Wednesday, July 6, 2016

The Living Embryo of Whole Wheat

For our 46th Wedding Anniversary the good Doctor purchased something I have always wanted. No, it wasn't a diamond bracelet which is still on my bucket list, but a whole grain mill. And some wheat kernels that were non-GMO, non-irradiated so I could make a low gluten bread. 

For over 10 years it was all about gluten free wheat free in between the occasional cheat. However, the idea that came to my mind was this. In our great grandparents day the wheat was harvested whole and not disturbed. The era of true farming. A throwback to the old ancient ways. Since then our nation has health problems infinitum and the big corrupter of that was flour made from wheat that was stripped of its germ, bran and endosperm. Those vital nutrients were given to the livestock. We, the people got the cardboard nothingness. So flour companies had to enrich it with vitamins and still pass it off as white goodiness. In the meantime, celiac diseases came about, gluten sensitivity and intolerance and then the hundreds of gut diseases ( our second brain). Cancers abounded and people just went into dire fatigue.

I thought about all that and asked myself, why was this stripping even allowed? Corporation take over which added to my list of all the evils, Monsanto at the top of the list because the wheat was not fit for consumption with glysophate attacking its genome.

I had to find farms that remained pure and they are out there. Then buy the kernels that were nurtured and mill the wheat myself, then figure out how to make the bread with a very low gluten percentage. I studied and learned that the longer the starter upward towards 19 hours room temp, the more microbiome is created from the atmosphere. THIS is how our ancestors did it. They did not have yeast. When I investigated some of the celebrity chefs here and in France and around the world, I was inspired. What began this journey was that the first two loaves of regular breadmaking turned into a fiasco with the whole milled wheat. I could use them as doorstops. So now my mission was to create a bread using a formula that incorporated the long rise. One of my huge idols in the business of food purity is Dan Barber. You can hear and see him working his artform on the Netflix original called Chefs Table. Here is a bit from an article written about him called "Bread is Broken". I am paraphrasing to put it into a storyline but this is the gist of it.


There is a 600 sf room known as the Bread Lab in Mt. Vernon Washington State, where Stephen Jones who has a Doctorate in genetics from UC Davis,and now works for Washington State University, evaluates all the chemistry of pure wheat dough. It has been his office for the last 4 years and the great chefs like Chad Robertson of Tartine,  Jeffrey Hamelman of King Arthur Flour, revered Jone's work. Now Chef Dan Barber of Blue Hill at Stone Barnes restaurant ( 60 day waiting list for a very expensive meal) has asked Jones to create Barber wheat through cross pollination, all the while maintaining sustainability. Jones was taught the craft of breeding a long time ago. He knew wheat had a hundred hermaphrodite flowers which in essence allows the plant to self pollinate. His career goal was to improve the yield and disease resistant wheat cultivars used in industrial milling but after a disgusted view of what wheat was used for, he left and began a purer journey with Washington State.

Dr. Stephen Jones, PhD.

The giant band of wheat that stripes the center of America is a byproduct of the industrial age. From the 18th century to the early 19th century, wheat was grown mainly near the coasts. During this time, immigrants and American emissaries introduced numerous varieties — Mediterranean, Purple Straw, Java, China, Pacific Bluestem — which breeders tinkered with, adapting them to various soils. All that preindustrial wheat was a living library of flavors: vanilla, honeysuckle, black pepper. Agricultural journals of the time noted the idiosyncrasies of wheat kernels — whether they were red and bearded, velvety or ‘‘plump, round, of a coffeelike form’’ — and distinguished wheats that produced ‘‘excellent’’ and ‘‘well-flavored’’ bread from those that yielded ‘‘inferior’’ loaves. Two wheats in particular, Red Fife and Turkey Red, became immensely popular in part because of their robust nuttiness.

It was in 1839 that the kernel was sheared with the steel roller mill. Before then, stone or wood was used. Because the fragrant nutrients were stripped, the flour if not used immediately, turned rancid.

People think when they buy whole wheat flour it's pure. The germ and bran are added back in after the stripping. How integral do you think that is? The oily germ has a shelf life. Which, by the way, is a crock to think you are getting healthy wheat germ anywhere in a bottle.

The ongoing work in Bread Lab is developing nutty dark breads with delicious aromas of chocolaty, caramel, cinnamon, nutmeg. The outcome relies on how the soil is nurtured, what was harvested there, and the cross pollination.

I am not ready to shout out my research regarding a good bread baked just yet but you will know when I do.

Excerpts from Bread is Broken, New York Times Magazine Oct 29, 2015

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