January 12 2015 • David Zivot
Grandma's cookbook is lying
Everything Changes. Technology, culture, and yes, recipes.
As interest in baking with fresh-milled flour grows, there's an immediate challenge, and it is kind of a big one. Most likely your time-tested family baking recipes have been changed at some point in the past 70 years to work with highly refined modern flour.
I know, I know. Your GRANDmother used the same recipes! It’s got an old-timey wagon wheel on it the cover! It must be authentic!
Sorry to burst your bubble. While most cities have a few bakeries familiar with traditional long-ferment sourdough preparation, almost every cherished home recipe passed down to you has been adjusted (or even invented) since modern flour became the standard.
And that’s a challenge for the aspiring heritage baker.
Flour as Fresh Food
Baking can be fussy, and fresh whole flour just doesn’t behave the same as modern white flour (or modern "whole wheat" flour for that matter). It's less refined, less consistent, less uniform—you know, like any other real food. Go ahead and try some fresh-ground Red Fife in Grandmas soft-roll recipe, it ain’t gonna work.
To return to heritage baking we need heritage recipes. (And heritage tastebuds too, but more on that in part 2.)
Take a look at the ingredients of pretty much any “Ancient Grain” bread at your grocery store. Yes, it contains some ancient grains, but you are also likely to find the very first ingredient in the list is plain old wheat flour (read: MODERN wheat flour). You may also find things like concentrated (or vital) wheat gluten, xanthan gum, potato starch, tapioca starch, etc. These additives are used to make those ‘pesky’ ancient grain flours behave just like modern wheat flour in an industrial setting. That’s not baking...its manufacturing.
Manufactured bread is essentially Wonderbread dressed up in overalls and a straw hat.
So building a new heritage cookbook means some research, lots of “playing” in the kitchen, and lots of sharing. There are pre-20th century recipes out there just waiting to be updated for the 21st century kitchen, and new classics waiting to be invented. Tips to share about home milling techniques, particular varieties (and even batches) of flour. So roll up your sleeves, get your hands on some fresh-milled heritage flours, prepare to have a few disappointments and a few revelations. Start baking.
We’ve got lots of recipes on our website to get you started. It’s mostly quick-breads and cookies, which is where most home bakers start. But we’ve been experimenting in our kitchen with some basic bread and pasta recipes we hope to be posting very soon.
Stay tuned for Part 2 — Heritage Tastebuds