The Simplest Things and Two Treasures

March 15th, 2015 Posted by Blog 0 thoughts on “The Simplest Things and Two Treasures”

We can get pretty fancy on the days that we have time for test baking and recipe development at the mill. On those luxurious days, we tend to focus on laminated dough and enriched breads, such as my current obsession with the perfect Grist & Toll brioche recipe. However, it’s the simplest things that always make us nod our heads in approval and appreciation for the beauty of fresh, stone milled flour, its depth and richness of flavor shining through. Despite pretty intimate firsthand knowledge of my grains and flours, I still find myself feeling like a kid with a new toy, enjoying the sweet surprise of exploration and discovery. It’s a feeling I hope never goes away.

I vowed after last year’s first quarter whizzed by like a tornado that I would not forget to post a soda bread recipe in time for St. Patrick’s Day this year. It’s one of those simple pleasures that should be a more regular part of my baking repertoire, yet I find myself only turning to it at this particular time of year. A shame, since soda bread is so easy to throw together, yet so delicious and satisfying.  And its simplicity is a great vehicle for showcasing the distinctive flavor profiles of single varietal whole grain flours. To up the ante on my promise, I have two recipes to share: one very traditional, and one not so traditional with the addition of sugar, dried fruit and seeds.

As for the two treasures, I am referring to two very special wheat varieties. It should come as no surprise that baking tests of different flour combinations revealed clear favorites and standouts. Coincidentally, the two at the top of the list highlight the best of what Grist & Toll can offer bakers: something old and something new.  Red Fife, a heritage hard red wheat, and Edison, a brand new hard white wheat, are the two I have chosen to feature in these recipes.

Red Fife has a rich history with bakers in Canada. It was first documented around 1840 and enjoyed quite a run at being the number one wheat of Canada, almost 40 years, until it was ultimately replaced by more modern wheat varieties. Like other landrace wheat, it is enjoying a renaissance, which we owe to a handful of organic farmers in Canada who began planting and cultivating it again. The beauty of Red Fife lies in its sweet, nutty flavor and warm color. For a red wheat, it has no bitterness and is therefore a joy to bake with, be it for artisan bread or morning muffins.

Don’t be afraid of the phrase new wheat variety. It doesn’t necessarily mean the seed stock comes from a laboratory or corporate giant. Edison wheat is new, but it was developed in the back yard of retired Bellingham, WA, English professor, Merrill Lewis. I first met Merrill and tasted his delicious wheat almost three years ago, while visiting The Bread Lab at WSU Extension, Mt. Vernon. Ever since then, I have been begging the only farmer who has been entrusted with the seed to sell even just a small allotment to me. This year, I finally wore him down! The only other person I know of  to mill and bake with a small amount of Edison wheat (other than the farmer’s corporate clients) is Dan Barber at Blue Hill farm.  I’m pretty sure I sweet-talked the farmer out of more wheat than Dan did. Let’s just keep that between us. Edison has great bread baking properties and a creamy, rich flavor. It is beautiful, and exactly the type of wheat I am talking about when I say modern wheat can do better and have more in common with heritage wheat.

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These are technically brown bread recipes, since we are using whole grain flours. Just to keep things interesting, I’m using the new wheat, Edison, in the older, more traditional recipe. Edison meets rye here, and it’s a match made in heaven.  I’m having quite the love affair with rye these days, putting it in almost everything from cookies to pie dough to pasta. Red Fife, the heritage wheat, gets a decidedly modern spin. I say modern, you say soda bread sacrilege. Not only have I added sugar, but a little butter as well. I think Ireland will forgive me. You decide which is your favorite. I simply can’t.

Edison-Rye Soda Bread

Ingredients

1 ½ C Edison flour
2 ½ C Rye flour
1 ¾ tsp baking soda
1 ½ tsp kosher salt
2 C + 2 tbsp Buttermilk

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees and line sheet pan with parchment.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together flours, baking soda and salt.
  3. Pour buttermilk over dry ingredients and stir just until everything comes together. Turn out onto a floured work surface. Lightly knead to bring dough together. Form a slightly flattened ball, about 8 inches wide.
  4. Place on prepared sheet pan. Brush top and sides with buttermilk. Sprinkle with mixed seeds if desired. Using a sharp knife, cut a deep X into the top of the bread.
  5. Bake until nicely browned and sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom, approximately 40–50 minutes.

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Red Fife Soda Bread with Seeds & Fruit

Ingredients

4 C Red Fife flour
1 3/4 tsp baking soda
1 ½ tsp kosher salt
¼ C sugar
¾ C currants
3 Tbsp Sunflower seeds
3 Tbsp Pumpkin seeds
3 Tbsp Flax seeds
4 Tbsp butter, melted and slightly cooled
2 C Buttermilk, plus additional for brushing
*optional 2 Tbsp additional mixed seeds for sprinkling

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees and line a sheet pan with parchment.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, salt, sugar, currants and seeds.
  3. Combine melted butter and buttermilk.
  4. Pour buttermilk mixture over dry ingredients and stir just until everything comes together. Turn out onto a floured work surface. Lightly knead to bring dough together. Form a slightly flattened ball, about 8 inches wide.
  5. Place on prepared sheet pan. Brush top and sides with buttermilk. Sprinkle with mixed seeds if desired. Using a sharp knife, cut a deep X into the top of the bread.
  6. Bake until nicely browned and bread sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom, approximately 40–50 minutes. Enjoy with good salted butter!

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