A Grind Above

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It's really quite amazing now-a-days how home bakers can turn out extraordinary loaves of bread often equal and sometimes even superior to those found in bakeries. This is due, in good part, to the availability of high quality flour that is fairly standardized so that if following a good recipe, and weighing or measuring carefully, the amount of liquid does not need to vary. I have recently discovered something pretty mind blowing, however, about artisan bread and why the complexity of flavor can far exceed the loaves I've been baking. My much esteemed bread baking colleague, Peter Reinhart, told me about a very special flour from Anson Mills that he said was able to absorb more water than the usual flours. I lost no time in contacting Anson Mills and was thrilled when Glenn Roberts offered to send me samples. When I asked him about the percentage of protein his guess was 12-13%. He explained that the flour is hand scrubbed so that the germ is still present and referred to as "green flour." To keep the germ alive he advised me to put the flour in the freezer as soon as it arrived and that it would keep for 6 months. When the flour arrived, I was amazed by the aroma and almost clay-like color. I baked both my standard hearth bread boule and the ubiquitous "no knead bread." It was impressive how, when mixing the dough, the flour quickly and evenly absorbed the water. Both loaves had beautiful crumb and structure though they were significantly lower in height than usual. The basic hearth bread, which is normally 7-1/2 by 4" high was 9" by 3". The crumb was darker. And the flavor fantastic. The most impressive result was that the no knead bread, which so many people including me complain about having a pasty crumb and somewhat one dimensional flavor, was moist but not at all pasty and absolutely delicious. i never want to make it again without this flour! Here is some fascinating information of a more technical nature that Glenn Roberts shared: We occasionally develop wild yeast and inoculate liquid levain prep within a mature ready to harvest landrace wheat field by pre-misting the whole wheat plants with water in a small area then setting the levain prep in the center of the misted plants since the populations/ratios of these yeast strains are nearly extinct here in the USA due to pervasive modern wheat that supports a different yeast population spectrum. The baking results are extraordinary but the process is not yet reliable. We've lost much in this sphere over the last century. Our current field and bread lab research at our own research farm in Hopkins, SC, Clemson University Organic Research Farm in Charleston and at the WSU Bread Lab in Mt. Vernon, WA, involves Polycrop Flours where we grow many classes of plants interspersed with wheat plants in the ancient ways of the Fertile Crescent using native fertility. We harvest these together, thresh them together, then mill them together. These flours are very aromatic and flavorful and, because they contain cereals, legumes, oil seeds and more, very intriguing with regard to baking characteristics and flavor profile in finished breads. If you are interested in trying out some of the Anson Mills fresh cold milled organic heirloom flours, they offer 2# and 10# retail bags on their site. The one that I used was the French Mediterranean White Bread Flour. I also love their cornmeal. For bulk wholesale orders click on this link and click on the wholesale tab.