Baking with heritage wheat flour

Recently i was given some flour from some wheat grown at Torth Y Tir. Less dense in my fingers than Shipton No 4 and almost certainly ‘weaker’ , that is with less protein (it is the protein that gives the bread dough its strength and stops it becoming a soupy slop), i wondered about how to make sure i produced a loaf of bread with this.

I had heard that flour from heritage wheat can be more difficult to work with; on the other hand i also have heard from a very skilled baker that Jeffrey Hamelman, the famous American baker, recommends that you add low protein flour in the mix for all your bread.

The preferment after 8 hours

I would like to say that i had a long informed think about how to work with it, but i fancy that would be a fib. Instead, i distracted myself from lockdown news by coming to some quick on the spot decisions – i thought it might be good to bake it without mixing with other flour as a start, hold back on water, and use a sponge for a good long preferment to develop it as much as possible and then a long bulk in the fridge overnight.

The Torth y tir loaf just out the oven. The burst crust was a shame

What was interesting about working it was how far it stretched: i probably overworked it in fact – i have been told to be more gentle with the weaker flours. I certainly under-baked it by a couple of minutes, but it still came out to be a tasty loaf with a slightly nuttier and sweeter flavour.

In the autumn, hopefully we will have lots of heritage flour from the Sheffield Wheat Experiment and when we get to bake with it, this experience will be a useful bit of learning.

Grain to plate – planting

Last month i was able to announce that Regather together with Friend’s Field, were planting an acre of land with winter wheat.

The hope is to be able to produce some flour from this and from that some locally baked bread – bagels, bialys,  sourdough…whatever! From grain to plate!

The ace was on to be able to plough in the green manure and prepare the land for planting before it would be too cold for the planting.

Great work from Regather and friends to ensure the field was ready, the ploughing went ahead.

Watch this space for the germination pictures!


Grain to plate – 2018-19

Not long ago i had a brief, almost throw away conversation, with people at Regather. We were talking about where our food comes from and how important it is to understand what happens before it gets to our plate.

This subject spans a wide spectrum of topics – from GMOs to multinationals to deforestation to imperialism to poverty, war….and more.

Friends’ field: green manure for three years

One aspect is fostering an experiential approach to understanding food production.

So, children have been seen increasingly at city farms over the past 30 years; our own Heeley City Farm being a great example; and schemes like Food for Life are dedicated to ensuring we widen our collective understanding of food production and can access tasty and healthy food sustainably.

With regard to bread, the growth of sourdough bakeries has both stimulated and been a product of a discussion about and move away from manufactured bread products. Even so it seems there has not been a discussion at the next level of where the grain comes from and how it is processed . And this contrasts with wider discussions about organic vegetables, for example, or ‘food miles’.

Grain to plate experience.

Hay meadow at Friends Field

When I learnt Regather might be linking up with Friends Field, some dots started to join in my head.

Friends Field is a social enterprise in the wonderful Moss Volley.

15 acres of land that has had green manure for three years cut three times a year and mulched for worms to do their magic.

So last week i hear they will be a planting winter wheat (i.e it is sown in the winter) in an acre and half of the field; and next year via harrowing, planting, harvesting, threshing , milling, bagging and baking, it may land on a Sheffield plate!

There is still lots to find out and do. Not sure yet if it is hard or soft, red or white …. but we will find out soon as it has to be planted by November 5th.