Fresh, flavorful bread is one of my favorite foods. As a youngster I would open a new loaf of bread and eat the first 3-4 slices; they were so good.
My paternal grandmother and several of my aunts were outstanding bakers and I loved their breads, cinnamon rolls, pies and cakes.
When I retired I wanted to learn bread baking. Our neighborhood Publix supermarket baked this semolina bread and it was very tasty, but as time went along it became harder and harder to get until the store no longer baked it. So I wanted to make semolina bread, but the semolina flour one purchases at the grocery is very coarse, resembling corn meal in its consistency and the bread that resulted (surprise!) resembled corn bread and I was disappointed. This experience led me to become more interested in flours, especially specialty flours from unusual sources like ancient grains. Once upon a time all wheat was milled whole, so flour consisted of bran, the fibrous outer layer, endosperm, a starchy middle layer and germ, the vitamin-rich core. Today, since shelf life is short with such a flour; modern white commodity flours contain ground wheat endosperm with shelf-stable starch then are enriched with added vitamins and minerals. In a recent article in the Wall Street Journal (“A Call to Carbs”, May 21-22, 2016, pD1) it was noted that more and more bakers are using whole grain flours to make their breads, even grinding the wheat themselves to ensure very high quality, nutritious bread.
My bread became better and results were more consistent when I weighed flour rather than measuring it by volume. Allowing doughs to rise for extended periods with minimal yeast really did work and gave better bread than rushing the process. Lean breads from flour, salt, yeast and water appealed to me most. These artisan breads depended only on those 4 ingredients and the baker’s skill for their flavor ; neither sugar nor fat in any form has been added.
The loaf I will describe in this report, while mostly bread flour, has been fortified by addition of ancient grain flours which I will describe briefly. Nutritional information is summarized in a linked table.
Barley was one of the first cultivated grains, originating in Eurasia as early as 10,000 years ago. It is a very nutritious grain, low in gluten. Gluten is the primary protein in wheat. It is composed of two components gliadin and gluten, which, when hydrated form gluten which gives the bread its structure.
Durum flour is the ground endosperm from hard winter wheat, high in gluten and low in water absorption. Finely ground durum flour is used in pasta and in semolina breads but is unavailable except from specialty millers like Central Milling, based in Utah.
Khorasan wheat is similar to bulgar but contains more vitamins and minerals than common wheat.
Spelt, also known as dinkle or hulled wheat is a species of wheat cultivated since about 5000 BCE. Spelt flour is lower in gliaden than is wheat so it may reduce gluten sensitivity in some individuals.
The available gluten in rye flour is of a different and inferior nature to wheat gluten. The protein glutelin replaces glutenin in rye which leads to a gumminess that impedes gluten development. Around 500 CE, the Saxons and Danes settled in Britain and introduced rye, which was well suited to its temperate climates.
This six flour, 30% ancient grain bread is high in gluten and wonderfully aromatic. This is a three day bread starting with a poolish preferment; on day 2 the preferment and the dough come together. The last day includes both the final proof and baking. Baking the bread using a cloche (cooking bell) provides a lovely brown outer crust and good crumb. It toasts well and makes a good sandwich.
The videos on “Essentials of Bread Baking” and “Artisan Bread Shaping” are very well done and worth the investment in time and resources.
The flours and the service from Central Milling are first-rate. Shipping costs equal or exceed the cost of product but that means the flour is very fresh.
David, Elizabeth (1977, 2010). English Bread and Yeast Cookery. Grub Street London
This classic book needs revision and better organization, but remains a superb source.
Forkish, Ken (2012). Flour Water Salt Yeast: The Fundamentals of Artisan Bread and Pizza. Ten Speed Press Berkeley
Excellent description of techniques needed to make good artisan bread.
Reinhart, Peter (2011-04-06). The Bread Baker’s Apprentice: Mastering the Art of Extraordinary Bread (Kindle Locations 2256-2265). Ten Speed Press.
This book was recommended by my wife’s hematologist who likes to make challah and brioche from Reinhart’s recipes. This is the best discussion of the mechanics of bread making from both an artistic and scientific standpoint that one is likely to find. There is a lot of information here.