Tuesday, February 12, 2008

windborne grains

Know of any California farms that use draft horses these days?

Or one that grows teff, amaranth, millet, or flax?

How about any who use a biodynamic approach to their land?

Well, if you are drawing a big blank, then consider yourself now informed. One such place that answers yes to these questions is Windborne Farms, located in Fort Jones, California.

This past Sunday we received our first delivery of grains from Windborne. It included a sack of millet, rye flour, hard red wheat flour (in the metal can, the bag was torn before the picture), pancake mix and a hot cereal mix. I am ecstatic! (Sorry for not opening the others and showing you, I didn't mean to tease.) Everything smelled so nice, but particularly the wheat flour. It smelled so sweet, almost like it had honey in it or something. Floral. I couldn't wait to try it out, so as soon as the grains came in the door I took the starter out of the fridge and fed it in anticipation of a fluffy loaf the next day.

I began with well over a cup of starter (probably closer to two) and then added a cup of warm water. After mixing these together well, the older monkey measured out two cups of whole wheat and then two of bread flour. Adding a little over a teaspoon of salt to finish it off, we got down to pounding and squishing. I let this rise in the oven with the pilot light heat for a few hours, then beat it down. I repeated this rise and beat procedure, then shaped my loaf for the final rise.

I didn't know the gluten content of the wheat, but having a name such as hard red wheat gave me a clue. I suspected it would be higher than the wheat from Full Belly I've been getting, and if not, it was at the very least a finer grind that gave me the confidence to start off with making a loaf with at least one third whole grain. I didn't have the patience to let the dough ferment for a full day, and I really wanted to taste the flour without too much sour taste. Okay, so maybe too sour is not really possible in my book. What I mean here is that I wanted to downplay the sour component of the bread's flavor and let the whole wheat component shine through.

I gave the loaf a spiral cut and doused it with plenty of water before putting into my oven, cranked to the max. Meaning: 550 degrees and on a preheated baking tile. After two minutes I sprayed water all over it again. After 7 minutes I rotated it 180 degrees. 15 minutes in and I turned the oven down to about 400, repositioned my lower rack to be on top of the baking tile and put the loaf on it. At 20 minutes I turned off the oven and let it sit in there for 3 more minutes. Finally done I transferred it to a cooling rack and put it near a drafty window, hearing it crackle while it cooled.

This was one hella-tastalicious loaf. We waited long enough to get to that still a touch warm where it tears a bit while cutting stage. We slathered in butter. We made lip smacking and moans of content sounds. We went through half the loaf before dinner. Then I ate another quarter of it while mopping up the rest of my favorite soup in the world, minestrone. This morning we finished the loaf as toast with fried eggs. I made sure to take a picture of it sliced open in order to properly "show you the love" as Biggles would say right about now. It's a good thing I make a lot of bread around here because it disappears quickly.

I was nice and surprised at how well the dough came together and held its shape during the rise and baking. Apparently this whole wheat has plenty of gluten and is ground fine enough to give you access to it. Next time I'll go ahead and attempt a loaf that is at least 1/2 whole wheat, I was that happy with the results. And thinking that this is only the first time I have used anything from this CSA "box," I look forward to receiving each new delivery of varied grains and trying my hand with some new recipes in the coming year, in what looks to be my own personal year of grain exploration. Mmmmmm, grains. Windborne grains.

If you act fast, you can still sign up for a CSA bag from Windborne Farms that will be filled with tasty grains that vary during the year. Write Jennifer Greene an email at: windborne3csa (at) yahoo (dot) com for more info. It is $325 for 10 deliveries during the year starting in March. Please sign up by February 20th if you are at all interested.


K & S said...

what a great program! and that bread...fantastic :)

Rev. Biggles said...

MMMmm, fresh love.


cookiecrumb said...

Beautiful swirl on your loaf, Mr. Bakerman.

Anita said...

wow, real semi-local grains :)

Thanks for the tip...

and yes, that is one gorgeous loaf.

Monkey Wrangler said...

Kat: Oh yeah. If you are ever on my coast of this big puddle, I'd gladly bake you a loaf......

Rev. Biggs: Glad you approve pardner!

Cookie: And comin' from a swirlie girl like you, that's one nice thing to say ma'am. Sheeee-it!

Anita: Coolio on the semi-tip. And thanks for the loafy approval.

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