The more I learn, the less I know.
I could leave it right there, but I wouldn’t want you to think I mean that in a negative way, so I suppose I should elaborate a little.
A January 2, 2015 article by Sam Borden in the New York Times catches up with Ferran Adrià and his life post–El Bulli. In it, Adrià expresses the same feelings about cooking that Luciano Pavarotti conveyed about music and that I now feel about milling, namely that a life long devotion to the creative arts also means a surrender to its vastness. My favorite quote from the article: “The logical thing would be for me to be in the Maldives, living the good life,” he said. “But I leave here every night thinking I know nothing about cooking. That is powerful.” Powerful indeed.
Lest you mistakenly think I would in any way, shape, or form try to compare myself to those two legends, let me clarify by saying that I am simply relating to a state of mind. If Ferran Adrià feels that way after creating 1,846 dishes at arguably the world’s most highly regarded restaurant, then I should take it as a normal sign that after only one official year with doors open, I frequently feel as if I have absolutely no idea what I’m doing! (Note: it’s okay to laugh here. I will spin it to mean you are laughing with me and not at me.)
Well, let’s not be too dramatic. I know a little something now, maybe more than a little. What I mean is that the world of wheat and milling is so vast and diverse that I can’t see any reality in which I will have conquered everything there is to know. “Everything” is a constantly moving target, and if there’s one singular thing this first year has taught me, it’s that there will be no resting on one’s laurels — ever. What Ferran Adrià’s quote means to me is at the end of each day, he acknowledges that his curiosity about his craft means he will be a perpetual student. That’s a very good thing. He’s not going to become bored anytime soon, and neither will I.
For the beginning of this New Year, though, let’s not dwell on what I don’t know (that list is WAY too long for a blog post); let’s focus on the positive. Here’s what I do know:
- I can source beautiful grain, and I can source it locally. A first-time female farmer who found me through a Google search grew my current hard red wheat in Pomona. That’s less than an hour from Grist & Toll, thank you very much. I just want to say that in my love/hate relationship with computers and technology, that was definitely a love fest.
- That mill of mine makes absolutely gorgeous flour. Good for me: I’d have to be a real screwup to make an inferior product. Good for you: It’s not my nature to settle and be easily satisfied. If the flour is good now, it will only get better as I grow and continue to push myself as a miller.
- If you build it, they will come: customers. Los Angeles consumers understand and appreciate transparency in our food chain and stand ready to support businesses like mine, trying to reintroduce crafts that have been lost or overtaken by large scale manufacturing, even if it means paying more for the end product. Thank you, L.A., for always being at the forefront of supporting local and innovative.
If you build it, they will come: connections: Little by little I am piecing together the contacts to support and encourage growing grain locally, such as grain cleaning facilities, storage, seed resources, and most importantly farmers (see #1 above and photo of Santa Ynez acres (top) planted by a new farmer partner. FYI, if I were a wheat stalk this is where I’d like to live.) Here’s a special shout out and thank you to my wheat guardian angel, Janice Cooper, of the California Wheat Commission.
- Los Angeles is home to what has to be the largest number of home bakers with active sourdough cultures hanging out, bubbling away on kitchen counters right now as you are reading this. Truly! You are committed and you are fearless and you blow me away.
- The most important thing I know! A grain revolution is real and is happening in small but powerful ways across the country. It is beyond past due and completely necessary. If you aren’t engaging with local wheat and local milling, you have no idea what you are missing and as a baker in particular, you hold the most power to affect change, so get on board.
2015 is off to the races already, which is why this blog post is happening in February and not on January 1st as intended. Yikes! And just for kicks, I know one more thing for sure: whipping up pancakes on a Saturday morning makes the world a better place. So, in the spirit of moving onward and upward, I leave you with one of my very favorite recipes. I hope it makes a Saturday morning of yours a little more delicious.
Recipe: Grist & Toll Whole Grain Pancakes
Yield = approximately 15 4-5” pancakes
My whole grain of choice for this is a 50/50 blend of Sonora and Spelt, but feel free to use any Grist & Toll whole grain flour, either in combination with another or 100% on its own. The pancakes will be meltingly tender no matter what. The sour cream/crème fraiche is important as is using actual buttermilk. I have never had luck when substituting regular or low fat milk soured with fresh lemon juice. It just doesn’t have the same richness. Clearly, this recipe falls into the category of occasional weekend indulgence, not healthy whole grain. However, if stone milled whole grain flour can produce decadent, melt-in-your-mouth pancakes, then I think the world deserves to know about it.
2 cups Grist & Toll whole grain flour (I use 1 C Sonora + 1 C Spelt)
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp kosher salt, lightly rounded
¼ cup sugar
2 large eggs
½ cup sour cream or crème fraiche
2 ½ cups buttermilk
2 tbsp unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
Preheat griddle to 375.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
In a separate bowl, whisk together sugar, butter and eggs (this will help to keep the butter from coagulating when adding the cold buttermilk), then add the sour cream/crème fraiche, then the buttermilk.
Add buttermilk mixture to dry ingredients and whisk to combine. Mix thoroughly to make sure you have moistened the dry ingredients, but don’t try to whisk out the lumps. Small to medium lumps are good. The batter will thicken a little as it sits while your griddle heats and will become quite fluffy.
Ladle batter onto griddle, making whatever size pancakes pleases you. When bubbles appear on top of the batter, flip over and cook until golden on the bottom, just 1-2 minutes more. Repeat with remaining batter.