So I enjoyed experimenting with spelt… What about semolina flour? It was another flour that I had not had much experience with. But, since I was in the innovative mood, I decided to tackle this flour as well. The following post contains what I found about it and a sourdough recipe using a mixture of semolina, whole wheat, and white flours.
Archive for July, 2008
Experimenting with spelt is a rather new to me. I’ve always associated it as a heart healthy food, full of fiber and nutrients, but not a flour that I would eagerly incorporate into bread. But, as I was reading Ed Wood’s World Sourdoughs From Antiquity, (an intriguing book with a wealth of information on ancient baking techniques and ingredients) I came across this categorical statement in favor of the grain: “Spelt is, however, a remarkable grain that produces terrific sourdough breads. The flour produces a soft, satiny dough with minimal kneading.” The next logical step after reading that was to go out to the store and purchase myself some spelt flour to test out Wood’s assertion. I also did my homework and read up on the grain. Here is what I found out…
I recently finished Six Thousand Years of Bread: Its Holy and Unholy History by H. E. Jacob. It a comprehensive collection of the history of bread, beginning with the discovery of yeast and plowing over 6,000 years ago up until the Second World War. Jacob keeps the history lively and entertaining, clearly forwarding his own ideas on every topic and imbuing the characters with very human and tangible qualities. I would highly recommend this book to any baker. While hefty in its length, it is quite readable. Read it with and open mind and take some of Jacob’s long-winded sagas with a grain of salt.
While I do not want to review the book here, I do want to discuss one topic that I found particularly interesting: the history and process of milling. As a baker, I believe that I should be well informed about the origin of my ingredients, how they were grown or made and what defines their quality. Understanding milling is essential, in this respect, to ultimately understanding flour.
Growing up I always remember a pot of rice on the stove. My mom, being half Japanese, made sure of this. Rice was an essential part of her childhood and she bestowed that appreciation for the tender grain in my sisters and me. The first thing I remember how to cook was rice. No fancy rice cookers were involved, simply a pot, some water, and rice. There is a very specific way to cook rice, according to my mom. To master that skill was the first step of initiation into our home kitchen.
First, place the rice in the pot and rinse it a couple of times with fresh batches of water. Next fill up the pot with water so that the rice is covered by an amount of water equal to the length between the tip of your finger and the midpoint between the two most distal knuckles. My little sister had a line, or wrinkle, if you will, there. This, my mom sagely averred, was her “rice line,” a useful physical trait for the task at hand. With the rice covered, place the pot without a lid on the stove and bring the water to a boil. Then, turn the heat down to low, cover the pot, and let the rice simmer until all the water is absorbed, but not any longer! (We always knew when my little sister made the rice because the bottom was burnt.)
I have always been an avid gardener and was thrilled that this summer I would be in one place long enough to take care of one. Located in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains in Teller County Colorado, my home this summer is perched on a windy ridge at 9,000 feet. I thought the greatest obstacles I would have to overcome were high winds and lack of moisture in the air. These, however, I believed I could combat readily by bringing inside my plants during particularly vicious windstorms and watering daily. So, I naively went about planting a container garden on my back deck consisting of two tomatoes, a bell pepper, some sweet potatoes, salad greens, and various fresh herbs. And then I waited for my bountiful harvest.
Backpacking and camping trips require creativity to create meals that are both delicious and satisfying, but also quick and convenient. Often, however, the quality of bread or baked goods on these trips is compromised for durability and ease of packing. This usually means that poor quality tortillas and crackers are standard fare when out in the backcountry. Last week I was backpacking and climbing in the Sangre de Cristo mountain range of southeastern Colorado. When planning for the trip I made it an imperative to bring good quality bread along with me that was both nourishing and would stay fresh for the entire week that I was out. I also wanted to bake something that was appropriately ‘summer’-ish.