The Library

I love the library. I love researching books, reading reviews on Goodreads or Amazon, then searching KCLS, placing holds, picking up books for free. After only 2 weeks since joining the Artisan Bread Bakers Facebook Group, sifting through millions of posts, I reserved Flour Water Salt Yeast by Ken Forkish. A large portion of the posters among the 10,000+ members of this group think highly of Portland’s Ken Forkish of Ken’s Artisan Bakery. I had known about the Portland bakery for some time, but didn’t conclude, until after perusing Amazon’s Look Inside feature, that the Ken spoken of in the group and the bakery Ken were the same.

Stack of beauty
Stack of beauty

Now, I don’t particularly like Facebook. I periodically purge my activity log, removing likes and photos and comments, knowing any and all that I post are used to target me and my “friends” by the movers/shakers of our consumer-driven economy. After reading the new Terms & Conditions the other morning, I committed myself to another purge, to update my Ello account, and perhaps leave Facebook for good. This time. Really. I’ll do it. Except for 3 groups that I really like. Damn it.

New bread
New bread

I suppose if I’m to be hardcore, I would end all my friendships, keeping only the 3 groups and probably my *Like* of NPR and Anne Lamott, or I could hide all my friends to not see their posts, so then I wouldn’t accidentally comment on or like their posts, but could still peek once in a while….

Bulk rise, 3 folds total
Bulk rise, 3 folds total

Anyway, the Forkish book is good, I think especially good for those wanting to get started in artisan-style bread making. Flour Water Yeast Salt contains more information on the process of bread making, including more commercial yeasted recipes where the user can practice method, using higher hydration levels, longer proofing times than “regular” bread recipes call for.

Ready for pan
Ready for pan

I have made a few batches of The Whole Wheat Saturday bread, a same-day bake, tweaking the recipe by adding more whole wheat than the 50% required, and baked as sandwich bread. It turned out well, working nicely for sandwich and french toast, as well as pizza dough.

Good crumb, nice crust, and flavor
Good crumb, nice crust and flavor
Mushroom & basil
Mushroom & basil

The bread has many of the characteristics of the longer rise wild-yeasted bread I usually make, has the ease of active-dry yeast, a bread I can whip up on a much shorter notice. It doesn’t, however, have the soul of sourdough.

I began my relationship with sourdough in a class, 20+ years ago, simultaneously working my way through Nancy Silverton’s Breads of the La Brea Bakery. I used Silverton’s method for years, including the early posts on sourdough here, until I happened on Chad Robertson and Tartine. Tartine Bread changed everything I thought I knew about sourdough. Where Forkish’s book would have had more thorough explanation, I jumped into high hydration, long ferment, lactic versus acetic acid starters, creating the leaven/levain with a relatively tiny amount of starter, without water wings, nose plug, or goggles. Robertson’s story, the lay of the book, the not-dumbing-down-too-much captivated me. The learning process has been bumpy but satisfying, the experience now my benchmark for other methods.

All that to say, I’ll keep working through Flour Water Salt Yeast. This initial loaf is a keeper, and some cookbooks are worth the price for even just one good recipe. As for connection, when I read through the introductory section of Robertson’s next book, Tartine Book No. 3, showcasing the many ancient grains he has worked to incorporate, I cried. I cried because of Einkorn. While super useable and full of information, Flour Water Salt Yeast didn’t affect me this way. I don’t cook or bake based on emotion, but bread making is soulful and ancient, something created with hands, something to be broken by hand, and something to be shared. Connection.

Here’s how Junior and I make French Toast.

Breakfast
Breakfast

French Toast • serves 2

4 slices Whole Wheat Saturday Bread from FWSY

2 eggs

1/4 cup milk

2 teaspoons cinnamon

pinch of salt

1 tablespoon butter, for pan

butter & syrup for serving

Method

Preheat Griswold No. 8 cast iron skillet to medium.

Combine the eggs, milk, cinnamon, and salt. Whisk until well blended.

When skillet is ready, melt the butter in pan. Dip bread, 1 slice at a time, into the egg mixture. Let the mixture drip a bit then carefully lay the bread into the pan. Repeat with remaining slices. Cook a few minutes, then flip, cooking a few more. We like the outside slightly crisp, with the inside still soft but not raw.

 

 

Sourdough-ish Pancakes!!

Here at home we (and by we, I mean I) pronounce “pancake” as either /peeeeaaaaannnncake/ or with its more common pronunciation, /ˈpænkeɪk/, but spoken loudly. With slammers. You know-exclamation points. This latter phenomenon is due, mostly, to a commercial parody sketch from MTV’s mid-90’s show The State, Betty’s No-Good Clothes Shop and Pancake House. (We are moved by comedy.) This morning I made: PANCAKES!!

I have begun anew my study on the Theory and Practice of High Hydration Sourdough. I hope to be writing about it over the coming months. How this study leads to pancakes is in the sourdough starter. Getting the starter to be thoroughly alive, fully wild and active, strong enough to withstand the rigors it will face when combined, for many hours, with mostly whole wheat flours and ample water before finding refuge in the hot oven, requires regular feedings, discarding most of the old to make new. The “old” starter being discarded is perfectly fine. It could be renewed as well, but in a short while I would have a bathtub full and my family would complain. Today I couldn’t bring myself to yard-waste the blessed goodness, using it instead to augment some pancakes.

Little bowl of microbial life!
Little bowl of microbial life!

There are many recipes online for sourdough pancakes, some just adding additional ingredients to large amounts of sourdough starter, and others requiring most of the batter sit overnight. I usually don’t have much starter in excess at any one time; my bread formula requires a long ferment, using only a tablespoon of the stuff for the levan, meaning I don’t maintain more than 1 cup. Additionally, as I have yet to think “pancake” at bedtime, I needed something doable when I wanted to make them, eliminating any morning-after, lack-of-planning regret.  Combining starter with some of the beautiful einkorn flour I grind was a happy solution.

Nutrimill at the ready.
Nutrimill at the ready.

Einkorn is an ancient grain, finding itself in re-cultivation due to its lovely flavor, as well as its high protein but low gluten content. Protein content in modern wheat links to the amount of gluten in the grain. High protein flours are strong flours, suitable for bread making. Soft flours are lower in protein/gluten and work well for pastry. Grains such as einkorn, and its cousin, emmer, are both higher in protein but their gluten levels are more akin with pastry flour. These rediscovered, ancient forms of wheat will undoubtedly bring change into our current baking lexicon: high protein, low gluten wheat flours.

Pure beauty!
Pure beauty!

While einkorn is not strong enough to hold a sourdough loaf together, it is perfect to blend with the stronger flours fermenting in the starter, adding flavor, more protein, and much in the way of self-satisfaction, to pancakes or waffles. Aside from the starter, this pancake recipe looks like any other. I do add a bit of baking soda, as the starter won’t have much time to create any big life with the einkorn. Since this batter is whole wheat, it can benefit with a sort of autolyse: letting the starter, flour, and liquid, in this case kefir, sit for 20-30 minutes before continuing with the remaining ingredients.

Letting the flour and liquids mingle a bit.
Letting the flour and liquids mingle a bit.

Autolyse gives the whole wheat time to absorb liquid, so you may need to add some additional milk or kefir before baking, but wait until you incorporate all ingredients to adjust. I don’t add any sugar to the batter, allowing for real maple syrup to be used when eating. This helps control the total sugar, but still allows for a nice bit of sweet to balance the nuttiness of the flour. The fruit added to these pancakes truly makes them a summer delight. My favorite way to bring a little summer to one of our dark, rainy NW January mornings, is to use frozen raspberries instead of fresh. Magic.

Oddly lit, almost ready to flip.
Oddly lit, almost ready to flip.

Sourdoughy Summer Pancakes

(with Einkorn!)

1 cup/128g einkorn flour

1 cup/160g 100% hydration sourdough starter

1 teaspoon baking soda

3/4 teaspoon salt

3/4 cup kefir (buttermilk)

2 eggs

3 tablespoons butter, melted

Raspberries or blueberries or other diced summer fruit

Method:

Preheat a griddle until drops of water dance across it.

While the griddle preheats, whisk together the flour, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl.

In a small bowl, combine the kefir, eggs, and butter. Mix well.

Add the kefir mixture and starter to the flour. Fold together until just combined.

Using a 4-ounce ladle, scoop batter onto the hot griddle. The batter will be thick. Use the back of the ladle to spread and smooth the batter on the griddle.

Drop berries onto the raw cake.

Flip when bubbles form and/or the edges begin to dry.

Adjust the temperature under the pancakes as needed.

If you don’t do sourdough, you can make great pancakes with whole wheat pastry flour, spelt flour, or grind up some emmer or einkorn. Use 2 cups(256g) total flour, increase the liquid to 1-1/4  to 1-1/2 cups, and add 1 teaspoon of baking powder. I would urge you to not shy away from using the melted butter. A good quality organic or grass-fed butter brings a satisfying richness, marries well with the fruit,  and makes these pancakes delicious.

Yum!
Happy Pancakes to All!

Toe•may•toe, Tah•mah•toe

Bluebird, having a summer sale of 10% off any order, had me crunching numbers for emmer and einka. I can source emmer at my coop, but einka, the name Bluebird uses for einkorn farro, is harder to find. I was happy indeed that ordering einka from Winthrop, including USPS shipping, was less money than the one Seattle source that I know of. I ordered 10 pounds.

IMG_2786
a box of beauty

Fast forward 2 days. It’s Saturday, Farmer’s Market day. I haven’t been doing the Saturday market, opting for the closer-to-home, a-little-less-expensive Sunday market. However, the Saturday market is where you score excellent clams and amazing kombucha, so with clams & pasta on the menu, I went. I make a clam & pasta dish originating with Mario Batali’s Simple Italian Food, a book I bought before ever knowing who Mario Batali was. Since it’s summer and warm out, I brought home some whole wheat linguine to boil up rather than mix up handmade pasta. When the mail carrier brought me a box from Winthrop, however, my plans changed.

I thrilled that my order from receipt Thursday mid-morning had grain at my door Saturday mid-afternoon! Wasting no time, I loaded the mill, knowing we’d be trying Einka pasta with our clams.

Nutrimill at the ready
Nutrimill at the ready
Einka and backyard eggs
Einka and backyard eggs

I’ve not used a lot of gluten-free flours, but the einka does remind me in texture of oat flour, even the way almond flour looks and feels. I found 1 recipe for einkorn flour pasta and it was essentially identical to how I always make pasta so I did 3 heavy cups of flour and 3 eggs. The flour is very loose when processed in the Nutrimill, the air has not been compressed out of it via packaging/storage. The dough came together nicely, and I left it to rest for 30 minutes.Kneaded, ready to rest

I use a pasta machine for rolling but I do knead the dough before it rests, per Marcella Hazen’s insistence. I got the moisture level just right, with little sticking and no crumbling.

Dough, folded into thirds, making its way through the rollers
Dough, folded into thirds, making its way through the rollers

While the rolled dough waited for cutting, I got the water boiling, and proceeded with the other items on dinner’s menu: clams, kale, green peas for Junior, green salad, and baked-this-morning sourdough bread. When the dough is perfect, I love using the cutting attachment on the pasta machine.

Fettuccine
Fettuccine
A busy stove
A busy stove

The pasta turned out great. The texture and bite of the noodle seemed like the other whole wheat version I make. For a low-gluten grain, the final product was not slimy, and it held together in the sauce. I look forward to more recipes with my new stash of Bluebird Farm Grains Einka.

Bon appetit!
Bon appetit!

For the Love of Grain

I am a grain geek. Bins filled with hard red wheat berries, oat groats, rolled oats, rye berries, medium ground white wheat flour, anything with a Fairhaven label excite me.    The idea of a 3-day conference on the 10,000 year relationship with wheat makes me swoon. The textures, slight variations of earthy color, the potential alchemy, combine to give culinary and intellectual satisfaction. However all this, the single grain that will always draw me in, whether in a bakery, a deli case, on a website or store shelf, is Emmer Farro.

I learned of emmer after searching for locally grown wheat and wheat flour. I was in the midst of my quest to Not Buy Food From China, a journey that revealed many negative things regarding our food systems in America. Easily mired in unpleasantries, my discovery of Bluebird Grain Farms lifted my eyes and heart. There was good afoot, people choosing to hoe a harder row for the well-being of humanity. Emmer is an ancient grain, dating back about 17,000 years, the mother grain of modern durum wheat. It is a simpler grain than the highly hybridized modern wheat, containing only 28 chromosomes, rendering it high in protein but much lower in gluten than its modern counterpart. Bluebird’s seed stock of  Triticum dicoccum came from the World Seed Bank 30 years ago.

Sadly, since emmer is low in gluten, it is not an ideal flour to use for my sourdough bread. The long fermented dough needs the strength of gluten to get it through that final push to a beautiful oven spring. I have tried combinations of flour with emmer, but don’t yet have the ability to produce a satisfactory loaf. Emmer is, however, perfect for pastry, cookies, my Neapolitan-type pizza, and are delicious as cooked whole berries. Emmer and the hard red wheat grown by Bluebird have been my pantry favorites.

At Christmas, per my request, I received Sally Fallon’s book, Nourishing Traditions. I have friends and acquaintances who spoke highly of the book and a few simple internet searches revealed that many others felt the same. I figured there was gold to panned, information to be gleaned. I dove into the read, as is my usual way, but found myself mired yet again, this time in the “fact” that all grains are killing all of us, slowly but surely, and the only remedy is to soak the flour, just-ground whole wheat only, for 12-24 hours, to eliminate the toxins that are found in grains. Wanting to do what’s right or best nutrition-wise, I began soaking/fermenting flours before finishing a recipe; if we wanted pancakes on Saturday morning, I better have the batter soaking before 8PM Friday night. My poor family. Not all the recipes I tried worked: the soaked flour biscuits were hockey pucks, and the soaked flour bagels looked mottled and grossly misshapen. Everything had a pronounced sour overtone.

I learned that using flour made from sprouted wheat was free of toxins, so I began sprouting the berries, dehydrating them before grinding into flour.

Sprouting
Sprouting

This flour had a sweeter taste but made it easier to make cookies and biscuits and pizza. My devotion to the 2-gallon jars of upturned, rinsed grain, and the daily growl of my Nutrimill grain grinder were constant. As hard red wheat is less costly, and since sprouting and soaking was making the grain healthier, I moved away from emmer, using only the stronger grain in an all-purpose fashion.

In the midst of this new grain regimen, my sister was diagnosed with Stage 4 Breast Cancer. Overnight her diet became soy-free, corn-free, gluten-free, dairy-free, most meats-free, ground nut-free, sugar-free, and anything remotely resembling estrogen-free. In a blink, my internet searches became variations of How To Eat For Cancer, and where my new-found practice might fit in. As with any search of the interwebs, I found conflicting advice on every topic I looked for. I quickly became further mired, now learning that most foods would certainly kill most of us. Grain is healthy vs grain will kill you. Soy is your best friend, I mean fermented soy is your best friend, I mean, soy in any form will kill you. Sprouted grain is perfect for your body vs sprouted grain still contains those little wheat toxins and will not only kill you, but will make you obese before you die. Only eat raw. Only eat vegan. Only eat the Nourishing Traditions way. I don’t remember at just what point, but I became angry with food, mostly angry with grain.

Around this time, I began to realize that I didn’t feel as good as I had at Christmas. I had eaten more holiday foods that I normally avoid, and I definitely had partaken in my share of emotional eating regarding my sister’s health, but this was different. My naturopath set me onto some supplements but the chief alteration I made was to stop the hyper frenzy of grain preparation. As I focused my thoughts and awareness, I realized we had begun eating more wheat products because of the “healthy” way I was preparing them. Our fruit and vegetable and true protein consumption had gone down. In a pattern predictable for me, I had brought my body out of balance.

For the last two months, I have worked to correct these nutritional missteps. I solicited advice from a nutritionist and educator who I know and respect. She was gracious to share some of her family practices, some of her views on grain preparation/consumption. She was careful to acknowledge that these practices are what work for her and her family, that everyone’s body is different, having different nutritional requirements. Her words brought a deep breath of very fresh air and freedom. I am feeling settled again.

The bread I make is with 80% heritage whole wheat that I usually grind, and 20% white unbleached organic flour. The dough has a high moisture content and the ferment is long. Bread makers the world over, who work to follow old traditions, make bread this way. While this bread is digestive-friendly, we don’t eat it as often as we were. For the weekend day when we have pancakes or waffles, I use emmer flour. As emmer makes great pasta, I aim to make my own rather than purchase from the store. Occasionally I make emmer raspberry scones, perfect with a scrambled Beatrice egg for breakfast, or a kuchen with seasonal fruit. An emmer berry salad with diced tomato, cucumber, onion, and parsley is a refreshing lunch or side dish. We don’t have more than one grain per meal, but include meat from well-husbanded animals, and lots of chemical-free fruits and veg.

Not all grains are equal. Not all wheat grains are equal. The grain grown by Bluebird, and farms like it, offer a path to ancient foods, produced without pesticides, herbicides, and stored without fumigants. This food is much closer to the grain that humans first adapted to eat, while far removed from the wheat so many are now intolerant of. Additionally, not all bodies are equal. I have to listen to mine, encouraging those I cook for to do the same.

Emmer
Emmer

It would seem the grain of Sumerians, Pharaohs, and Romans is making a comeback. Word on the street has it that Chad Robertson of Tartine is working on a sourdough loaf utilizing ancient grain like emmer. This will be the next book I ask for at Christmas.