Friday, 8 February 2008

Red Fife Whole Wheat Bread

For the last 3 years I have avoided eating wheat whenever possible, ever since I discovered that the red spots that plagued my complexion were not acne as I had always thought, but more like little red, scabby holes in my face which would appear a day to three days after I ate wheat products. Delightfully elegant and itchy to boot. Then, in the summer of 2007, we spent several months in Europe, eating large amounts of wheat daily, and I had no problems whatsoever. So - and this is particularly galling to someone dedicated to eating local food - my problem was with Canadian wheat specifically.

I thought I had tested organic flour earlier, but perhaps not scientifically enough. I'm giving it another try. When I was at The 100-Mile Market in Meaford, I bought some Red Fife wheat flour to test out. Here's my first attempt at baking with it.

I heard from several sources that Red Fife flour can be hard to work with. Organic flours in general don't have the dough conditioners that make regular commercial flour rise so well and consistently (but hopefully they also don't have the cause of my rash) so it is helpful to add something to help them out. Vitamin C powder is one thing you can use. You can find it at Bulk Barn, and also the gluten flour. I didn't actually use gluten flour; I used a little European white bread flour because I don't trust non-organic gluten flour. As long as you don't have my problem, you should use the gluten flour. It will have more of a kick.

Mixing Whole Wheat Bread DoughFirst I mixed a fairly moist dough, then kneaded in quite a lot of flour. I find this easier than trying to mix in most of the flour at the start.

The Kneaded Whole Wheat Bread DoughHere is the kneaded dough. It should be smooth, a little glossy, and elastic. When you give it a poke, it should spring back fairly quickly. This was enough dough to make two loaves of bread.

The Whole Wheat Bread Dough Punched Down and FormedAfter it rose once, I punched it down, and formed it into a loaf.

The Risen Whole Wheat Bread DoughI covered it and left it to rise overnight in our fairly cool kitchen. (The thermometer said 15°C in the morning.)

The Baked Whole Wheat BreadIt did not rise any more in the oven, which surprised me a little. The final result was a dense but not heavy loaf with a hearty, nutty flavour. I've still got the dough for the other loaf of bread sealed up in the fridge. I will probably bake it on Saturday morning.

2 loaves of bread
1 or 2 days - 30 minutes prep time

2 cups water
1/4 cup sunflower seed oil
1/4 cup honey
1 tablespoon yeast

1/4 cup gluten flour
2/3 cup ground flax meal
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon vitamin C powder
4 cups organic whole wheat flour

1 to 2 cups organic whole wheat flour

Heat the water until it is quite warm to the touch. Add the sunflower oil and honey, and stir until the honey is dissolved. Sprinkle the yeast over it and let it sit for 10 minutes or so until it is dissolved and foamy.

Meanwhile, mix all the remaining ingredients except the last 1 to 2 cups of flour.

Pour the yeast mixture into the flour mixture and stir until they are well amalgamated.

Spread 1 cup of flour on a clean board or counter. Turn out the dough and knead it, incorparating all of the flour. When it is absorbed, put some more flour out and continue kneading until the dough is smooth, elastic and not too sticky. Keep adding flour until this is achieved.

Divide the dough into 2 equal pieces and brush them with sunflower seed oil all over. One or both may be put in a covered container with space to expand, and kept in the fridge for several days. Otherwise, put them in bowls, cover them, and let rise until doubled in volume.

Press the dough to release much of the accumulated gases and return it to its original size. Shape it into a loaf, and put it in an oiled loaf pan. Cover and let rise until doubled or tripled in volume. As I said, I left mine out overnight in my cool kitchen and it worked very well.

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Bake the bread for 30 to 35 minutes, until done. (You will get a nice hollow sound when you tap on it, or you can test it with a toothpick.) Turn it out of the pan and let it cool.


sstragus said...

Your method of making the dough is very similar to the way my mom, and recently my partner, do it. Start with a fairly moist dough, then add four in 'til the desired consistency is achieved.

As for the rising period, I was surprised to read that you left it overnight. Also that you kept half in the fridge. The cold keeps it from rising any further?

We always bake the whole batch, usually 4 or 5 loaves, at the same time, and the rising time for the dough is only an hour or two. Maybe the relatively heavier flour takes longer to rise?

I'm interested to hear whether the red fife causes the same skin reaction that other Canadian flours have.

Ferdzy said...

Hi sstragus;

Yes, the cold does slow it down, and also prevents it from getting sour, especially if the weather is hot.

We find we don't usually go through 2 loaves fast enough for the second to stay fresh if we bake them both at once.

And I'm happy to report that I haven't had a reaction from the Red Fife flour, although I've concluded it's less the fact that it's a different wheat and more to do with the fact that it's being milled by a small local mill that isn't adding... *something*, I still have no idea what.

sstragus said...

I will do some investigating, as I find it rather disturbing that 'stuff' is being added to just about everything under the sun, rather than leaving it in it's pure, natural state. If I find out what these additives are, I will be happy to share. If you find out before I do, please do let me in on what they are.

We usually freeze baked loaves we won't get to right away to keep them fresh, then defrost them in the fridge a day before getting to them.

SSTragus said...

So we got some red fife flour today at our local Bulk Barn. We are eager to begin baking with it.

While there, I did some investigating. Here's what goes into Five Roses All Purpose Flour (I used to think it was just flour): wheat flour, niacin, thiamine, mononitrate, riboflavin, reduced iron, folic acid, benzoyl peroxide, ascorbic acid, amylase. In Cake & Pastry Flour: wheat flour, chlorine, benzol peroxide, niacine, reduced iron, thiamine mononitrate, riboflavin, folic acid. Unbleached white flour, which we sometimes use, lists just one ingredient: wheat flour.

Perhaps most of the added items aren't so bad--some are vitamins--but I am a firm believer in whole foods. We are best off eating a variety of whole foods to get all the nutrients we need rather than processing foods to break them down into their constituent parts, then adding these isolated nutrients, however good in their natural state, to a variety of foods that may or may not contain these nutrients in nature.

More on this at my vegan blog... don't want my soapbox comment to take up too much space here.

Ferdzy said...

Yeah, SSTragus, that's right - vitamins are common, also dough conditioners, which allow you to turn out a consistent bread dough that rises well. My recipe adds Vitamin C for that purpose. Lecithin is another common one for home bakers to use, and commercial bakers too for that matter. But this is why it's been practically impossible for me to find the source of my problem - there are just too many variables.

Eli said...

Hi Ferdzy,

I was just searching around for a way to make my bread a little less dense and I stumbled upon your blog about red fife. I too use red fife wheat flour, but I am also experimenting with mixing other organic flours in to help lighten the loaf. As I type this, I have one rising that is half red fife and half organic spelt. Instead of proofing the yeast as you listed you do, I just use a quick-rise yeast, but I still have to let it go through 2 risings for the glutens to develop properly. Here's hoping it isn't overly dense!

And, if I may pass on some advice, if you are going to try to raise chickens, I strongly recommend Black jersey Giants. They are a large dual purpose heritage breed. My wife and I raise some ourselves, with the aid of an incubator. Just look out for dogs (even your own), skunks and raccoons.