The morning is brisk and the sky is clear. I read on the Accuweather website that Catawba weather is even "brisker" and was to drop down to low 40's last night.
It isn't cool enough here for a fire in the fireplace, but it would be back on the farm.
The onset of fall is my favorite time of year.
I am still waiting for the arrival of my shipment of grain from Montana. Have been waiting for a couple of weeks. Last week I was speaking to one of the gals in the office who told me they were still testing the quality of the 2011 harvest. When it was all said and done, they discovered that the protein content for the Hard White Wheat, a variety of golden wheat that I use for many of our recipes, was in the 13% range. Too low.
You see, after milling grains and using 100% whole wheat and spelt for my bread recipes for several years, it became apparent that even a half percentage point in the protein department would make a huge difference in bread quality. Many bakeries use different ingredients, like gluten, to maintain consistency in their breads. These extra ingredients also have different preservatives and chemicals that I wish to eliminate from our products. That means I have to really pay attention to the quality of ingredients I get, since I don't have the margin of those "back up" elements.
Higher level of protein is what makes bread have a lighter texture. It causes the cells of the flour to have enough heft and structure to hold up to the rising action of the yeast. When baking cookies or cornbread or biscuits, one wants a lower level of protein, to make more of a crumb. But not in a chewy loaf of italian bread. Or a flexible tortilla. Or slice of toast that won't completely fall apart in the toaster.
So after a couple of phone calls back and forth with the grain company, speaking to the guy who does the lab tests and the lady who does the real life in the kitchen bread baking tests, we decided to skip buying the 20 fifty pound bags of this years wheat and to go for the 2010 harvest, which is still plenty fresh, should last for at least two more years, and has a protein content of 14.5%.
It is on an Old Dominion truck right now, heading south, along with almost 25 fifty pound bags of Organic spelt berries and some Organic Durum Semolina grain and some Organic Kamut and Rye.
It is good doing business with a company who does what they can to make sure I have the right ingredients for the type of bread I bake. The grain from this year's harvest will be just right for many other bakers, so it won't go to waste. But I won't be stuck with something that produces an inferior bread.
I hope it gets here soon so I can return to my regular bakery schedule.
Oh, and for you, Debi, and others who are wondering what the heck Spelt is, here is a brief description I give to all my customers!
Spelt is an ancient grain, granddaddy to modern wheat berries. It is a grass, its use traced back over 5000 years to what is now modern Syria. The grain was grown in Germany and then brought here to the US by religious groups who did not believe in the practice of hybridization. So spelt has been grown in closed communities, in small volume, without the use of pesticides or other chemicals, for many years. Never cross-pollinized with other types of wheat.
It is a very high protein grain, red in color, and sweet in taste, if freshly milled. It makes an amazing bread, cake and cookie, if you know how to use it. One of the things that makes it so desirable is that for some reason, many folks who are made ill by regular wheat products can eat spelt with no ill effects. Spelt is NOT gluten-free. In fact, it is very high in natural gluten. But some folks who negatively react to wheat products are not actually allergic to the gluten, but some other factor in the wheat.
Since spelt is a specialty grain, grown in less quantity that the standard hard red wheat that is cusomarily used for most of the nation's wheat products, it is very expensive. But I have noticed that my spelt customers are some of the most loyal of the bunch, thrilled to have access to a yummy bread or cake or cookie that doesn't make them sick.
I think spelt has a hearty, rich flavor, and I love how it works in the breads I bake. My kids don't really care about the nutritional benefits. But Maggie and Patrick can each consume a loaf of spelt almond raisin rye in one afternoon. And Nora especially likes the spelt chocolate chip cookies. Rose likes the spelt seedy loaf and Thomas can consume several grilled cheese sandwiches made from spelt Milk and honey bread. All in one sitting!
But for today, at least, the mill is silent and the bakery is gathering dust until that pallet of grain arrives. I certainly hope the truck gets here after school so I have some young man and woman power to get it into our bakery! At least it isn't 95 degrees.