Khorasan is another of the “Ancient Grains” which originated likely originates from the Fertile Crescent (the area around the Euphrates and Tigris rivers.) and derives its name from the Afghan historical province of Khorasan (Some scientists think that it may have come from western Anatolia (Turkey), where the botanical diversity is greater than in Iran.
A couple of farmers in Montana have trademarked the name “Kamut”, which Khorasan is commonly known by, ostensibly to protect its provenance, but more likely because they want a lock on the market. (I buy my White Khorasan flour from a mill in Montana.)
Khorasan has a higher protein content that regular red winter wheat and a rich, nutty flavor.
All wheat belongs to the genus Triticum; from that classification wheat can be divided into three groups based on their number of chromosomes. Diploid wheat (14 chromosomes) is the earliest grouping. Cultivated varieties in this group are rare and the only example that was known to be cultivated, and still is, is einkorn. Einkorn is another of the “Ancient Grains”.
Tetraploid wheat (28 chromosomes) is more common. This includes ancient varieties such as emmer and Khorasan, as well as modern varieties such as durum, which is commonly used to make pasta.
The most common wheat is hexaploid wheat (42 chromosomes) and includes spelt, modern bread wheat and soft wheat used for cookies and cakes.
The Whole Grains Council (Who knew such an organization exists!) has a good post of sprouted grains, which are a common addition to bread. Sprouting grains makes them digestible and tasty and they are a great addition to a sourdough breadh. I sprout my wheat berries by soaking themt in water for 6 - 8 hours and then rinsing them every 12. after about two days, one can see growth in the seedling root, at which point I refrigerate them.
This Saturday’s Bake
I will make bread with whole Khorasan flour, white flour and sprouted Khorasan berries.
Turkey Red Wheat is a tall, winter hardy heritage grain, grown in the Great Plains. Heritage wheat refers to the varieties of wheat that were grown before the “Green Revolution”, which started in the 1940’s, when plant biologists developed hybrids to improve yields. This wheat variety has a unique, rich, and complex flavor and excellent baking qualities. Production methods used are nearly identical to those used for other hard winter wheat, with the exception of accommodating the significantly taller growth habit and later date of harvest.
This particular variety can be traced to Crimea between the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov in the early 19th century and earlier to Turkey to the south of the Black Sea. Mennonite immigrants brought it to the United States in the early 1870s. It became the dominant hard red winter wheat in Kansas and much of the Great Plains bread basket and was the major hard winter variety in the 1920s. Significant acreage was planted in Kansas until the mid-1940s when it was replaced with modern higher-yielding cultivars. While being milled it smells "...fresh like a garden or tomatoes."
All modern wheat varieties are derived from crosses with a dwarf wheat from Japan and, therefore, grow to around only two feet tall. This development, which was duplicated in other crops such as rice and corn, tripled or even quadrupled yields – but at a cost. They require the increased use of fertilizers – some of runoff into local streams and rivers - and herbicides, which vary in toxicity and side effects. And, there is some research that hybridization changed the structure (and digestibility) of gluten in the wheat berry.
This Saturday’s Bake
I will make white sourdough loaves using organic Turkey Red white flour sourced from a family mill in rural Minnesota.
This Saturday’s Bake
This Saturday I plan to make 80% whole grain loaves, using organic winter wheat berries, organic white flour and water at and 85 – 90% hydration. This high level of hydration – 65 – 70% is more typical – takes into account both the fact the bran from the berries the brown husk) absorbs a lot of water, and the fact that I want to give the bread as open a crumb as possible. Heavier flours, those made with all or most of the wheat berry and/or a lower gluten content (Rye flours fall into this category) result in breads that are denser with fewer bubbles in them.
Let's talk about taste - Fresh milled whole grain is just that - fresh - so the wheat germ hasn't had time to oxidize, which can generate a slight bitter aftertaste (you sometimes pick this up in whole wheat flour purchased at the supermarket.). In fact, fresh ground whole grain imparts a sweet, slightly nutty taste the the loaf. This will be a hearty, fiber-full bread.
A Note on How Bakers Think About Measures
Bakers think terms of weight and percentages. So, rather than measure by volume – e.g. two cups of flour – I measure in grams and kilograms. Additionally, the percentages noted above cited as the percentage weight on an ingredient (in that case water) relative to the weight of flour.
This is helpful for a couple of reasons. First, measuring by weight enables the baker to control for humidity and the amount of air in the sifted flour and. Using percentages makes it easy to scale a recipe from just a few loaves to many – like the 50 that I will bake this weekend. I have setup some spreadsheets that enable me to play with percentages and scale recipes as needed.
I plan to bake this Saturday (the 4th time this month) as I may take the next weekend – July 4th off, and have to travel another weekend in July (i.e. you’ll get bread on four Saturdays in June and two in July.) I hope this will work for you – you can freeze this Saturday’s delivery (The bread holds up well when frozen, retaining its chewy crust) – and know that your baker is here to produce excellent bread for you and will not normally twist the schedule to suit his own needs.
Flour was sifted (or bolted) as far back as Roman times to remove the bran (the outer covering of the wheat berry and the brown component of whole wheat flour), likely to make cakes and breads appear finer, but this process really only took off during the industrial revolution when millers figured out that by removing not just the bran but the germ (the fatty nib and the end of the wheat berry), flour could be stored longer and shipped further than with those components remaining. The oils in the wheat germ would otherwise become rancid at room temperature after a few days, spoiling the flour they were part of.
Any wheat flour can be bolted – I just received a 50 pound bag of white Khorasan flour from a mill in Montana (The loaves you had this past week were made with fresh whole grain Khorasan.)
Better quality white flours like the ones I use are left by the miller to age and in this aging carotenoids in the flour naturally oxidize, combining with oxygen in the flour itself. Sometimes, I will get bags of very fresh flour that has a yellow creamy color: after a couple of weeks it has become white due to this natural oxidation.
High volume mills bleach white flour using chemicals like chlorine gas and may add Potassium Bromate and Ascorbic acid to assist with gluten development and / or preservatives like Calcium Propanoate or Sodium Benzoate. Flour with these additives is used to make bread quickly in high volume factories (Michael Pollan’s description of a visit to a Wonder Bread factory near Sacramento in his book “Cooked” is worth a read.)
As well, these industrially processed flours are often enriched with vitamins like Niacin and Thiamine, in part because of concerns about malnourishment dating from before WW II and because the processes to which the flour is subjected destroy some of its nutritional value.
White flour is less nutritious than whole grain versions – the latter has more fiber, fatty acids, vitamins and minerals. But it does taste great and is fun to work with; important parts of preparing and consuming any food.
This Saturday’s Bake
This Saturday, I plan to make a straight up white sourdough, using organic flour from Central Milling (unbleached, with no additives) and a liquid levain. Getting the right amount of water in the dough can be a little tricky, as can matching the percentage of water with the dough proofing time and temperature. If I do things right, you’ll have loaves with a nice open crumb (Crumb is the texture of the interior of the bread).
I am sure many of you know Tartine Bakery, run by Chad Robertson in the Mission in San Francisco. His miche is unsurpassed. Robertson is one of ½ a dozen artisan bakers here in Northern California that had radically reshaped the way folks think about bread. I found his description of how to develop a sourdough loaf very helpful when I was starting out a couple of years ago.
I recently came across this blog post about his next planned evolution, which has caused quite a stir in the artisanal baking community. Essentially, it sounds as though Robertson if figuring out ways to scale his operation, bringing his bread to a much larger audience, which will inevitably require a fair bit of mechanization. Some folks view this as a threat to the local food movement, an act of selling out.
However, I wonder if this is a small part of the necessary next step – a big step to be sure - in changing the way our industrial food system works. While it offers much to criticize, the modern “farm to fork” food industry is a miracle of efficiency, quality and consistency; it has removed malnourishment from the public health agenda and families spend a much lower percentage of their income on food than they used to.
But, the industry has become dependent on corn, sugar and preservatives with little regard to the health problems these cause (e.g. obesity, type 2 diabetes). Time for a change.
This Saturday’s Bake
This Saturday, I plan to make a whole grain loaf for you using fresh ground Khorasan (Kamut) berries. Khorasan is one of the “ancient grains” that have recently gained popularity in the artisanal baking community (others include Emmer, Spelt and Einkorn). Some folks claim that these ancient grains are much easier for people with gluten intolerance to digest.
Khorasan likely originated from the Fertile Crescent and derives its common name from the Afghan historical province of Khorasan. It has probably been continuously cultivated at small scales and for personal use in Near East and Central Asia and in Northern Africa, but not commercially.
Khorasan wheat is well known for its smooth texture and its nutty, buttery flavour. Its content of tannin is lower than modern wheat’s; hence, it is not as bitter. Consumers generally like Khorasan wheat products for their visual appeal, their texture and their moistness.
I make my whole grain bread with 40 – 60% whole grain, which I fresh mill within 24 hours of mixing. The fresh milling means that the loaf contains all the components of the wheat berry and gives it a sweet, slightly earthy taste.
Loafers – This Saturday I plan to make or multigrain loaves, which I may form in bannetons (The wooden baskets you see in some bakeries) or as batards – hand shaped and left to rise in folds of a couche. The bread has a somewhat tighter crumb that my white loaf and has slightly nutty taste and a crunchy feel. If I get the oven temperature right it will have a substantial and chewy crust.
The ingredients are simple:
Organic White Flour
This flour is made from a blend of hard red winter wheat that has been selected for artisan bread
Organic Medium Rye Flour
This flour is milled on a short flow roller mill where the bran and germ is not separated during the milling process. However, a little of the outer bran layer off is sifted off to lighten the flour a bit. Short flow roller mills are more gentle on the wheat kernel and the milling process generates much less heat.
Organic Freshly Milled Whole Grain Flour
I have a small table top stone mill that I mill organic red winter wheat berries with to create a full whole grain flour. This has everything from the wheat in it – germ, endosperm, husk – and so is very tasty and very nutritious
Organic Cracked Grains
A blend of 6 cracked grains (I have lost the list but am pretty sure it contains: wheat, oats, rye, barley, corn and flax), which I soak for 8 hours before adding to the dough.
Filtered through activated charcoal to remove particulates, impurities and chloramines but not minerals, which give flavor to the liquid.
Mined, no additives.
Yeast and Bacteria – “Sourdough”
The wondrously complex and only partially understood interaction between the naturally occurring yeasts (Saccharomyces exiguus, Candida milleri, or Candida holmii) and bacteria (Three metabolic groups of lactobacillus) is what gives Crust Baking’s bread a deep, complex flavor. It isn’t particularly sour – sourness comes from fermentation at higher temperatures which I avoid. I proof – let rise – my dough overnight at low temperatures, which lets the yeasts and bacteria develop slowly, resulting in deeper flavors.
For those of you signed up by this Wednesday, I will add a treat to your bag – a loaf of raisin walnut multi grain - which folks really like.
I will text recipients when their order is ready, typically between Noon and 2 PM on Saturday
Your Canadian Baker