Sunday, February 26, 2012

Bluebird Grain Farms' No-Knead Emmer Bread

Or should I say, Flat Sophia's Emmer Bread? See, I got the recipe from a flyer on the Bluebird Grain Farms' table at the Ballard Farmers Market in Seattle when I bought a bag of their beautiful emmer grain. But I actually baked the bread with Sophia, my 7-year old grand-daughter who lives 3,000 miles away in New England. Sophia has been helping me bake practically since the day she was born. She mastered the switch on my SP5 mixer before she knew how to talk and she always loved scaling ingredients (getting her jammies all floury in the process). She adores raw dough (especially naturally-leavened) and slices of rustic batard with honey are her favorite snack at my house.
So of course when her first grade teacher put Flat Sophia, her avatar, in a big yellow envelope and sent her via first-class mail to stay with us for a week, I knew bread-baking would be on the agenda. But as (bad) luck would have it, I am levain-less right now. Between a quick trip back to the Northeast a couple of weeks ago to see the grand-children and the upcoming trip to Paris for Europain (followed by visits to family and friends), there is no way I can take care of my levains and since I don't much like the aroma of the acids created when they spend a long time in the fridge, I have dehydrated them and stored them in ziploc bags for later use. Not that I look forward to the rehydrating process which I find tiresome and which requires a healthy amount of faith in the zest for life of these tiny organisms but it sure beats the alternative (which would be to bake a levain-fermented bread I don't enjoy eating).
So no levain in sight and Flat Sophia chomping at the bit to get her hands on some dough. What to do? For those of you who are not familiar with flat kids, please take a look at the Flat Stanley books: I had never heard of Flat Stanley before getting Flat Sophia from the teacher but after a week of taking her everywhere we went, I can tell you that many many people know of his adventures and, as a result, have shared their lives with a flat kid at some point. A fishmonger at Seattle's Pike Place Market told us he once was sent a 5-foot tall flat boy and schlepped him around for a week. An elementary school teacher we met at the register at Costco offered to adopt Flat Sophia and take her back with her to Alaska. She promised to send her back with pictures of her classroom. She was very kind and cheerful and a trip to Alaska sounded like fun but would you entrust your grandkid (however flat she might be) to a complete stranger? I didn't think so. So we kept her with us and she had innumerable adventures (she jumped from a hot air balloon and narrowly avoided landing in a pond and once was rescued by a super watchdog from the open jaws of a giant fish) and we put together a picture book which will be sent back to Connecticut tomorrow. On the final day of her visit, the weather outside was bleak (it snowed huge flakes in the early morning and the one thing paper kids don't handle too well is wetness), so we stayed home and we baked.

It was a lot of fun. Ok, I admit, not as much fun as baking with the real Sophia, but still! I for one will be sorry to see Flat Sophia go. I found that doing things with her and taking her sightseeing was a great way of staying connected to her namesake, dreaming up adventures that she would enjoy reading about and sharing with her teacher and her classmates. Still tomorrow she must be slipped into the big yellow envelope and mailed back...



Ingredients:
  • 420 g freshly milled emmer flour
  • 165 g unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1.3 g instant yeast
  • 11 g fine sea salt
  • 360 g water
Method:
For the method, please refer to the Bluebird Grain Farms website as I mostly followed it except that:
  • I milled their emmer grain instead of using their flour
  • I didn't sprinkle the dough with coarse sea salt before baking
  • I used rather more water than they do
  • I fermented the dough for 22 hours (first 8 hours at 74°F, overnight at 70°F and the last 4 hours at 74° F again)
  • I proofed it in a Dutch oven and when ready, put the Dutch oven in the cold oven with the lid on. I baked the bread for 45 minutes at 470°F, took it out of the Dutch oven and placed it directly on the hot baking stone. It baked for another 15-20 minutes at 450°F. It made a nice hollow sound when thumped. That's how I knew it was done...
Taste-wise, I find it hard to describe this bread. I don't want to use words like "nutty" or "delicious" because they have been used so often (including by me) that they are no longer very meaningful. I can only say that there is something deeply satisfying about the taste of emmer: it is certainly wholesome (you can almost taste the sunshine ripening the fields and the wind softly rippling the rows of spiky stalks). Unlike spelt (to which it is genetically related), it doesn't taste of honey and like kamut, another ancient wheat cereal, it bakes into a mellow crumb which almost melts in the mouth. I also find that this bread tastes better the day after it's baked:  yesterday, the flavor of the yeast (never truly my favorite) overpowered that of the grain. Today the taste of yeast has all but vanished and all is left is the grain. Definitely a good and easy bread to have in one's repertoire. It also slices very nicely, which will come in handy for the honey sandwich I plan to send home with Flat Sophia for sustenance en route...
Bluebird Grain Farms' No-Knead Emmer Bread is going to Susan for this week's issue of Yeastspotting.

17 comments:

  1. Superbe. C'est sympa d'avoir une aide!!

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  2. Merci, AC! T'as raison. C'est bien sympa. En attendant la vraie Sophia cet été...

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  3. That is lovely and so is the bread, you're a great photographer!! I'm going to pin this right away :)

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  4. Well, it's not letting me pin it!!! Do you know why it doesn't recognize the pictures? At least I'm following you now :)

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  5. Hi Mireia! Thank you so much for your kind words. I tried pinning the bread (although I feel a bit self-conscious tooting my own horn) and it worked on the second try (on the first one it didn't because I already had one pin screen open in the background). Maybe it was the same problem in your case? Anyway I went and visited your blog. Loved the crab story! I would have felt exactly like you if I had had to deal with it... Loved the quick bread pictures too. Gorgeous!

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  6. What a fun post! Nice looking bread too. I would be happy to send you some "fresh" levain, MC. Email me with your address and I will get it into the mail. :)

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    1. Oh, thank you, Teresa! How kind of you! That would be wonderful. I'll be in touch when I come back from France if that's okay...

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  7. Hi MC, and welcome home from your trip Northeast :^)
    How lovely you share the joy of baking with your grand-daughter (and fun you had 'company' for this bake!). This emmer bread has a beautiful and rich color, and from the photo of the crumb, certainly does look like it would 'melt in the mouth'.
    J'espère que vous avez un heureux, beau voyage en France, avec beaucoup de merveilleux souvenirs de revenir avec vous!
    :^) breadsong

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    1. Merci beaucoup, breadsong! Je ne savais pas que tu parlais français... ;-) Je te raconterai tout à mon retour, promis!

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    2. Ce serait un si grand - je vous remercie beaucoup!
      :^) breadsong

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  8. Wow, my kids would LOVE the idea of sending their grand-parents flat themselves! You need to tell us more about it when we see each other in March...

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  9. This is such a beautiful post - I love it and I love the emmer bread too. I am so tempted to get a mill for home, I have a little hand one that makes a quite coarse flour that I have used once or twice with some einkorn a friend brought me from Germany, but my experiments with home milling are very limited. Do you have a picture of your Dutch Oven somewhere? We don't really use the term in England. I understand it to be a big cast iron pot, is that right? Hope Flat Sophia enjoys her sandwich on her way home :)

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    1. Hi Joanna! Thank you so much. I love my little mill and would have a hard time now being without it as I no longer buy whole grain flours except for tasting purposes when I can't find the grain itself. Here is a link to the Dutch oven I use (it is a Lodge cast iron pot and I bought it on amazon years ago): http://tinyurl.com/7t7vcby
      I am sure FS will love her sandwich. As I told the real Sophia, don't even expect to find crumbs when you open the envelope... Crossing the USA from coast to coast can make you very hungry!

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  11. What a great post!! Love the little helpers in the kitchen too! Bread looks amazing!

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