The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Family grown wheat under big skies

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PiPs's picture
PiPs

Family grown wheat under big skies

The past week has been spent under big skies. I had travelled to my families home overlooking the small township of Warwick which is two hours drive south-west of Brisbane. As I left the city outskirts and watched the land open up before me, my hands relaxed on the steering wheel and I breathed in the space … up above the skies felt bigger.

This was a belated Christmas trip and the amount the garden had grown and developed showed how long it had been since my last visit. Apples hung heavily and tomatoes had self-sowed everywhere you looked. My parent’s garden is such an inspiration for Nat and I, and what a joy to see my youngest daughter pulling carrots, picking tomatoes, grasping flowers while asking endless questions.

Recently I discovered that my aunt and her husband grow wheat on their farm situated near the small town of Bell, 260 km north-west of Brisbane. I have many fond memories of Christmas holidays spent there playing with my cousins, watching cricket on hot summer days and exploring the farm at the foothills of the Bunya Mountains. It had never occurred to me that they grew grain and on a recent trip to my parents, my aunt left a bag of wheat for my father and I to use in our grain mills.

A data sheet left with the bag indicated that the variety of wheat we had been given was Kennedy - a prime hard wheat with high dough strength, a long mixing time and excellent baking qualities. Interestingly the data sheet also indicated the wheat had a protein level of 9.5% which did not seem particularly high so I planned a cautious bake.

This was fresh wheat from a farm … there were bits of stray material, wheat heads, damaged grains and over breakfast my daughter, father and I chatted and laughed while we sorted through a kilogram of the grains picking out the unwanted material. The grains are smaller and lighter in colour than wheat which I have milled previously. It milled beautifully in my father's Hawos stone mill.

 

Not long after purchasing my Komo mill, my parents had visited and become fascinated with the idea of milling fresh flour. This led my father to purchase a Hawos Billy 100 stone mill for use with his bread machine with excellent results. Although the Billy 100 is a physically larger mill using a wider millstone it contains a smaller motor than the Komo XL leading to slower and quieter milling. I was really impressed with the quality of the flour and was a little envious of the lovely pieces of bran the mill seemed to produce.

Before mixing a bread I wanted to get a feel for the flour so I asked my mum to bake us a fantastically chewy slice that is packed full of fruit and flavour. My mum does not measure when she cooks so it was a challenge to slow her down so I could take a few rough measurements.


My Mum’s Super Chewy Fruit Slice (featuring freshly milled family flour)

Ingredients

200g Butter

70g Honey

250g Freshly milled wholewheat flour

2 ½ tsp Baking powder

2 eggs

180g Mixed fruit

180g Chopped dates

60g Craisins

70g Dried blueberries

½ cup Brown sugar

1 cup Desiccated coconut

2 cups Special K breakfast cereal

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 160C
  2. Line a slice tin with baking paper
  3. Combine butter and honey in a saucepan and melt over a low heat
  4. Mix baking powder with the flour and sift twice to incorporate
  5. Lightly beat eggs
  6. Transfer melted butter mixture to a large bowl with all remaining ingredients and stir until combined
  7. Press into prepared tin and place into oven for approx 30 mins or until golden brown.
  8. Allow to cool before slicing

 

 

During the day I built up the levain and pondered how to treat this unknown wheat. With a seemingly low protein level I was reluctant to soak the flour for an extended period so I opted for a one hour autolyse with cooler water. I also chose to preferment 25% of the total flour to help strengthen the flour. I usually aim for a hydration level of 85% for my fresh milled wholewheat breads but with the expectation of weaker flour I dropped this to 75%. 

After the autolyse I was surprised to find a firm and resilient dough and as soon as I began mixing I knew I would need a higher hydration. By the end of mixing I had increased the hydration to my usual 85% and had dough that felt strong and extensible. A stretch-and-fold at the 30 min mark confirmed the dough’s strength and I left it untouched for the remainder of the two hour bulk ferment.

After straight forward shaping and proving, getting results from my parent’s oven would remain the biggest challenge as I tried to add steam without my usual cast iron steam pans. A few ice cubes and a raging hot baking stone worked well but not to the usual standard of my oven at home.

The resulting bread had expanded boldly in the oven with a sweet caramel flavour to the crumb and light golden crust. It was slightly denser to my previous wholewheat breads and I am keen to mill this wheat at home in my Komo to see what results I get.

… and what better way to enjoy bread than with home grown tomatoes still warm from the sun, fresh picked basil, olive oil and sprinkle of cracked pepper.

 

Cheers,
Phil

Comments

Ascort's picture
Ascort

Hi Phil.

It was great to have you home and I have to agree that there was something very special about the bake.  Having the fresh grown wheat from my sister's farm, and the fact that it was straight from the grain truck, complete with the odd few grains that did not belong just added to the rustic charm.  Nice to eat the loaf with home grown produce as well.

The thing that did dissapoint me a little was that we did not get to bake a similar loaf in my cast iron camp oven in the coals of an open fire on our Stanthorpe bush land as we had planned.  That would have really added the final touch to the home grown flavour.  Maybe next time.

PiPs's picture
PiPs

Was so great to be there ... Are you getting any rain? Its raining in Brisbane at the moment.

Using the wheat was a real treat ... I loved finding the wheat heads amongst the grains ... I forgot to photograph them :(

Yep the trip seem to over in a flash ... We will make it down to the land soon I hope. Would also be great to visit your sister and watch the farm in action for the next wheat season.

Cheers,
Phil

ananda's picture
ananda

Hi Phil,

A true story of what "from farm to fork" really means.

Beautiful bread, and sweet slice, and photography as ever

Best wishes

Andy

PiPs's picture
PiPs

Thanks Andy,

I am getting those food miles down in size :)

It was a really rewarding experience ... and I know its in my head, but,  that bread tasted really good :)

All the best,
Phil

Mebake's picture
Mebake

I like how you enjoy things simple. Always, best of things are those kept simple, Phil!

Very  inspiring post, Phil! 

I own a Hawos - easy mill, the smallest in their range of mills, but quite effective.

 

PiPs's picture
PiPs

Thanks Khalid,

I am a big believer in keeping things simple. I was really impressed with the Hawos mill - made lovely flour.

Cheers,
Phil

PMcCool's picture
PMcCool

I'm glad that you were able to spend some time away from the city.  While I appreciate much of what cities have to offer, they are, in many ways, a terminus.  It is always good to go back to where things originate; to see the world doing what it always does.

A question for you: you picture a small citrus fruit just to the right of the photo of the chard.  What are those?  Are they strictly ornamental or do they have another use?  My reason for asking is that I saw some while in South Africa but the people whom I asked weren't acquainted with the tree or the fruit.

Paul

Ascort's picture
Ascort

Hi Paul

I am Phil's dad and the fruit tree is in my back yard.  It is a variety of dwarf cumquat that we have growing in an above ground garden bed, along with a dwarf lime and two dwarf lemon trees.  The fruit is quite edible and is suitable for making marmalade etc.

PMcCool's picture
PMcCool

That demystifies it for me.  Odd though it may sound, the one that I saw was next to a dwarf lime tree, too!

Paul

varda's picture
varda

just been gawking at your pictures, which are just beautiful.    I think it takes a lot of guts to bake in someone else's kitchen.  I haven't even done it, and after slowly optimizing just about everything in my own, would find it very difficult.   I love the summer shots (tomatoes - oh my God) as here we are with snow on the ground (finally - a very warm snowless winter.)    -Varda

PiPs's picture
PiPs

Hi Varda,

I had my bread making tools in a small box so I could take them with me - still was a challenging bake though -  unkown wheat, different mill, different kitchen and unknown oven.

It has been a relatively mild summer here apart from a few hot days ... we are very lucky to have such beautiful weather here.

Cheers,
Phil

nicodvb's picture
nicodvb

Hi Phil, the bread came out nice. I wonder how is the consistence? Is it chewier or softer than the bread you make with your usual wheat?

I really envy you that marevllous sun and nice weather. Here we have polar cold and a british fog that doesn't let you see more than 5 meters away! Someone from UK should take it back, please!!! this fog doesn't belong here;)

PiPs's picture
PiPs

Thanks nico,

The bread was just a little chewier and I am wondering if the Hawos mill produced a coarser flour than my Komo mill. I could feel a lot more bran in the dough when I was kneading. The dough produced did not seem at all like the 9.5% protein listed on the data sheet. I think next time I will soak the flour longer and possibly ferment it a little longer and see what it produces.

I am back in Brisbane and it is looking wet and rainy again ... so much for the big open skies :)

Cheers,
Phil

ananda's picture
ananda

It's sunny here Nico!!!   But very windy.

you can have the fog on extended loan if you like!

Best wishes

Andy

Franko's picture
Franko

 Thank you for this thoroughly enjoyable post Phil. Your photos are always terrific, but as I listen to the gale force winds and freezing rain pound against the side of our house, your pictures of sunny blue skies and fresh food from the garden are particularly nice to see.

What a terrific experience it must have been for you to make the ultimate family bread, from the wheat, to the milling, and finally baking, with family members involved in every step of the process along the way. Your loaves are stunning as ever, beautifully crafted, but your Mum's slice bars have me copying her recipe on to the head cookie and cake baker in our home. Many thanks to her for sharing her delicious looking recipe with us, can't wait to try it! 

All the best,

Franko

PiPs's picture
PiPs

Thanks Franko,

Hope your keeping warm ... outside sounds very unpleasant :)

I am fascinated when I watch my mum cook ... she just throws it all together and it works ... she didn't even have a name for this slice. I have to measure, so it was quite a laugh to watch me ducking around my mum trying to take measurements of what she was doing :)

My daughter is fascinated with the milling and loves to place the grains in and turn the bowl to evenly distribute the caught flour. I love that she can understand and experience this process. When I feed the levain she loves to measure the flour and mix ... she is very hands on.

Cheers,
Phil

Janetcook's picture
Janetcook

Hi Phil,

I see our summer afternoon thunder clouds have high tailed down under....Nice to see they are in someone else's back yard for awhile.  We have had some pretty wicked thunder storms in the past few years but the majesty of those billowy forms still takes my breath away in sheer wonder.  Your shot of them has captured their magnificence and made them somehow appear very innocent...

Your other pictures give me hope for warmer weather coming back to our neck of the woods in the near future....January is always a long month for me.......

A question - you mentioned that you don't like to soak weaker flours for a long time.  Why is that?  I have probably read why somewhere but have forgotten and would like to know as I add soft wheat to some of my recipes but have never altered my soaking times due to it and now I am wondering if I should....

Thanks for sharing a piece of Australia - as well as a piece of your family life.  Your are as skilled a writer as you are a baker and a photographer.

Take Care,

Janet

PiPs's picture
PiPs

Hi Janet,

Its a pleasure to share a small snippet of Australia. We have a beautiful countryside in Queensland ... very lucky! After growing up here I think I would struggle with extended dark and cold winters.

I don't have a link to share regarding the weaker flours but from memory it was to do with the lower protein levels not needing as much time to develop. I believe the harder flours could handle (and would benefit) from longer wet time.

I am looking forward to using these grains again ...See how they perform at home :)

All the best,
Phil

codruta's picture
codruta

Phil, it's so early in the morning here... your post is the first thing I read when I woke up. I'll read it again, later today, thoroughly, but I just wanted to say that I'm fascinated by your photos. Absolutely superb! And once again, your story behind the photos is charming. You are blessed with a lot of talent and skills.

Have a wonderful day!

codruta

PiPs's picture
PiPs

So glad you enjoyed it codruta,

It was a pleasure to travel out of the city and take some photos to share with everybody.

Cheers,
Phil

breadsong's picture
breadsong

Hello Phil,
How wonderful to see your post, full of beautiful photos capturing so many fresh foods from your family farm.
It must have felt really good to be baking with your family-grown wheat.
Your Mom's slice was just thing today - I baked up a batch to share with my local wheat farmer and his family, using their locally grown soft wheat flour (the slice was just bursting with flavor!).
I am grateful for your post, and its reminder of summer.
:^) from breadsong



 




 

PiPs's picture
PiPs

Hi breadsong,

Wow ... you made the slice. Thats so great :) Glad it was enjoyed.

Hold on for summer ... its not far away. It pouring rain here and looks like it will for the remainder of the week. Doesn't look like the photos now :(

Cheers,
Phil

breadsong's picture
breadsong

Hi Phil,
I was already planning to bake cookies for my wheat farmer, using his flour, and then I saw your post and thought that slice would be perfect.
Thanks to you and your Mom for sharing the recipe.
Thanks also for writing about how you made your loaf using the softer wheat. My local wheat farmer grew both soft and hard wheat varieties, and I've been curious about how the soft wheat flour would perform in a bread dough.
Your bread looks beautiful and I am encouraged to try.
As for the weather, we've had snow that turned to freezing rain...the branches of my lilac tree were budding and getting ready for spring, before the snow and ice arrived:
 
The ice has melted, back to rain but we did have a spot of blue sky and sun today.
:^) from breadsong

 

 

PiPs's picture
PiPs

Wow,

That is an incredible photo ... we googled lilac tree's ... they are beautiful.

We have had a week of rain here and it is continuing through the weekend ... looking forward to blue skies again.

Cheers,
Phil

breadsong's picture
breadsong

Hi Phil,
I wanted to say (belatedly!) 'thank you' for the compliment on the photo - it means a lot, coming from you!
The lilac tree recovered with a profusion of blooms, that scented the air as we worked on chores outside :^)
Here is a morning-sun photo:
(I sure do appreciate this lilac tree's hardiness!)
:^) breadsong

PiPs's picture
PiPs

Just beautiful ...

Thanks for gorgeous pic Breadsong ... The contrast to the previous photo is incredible. Nature does tend to find its way ... Feels like we have had a week of rain  here, so even the sunshine in the photo is a welcome break :)

Cheers,
Phil

lumos's picture
lumos

Truly wonderful and heartwarming story......and gorgeous bread and cake!  Your kids are very lucky having Dad like you. :) 

PiPs's picture
PiPs

Thanks Lumos,

I hope my kids will look back on this with fond memories :)

Cheers,
Phil

dwhitener's picture
dwhitener

Gorgeous photos!  What type of lens are you using?  I'm guessing something like a 50mm based on the depth of field?

 

PiPs's picture
PiPs

Thanks so much dwhitener,

I'm using a Canon DSLR with a 75-300mm lense - it's a cheapy but works the way I like.

Cheers,
Phil

Jeremy's picture
Jeremy

Wow, always amazing what you produce! I'll give that slice a go for sure, figs? Candied kumquat maybe? You writing a book? YOu should!

 

Cheers mate!

Jeremy

 

PiPs's picture
PiPs

Hi Jeremy,

We made some on the weekend using a bit of fresh milled spelt which was nice also - Could maybe have used a bit more butter :) Your suggestions sound very enticing!

Ha ha, no book :) day to day normal stuff here :)

Cheers,
Phil

Jeremy's picture
Jeremy

What other cereal could you use besides special K? Granola or does it have to be a flaky cereal...?

Certainly think your photo's and breads would be nice on anyones shelf!

 

PiPs's picture
PiPs

Probably a flaky cereal would be best ... my parents house always has special K in it ... it needs to crush a little when mixing. I think granola would be too coarse. Hey give it a go though ... mix it up a little :)

Thanks for compliments Jeremy ... Not sure if there would be any room for more bread books on peoples shelves though :)

Cheers,
Phil