Thursday, February 24, 2011

boutique flours and the baking of bread

i don't know if it's the same everywhere, but increasingly here in denmark, there are exciting and interesting new varieties of flour on the market. especially flour for baking bread. denmark is full of good bread (which is why husband is always shell-shocked when we go to the US and encounter the bread there). the danes do an excellent rye (rugbrød) that's excellent no matter where you buy it - from the discount supermarket to the local bakery - so i don't really tackle the dark breads. but 2-3 times a week, i bake a loaf of ordinary white or lighter brown bread. and these newly available flours are taking those loaves from ordinary to extraordinary.

a number of the new types of flour are from grains that were found in the nordic seed gene bank and which have been revived and cultivated back to commercial capacity in recent years. my weekly organic box provider has recently added baking boxes which include a variety of these newly-available flours.

ølandshvede - with higher protein and gluten content than ordinary flour - the dough you make with it tends to have excellent elasticity and thread very nicely. the ølands wheat flour that i get is stone ground, and they say that stone ground wheat keeps more of the nutrition and taste.

- emmermel - this is a heavier flour, also stone ground. it tends more towards the rye-type and you mix it with wheat flour to get a dough that you can form into a good bread that can stand on its own. the dough is quite soft and ends up a more golden brown (the loaf below used emmermel) and has an almost nutty, hearty flavor.

~ svejderug - a revived grain related to rye, but which gives a lighter bread than rye bread. the seeds were found in norway and it has taken forty years to bring them back to commercial production.

~ spelt - spelt probably makes the most reliably good, hearty bread. you want the dough to be quite moist and loose and it's best to use a bread pan, but if you mix half spelt and half ordinary flour, you can easily form a free-standing loaf. i often use spelt when i make focaccia, as you spread it out over the pan anyway.

i tend as well to buy organic wheat flour as my everyday white flour and that's both widely available in any grocery store and some rather special ones are available through aarstiderne, the folks who bring my weekly organic box. the wheat flour i'm using right now, for cakes as well as bread consists of 75% organically-grown wheat and 25% biodynamic, which has even stricter guidelines. it's also stone ground and is made by aurion.

we intend to get our own flour mill as well and we'll be able to source the grains for grinding ourselves through aurion, so we've got no intentions of going into farming them ourselves. but for now, i'm really happy with what's commercially available. plus, the good folks at aarstiderne bring it straight to my door - what could be easier?

emmerbrød (adapted from aarstiderne)

500ml warm water (2 C)
1 cube of fresh yeast or a generous spoonful of dry
a generous pinch of salt
1 spoonful of honey
1.5 C of emmer flour (or other special wheat sorts)
3.5 C of wheat flour (preferably organic)  (depending on the weather and your flour, you may need more than this)

combine the warm water, yeast, salt and honey in your mixer bowl and let it stand 5 minutes or so. add the emmer flour. once it's mixed, begin to add the regular flour until you have a soft, pliable dough. i let my kitchen-aid do this entire process, but you can also mix by hand in a bowl and then knead. the dough hook on the kitchen-aid does all of this for me, freeing me to do other things (like make a coffee).

place it in a large bowl that you've wiped with olive oil and allow it to rise for several hours, covered with a clean tea towel. turn it out onto the counter, sprinkled with a bit of the emmer flour and fold it over onto itself repeatedly until you have a nice, tight round loaf. place it on a baking sheet (i always use baking paper underneath, for ease of cleanup), slash across the top with a sharp knife, so it looks pretty, sprinkle with flaky salt and allow it to rise again for 30 minutes to an hour. if you lack time, you can actually put it directly into the oven and it'll be fine. bake for 30-40 minutes at 180°C/375°F. 

another bread i've been baking a lot of lately is this:

feta & pine nut bread

500ml (2 C) warm water
1 cube of fresh yeast (or a generous spoonful of dry)
generous pinch of salt
a good glug of a tasty, fragrant olive oil
1 spoonful of honey
6 C of flour - it can be a mixture of organic white flour and spelt or other wheat varieties (i use ølandshvede lately)
120 grams of feta, crumbled
100 grams of toasted pine nuts
a bit of chopped rosemary if you have it

combine the water, yeast, olive oil and honey and allow it to stand until the yeast bubbles. slowly add the flour and salt until it begins to form a ball on your dough hook (again, i totally let the kitchen-aid do the work). add the crumbled feta and pine nuts and rosemary. it may go rather loose after this and so you can add a bit more flour if desired. but better to leave the dough a bit more wet than you think it should be - it makes for a more moist loaf of bread.

set it to rise in a large bowl that you've wiped with olive oil. let it rise for several hours in a warm place under a clean tea towel. turn it out onto a floured countertop and form it into a nice round loaf. slash the top for prettiness and sprinkle with salt. allow it to rise for 30-60 minutes and bake. you can also just pop it into the oven, no problem. bake for 30-40 minutes at 180°C/375°F. you can tell it's done by knocking on it. it's hard to describe, but it just sounds done and you'll know what i mean if you try it.

* * *

baking bread is easy, but you can have the odd day where it behaves in a temperamental way. last friday, my bread was an utter failure and i'm honestly not sure why, but i do think the weather and especially the barometric pressure can have an effect. i had a loaf of feta & pine nut spelt that just would not bake properly - it was still strangely doughy on the inside, despite nearly an hour in the oven at 180°C. some brownies i baked the same day turned out strangely as well. some days are like that and you just have to try again.

i realize that many of you won't find these same sorts of grains, but i'll bet this phenomenon isn't unique to denmark - so check your grocery store and see if there aren't some special kinds of flour available. it is well worth it to try them out.


Elizabeth said...

Love the post and I'm very glad that there is such a variety of produce. Still I'm not gonna join you this time, you know why.

Have a lovely thursday.

Magpie said...

I can get small batch farmer ground flour at the greenmarket. It's really expensive, so I tend to use it sparingly, but it's lovely and is full of character.

Char said...

i'm pretty sure that you just spoke greek, or danish or something as i didn't understand much except the shot of the bread looks so delish that i could gobble it all up.

Lisa-Marie said...

Breadmaking has been much more popular in the UK in recent years, but we don't have some many special flour blends. This is something I will have to investigate!

Your bread looks rich and wonderful.


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