I grew up in Ithaca, New York, home of the famous Moosewood Restaurant. My parents love Moosewood. In fact, they even had their wedding “reception” there. My parents would drag me there on a semi-regular basis. As a child I failed to appreciate how exceptional the food at Moosewood really was. However, there was one food there I truly loved: fresh baked bread with butter.
The bread was a thick and crusty whole wheat bread, nutty, moist, and sweet. It was denser than store-bought bread, but had a lightness to it that home-baked whole wheat breads often lack.
Recently I’ve been experimenting a bit with bread making. Usually, my breads turn out a bit like bricks, and are usually a little dry. Dense loaves have their place, to be sure, but I was determined to make a light one. Last night I had a success for two reasons, I believe.
The first was the recipe. I was baking bread from a recipe in Julie Jordan’s Wings of Life, which is an absolutely fabulous whole-foods cookbook. I picked up her later book, the Cabbagetown Cafe Cookbook. In there was a new bread recipe–one that called for more yeast and a different techique than her previous recipes. The new recipe, she claimed, would produce a lighter loaf. Ah ha! Exactly what I was looking for.
The second was the Bauman College grain grinder, which has been moved from campus to campus several times with the hope that it might get more use at each new location. Last night, I think I was the first person to use it in years. Julie Jordan always recommends grinding your own flour and I finally had the opportunity to do so.
I bought wheat berries from Masa Organics, a local company that grows and sells brown rice, almonds, and wheat. As the berries were ground into flour, I could smell their nuttiness–something you don’t encounter with store bought flour. I mixed the flour with yeast, warm water, and maple syrup and let this sponge bubble for an hour and a half. I added the rest of my flour and kneaded. I could actually see the white threads of gluten forming! I let the bread rise for another hour, punched it down, shaped it and let it rise again for another hour before putting it in the oven to bake.
Finally, at 1 AM, I cracked into my loaf of freshly baked bread. It was delicious. Almost exactly like Moosewood’s bread and a far cry from my dense brick loaves. Despite the short rise times, the bread was rich and flavorful.
Bread is an art and there’s always room for improvement. The loaf was a bit crumbly. Perhaps it needed a bit more kneading or the flour needed a second pass through the mill. The crust also wasn’t browning after an hour at 350. Next time, I’ll start baking at a higher temperature. But all in all it was a success.
Check out the Cabbagetown Cafe Cookbook for the recipe. Even if you don’t have access to a grain mill, this bread recipe is wonderful and would work just fine with store bought whole wheat flour.
Lead Kitchen Manager