Fol Épi is located at Dockside Green, a new development in a previously industrial part of Victoria harbor
However since I was not planning on opening (and much less building) my own bakery (at least not in this current life), I would have filed away all this information in my brain under the label "Interesting story" and moved on to the next topic if, at the end of his lecture, he hadn't brought out samples of his breads. I tasted all of them. All were good but one literally bowled me over. It was a 50% whole wheat with a beautiful crust and crumb. I had never seen a bread with such a high percentage of whole grain and yet such an open structure: it was "long en bouche" as French wine lovers like to say when the taste of a wine remains in your mouth long after you have swallowed. It evoked the rustic fragrance of plump wheat berries ripened in a relentless summer sun with a faint note of roasted hazelnuts and caramelized butter. The lecture ended, the audience dispersed, I went home but I couldn't get that bread out of my mind.Diane Andiel.
Red Fife's white flour milled at Fol Épi
Red Fife whole grain flour milled at Fol Épi (see the gorgeous bran flakes!)
Wildfire Bakery on Quadra Street) with a partner and learned about Red Fife wheat through a Slow Food Canada initiative, how he and his partner parted ways and he spent a few years building his present bakery. For a vivid description of Cliff's journey as a baker from the moment he "discovered" Red Fife, you may want to read Mixing Up Change, the three-part article he wrote for the Baker's Journal: Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3) as he tells it much better than I ever could. If, like me, you are interested in the heritage grain movement, you may also enjoy reading this article on the Red Fife community by Saskatchewan writer Penny McKinley. It is a measure of Cliff's modesty as an artisan that when I complimented him on his 50% whole wheat bread - definitely the best I have ever sampled in its category - he attributed its taste and beautiful crumb to the flavor and excellent baking properties of the Red Fife...
According to Terra Madre - 1200 World Food Communities, a Slow Food Editore publication dated October 2004, "Today, Red Fife has survived due to the work of only a handful of organic heritage wheat and seed farmers scattered across Canada who have been faithfully growing the wheat to keep it from extinction. Artisan bread made from Red Fife wheat has a yellow crumb with an intense scent of herbs and vegetables colored with a light acidity. The nose has notes of anise and fennel, and in the mouth the bread is unexpectedly rich with a slightly herby and spicy flavor."
Wow, I wish I had thought of all these flavors when I described tasting Cliff's 50% whole Red Fife bread for the first time but really I would have been making it up: I detect neither fennel nor anise although the intense scent of herbs and vegetables may be what I read as the fragrance of wheat berries ripening in the fierce Western Canadian sun. As to spiciness, I don't know, I have tasted many wheats that were way spicier than this one.
I detect no acidity either in Cliff's 50% whole wheat bread and that's because, Cliff's modesty nothwithstanding, grain only tells part of the story. Controlled fermentation tells the rest. All of his breads are made with naturally leavened starters and the 50% whole wheat results from a process in which a small amount of levain ferments the dough very slowly at a cool temperature over a long period of time.
Fol Épi uses organic gray sea salt and filtered water (no chlorine). As explained above, the wheat is freshly milled and the flour is allowed to rest for at least six days (and no more than two or three weeks) before being used for baking.
I was so happy to be going home with some of this wheat I clutched it to my chest like the treasure that it was. We sailed through customs (the customs officer completely lost interest when I told him that we had visited bakers and were only bringing back flours and breads) and once home, I split the bags and sent one kilo of each flour to my friend Gérard Rubaud in Vermont so that he could try the Red Fife for himself. I baked two big loaves with the remaining flours.
Related post: 50% Whole Red Fife Wheat Bread (baked at home)