when I do not make my own.

In terms of natural leavening, the website just mentions yeast and not natural leavening or sourdough starters.

So?
The bread is solidly good. Nice for a sandwich. No thick crusts. I have yet to try a baguette, but I'm not much of a white-bread person. We tasted the sweets and they are fine, firmly in the good category. My husband said my coffee cake is better, but that's the only cake I repeatedly make. Okay, some would say you can't stay married and say otherwise, but my husband is brutally honest about these things. He said the same about the bread, though by now he is accustomed to my sourdough boules, the majority of my home baked loaves.

Bottom line is this is fine bread for sandwiches and certainly decent if you do not bake your own. I am trying hard not to be a bread snob, as I almost never eat non-naturally leavened (meaning non-sourdough) breads anymore. 

You can't argue with a friendly place that makes good sandwiches on fresh bread. If you do not have a home baker and you want to hang out for a little while in Takoma Park, Spring Mill Bakery is a good place to do it. 





Sunday, May 10, 2015

Bread Number 76: Proof of a Bread Divinity

There are at least two gods, or one with two priorities: bread and parallel parking. If the mishap of getting my dough into the dutch oven this time could result in anything other than disaster, then there are surely mysterious forces at play in the universe. The same for the occasional miracle of successful parallel parking at times when there is no avoiding it. (By the way, when we get driverless vehicles and human parallel parking becomes an event in the Olympics, my husband will be the first U.S. gold medal winner. New York's Upper West Side's challenging parking situation was not only made for him, he relishes it. I think that is why he actually likes to take the car when we visit the city, because DC and its environs provides little in the way of parking challenges at his high level.)


I know, there is starvation, war, sexual assault, child abuse, poverty, and all manner of horrors in the world, so why should divine forces care about bread and parking? We are made in G-d's image, or we made gods in our own image, so our own superficialities and cares are reflected right back. Seriously, I often wonder, and I did yesterday with the disastrous transfer of dough to dutch oven (disastrous until I saw the miraculous result), why I care so much how each bread comes out. But I do care in the same way as when I paint or draw or do a collage. There's something about babying, if you will, a creation. Just like with children or sourdough starter, though, one is never actually in control, but really a part of helping another being (or, with starter, many one-celled beings) realize its own potential.

And with bread, you get to eat the realized potential. That photograph of bread #76 is worth some number of words and shows a bite-worthy bread as well.

Speaking of gods
I was reading about the mentor of a few famous bakers, the one Dave Miller of Chico, California, and for this bread I followed a recipe of his 100 percent whole wheat bread at 104 percent hydration. I followed the recipe and it went okay, with a small loaf of dough that was so un-shapeable that I made it in a loaf pan. See photo below.

More information about Dave Miller's baking and his website.


Could be that I misinterpreted the recipe, hence the mediocre results. The second time, however, I doubled the recipe and I got great results by heeding the hydration percentage, following some parts of the recipe, and wholly adhering to the spirit of how those 100 percent whole wheat breads are achieved.

Recipe

Ingredients
520g water
500g whole wheat flour
20g starter (details below on the small amount)
10g salt

The recipe called for an autolyse of 30 minutes with just the flour and water. Mix thoroughly and cover. This produced a nice, strong pre-dough. I then incorporated the starter and the salt. Despite instructions to add almost five times as much starter, I wanted the dough to rise overnight and the very warm evening could mean too rapid a rise with the suggested amount. The much-reduced starter amount worked well.

After mixing the dough, I let the dough rest, covered, for 20 minutes and did three stretch and folds, each 20 minutes apart. The dough was strong, and very elastic, no doubt due to the high hydration percentage. It was not, however, especially sticky, though I did wet my hands before doing each stretch and fold.

How did the dough wake up in the morning?
The kitchen cooled off by about 12 degrees overnight, from the low 80s Fahrenheit to approximately 70 degrees. The nice thing about warm spring evenings is that the heat does not last all night. I woke up at the perfect time, the dough having sat out for nine hours and allowing me to sleep past 6:30 and to heed the not-before-5-a.m. rule. Sometimes it is impossible to sleep when I am so tempted to peek at a dough. Again, the reason for only 20 grams of starter, low enough, given the temperature, that I would not be anxious to check that the dough was ready in the middle of the night.

The dough was perfectly puffy, but not out of control.

I wet my hands and sprinkled plenty of flour on a cutting board for a stretch and fold. Left the dough covered for 15 minutes and then tried to shape it. Shaping is not the word for manipulating 104 percent hydration dough. It does not keep any form without some structure holding it up, such as a bowl or a loaf pan.

Heavy bowl mistake
I admit I was afraid to put this dough, wet as it was, on a well-floured towel in a basket. I thought the dough would get stuck even with tons of flour. So, I used non-stick spray and flour in a heavy bowl. Lots of flour.  Covered the bowl with a shower cap, which works perfectly, a genius idea that I did not come up with on my own.

I preheated the oven for one hour to 475 degrees with the dutch oven inside. With such a high hydration percentage, a good 25 percent over what I usually work with, I figured the super-hot dutch oven would be the best vessel for baking. I let the dough rest for that same hour. Perfect.

Messy transfer
So, there I am with the oven door open, 475 degrees of heat blasting in my face, the wire rack holding the now open dutch oven pulled out to the maximum extent feasible, and I'm holding the heavy bowl with the dough. I even have the lame out to score the dough once it goes into the dutch oven. Then I have to position the bowl so that the dough is aimed correctly to fall right into the dutch oven.

That part did not go well. I'm not proud of my use of profanity in this situation. I screamed SHIT! about 10 times, which would be during the misfire of the dough onto the top and side of the open dutch oven - and a few shout outs directly thereafter. Despite this clear sign of disaster, I put the lid on and said shit a couple more times. 

It's only bread; it's only bread
After shouting, then mumbling, that same expletive several times, the thought floated across my mind that my mantra is it's only bread, which means failure is no big deal. Some deep breaths and some it's-only-bread repetitions later, I was not exactly in my happy place, but I had some perspective.

And here's the part that proves there is either a bread god or that the one divine being cares about bread. Checking on the bread 43 minutes after the awkward transfer of the dough, I saw an almost-done gorgeous bread. Six minutes later, absolutely beautiful, I removed the bread from the oven. It slid right out of the dutch oven; it crackled; it practically had movie music playing right out of the crust. Total baking time at 475 degrees was 49 minutes. Only 49 minutes for the deity to transform disaster into a perfect bread.

Amazing and ...
Amazed. A very good taste. Oh there is a but. This bread screams out to be made with better whole wheat flour. Someone in the household purchased a rather generic brand of whole wheat (maybe me) and this 100 percent whole wheat needs a better flour.

Friday, May 1, 2015

Alcohol, Grain and Going to Crazy Land

Last weekend I toured the local, one could say artisanal, One Eight Distilling, makers of gin and vodka, in Washington, DC's Ivy City. Hearing that their flour grinder is not in use very much, I asked about the possibility of grinding actual flour (not flour for alcohol making) there with their local, organic whole grains. The owner gave me that look, the one that says, no and maybe you should consider a psychiatric medication. This reignites the quest for local whole grains and now I know they actually exist, albeit in the form of animal-feed quality, whatever that means. I will have to ask the new, just-opened, bakery up the street about their flour situation. Of course, I could trek again over to that downtown farmers market, the only one that carries freshly ground flours.

There is also now on the table a birthday offer of a grinder to make flour. Not sure, but very tempted. Would be great to have local, organic grains to do this. Worth a return to that market now that it's spring. The farmer who sells whole grain flours also carries wheat and rye berries.


Health at stake
Really my health is at stake. Every website I look at practically screams with dire warnings if I do not home grind. Apparently, all of the whole flours I have been baking with have already lost all of their nutritional value by the time I get them home, let alone by the time I put them into a dough. I might as well have been eating straight white flour and potato chips, well, organic potato chips. 


On top of reading website materials with alarming health warnings, I have visited the truly crazytown sites that discuss storing grain for years, something that survivalists do when contemplating the end of civilization as we know it. For them, the week-long loss of power 10 years ago was likely the small earthquake that augurs the big one that will result in the permanent cessation of electricity unless you were smart enough to invest in solar or your own personal wind farm out in the middle of the desert (assuming a water source). These are the people I will be making common cause with when I bring those first wheat or rye berries into the house. [Photo of an azalea bush down the block.]

To use different logic, if Bernie Sanders, a Brooklyn boy, can move to Vermont and - decades later - run for President, I can do the Vermont-y thing of milling my own flour without totally leaping off the edge. Not quite sure there's a working analogy there.

Danger signs
Please do not let me start growing and threshing wheat in the backyard. I do not know my way around farming implements. It's that Brooklyn upbringing. And if I start storing a year's worth of canned goods, act quickly, slap my face, and shout very loudly "snap out of it." Knowing me, I will have the tons of cans, but forget the can opener.