The Fresh Loaf

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Bread with wheat berries straight from my balcony

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jarkkolaine's picture
jarkkolaine

Bread with wheat berries straight from my balcony

This spring, in the preparation for the most recent issue of my online magazine, Bread, I sowed a handful of wheat seeds in a small metal tub on my balcony. As a fun experiment for the whole family (dad, mostly) to see if it’s possible to grow wheat on your balcony. It was. The wheat grew well, and throughout the summer, I watched the grass grow, make grains, and finally turn golden. 

Last week, it was finally harvest time!

My field was very small so I didn’t get nearly enough wheat for making flour for even a small loaf, not even for a small bun (I suppose had I ground the wheat berries it would have lead to something like two to three table spoons). But even if making flour was out of question, I wanted to use the wheat in some way. 

This summer, I have been mostly experimenting with yeast water and sandwich bread, but for this loaf, I knew I had to go back to my true love, sourdough.

After manually picking the wheat berries from the spikes, I put them in fresh tap water to soak overnight. At the same time, I also took my starter out of the refrigerator and refreshed it with my regular 100 grams of whole wheat flour and 100 grams of bread flour. As we ended up spending the whole Saturday in Helsinki, I refreshed the starter again in the morning and left to wait for my return.

In Helsinki, we visited a local food event, Herkkujen Suomi, which presented real food from small producers all over the country. I got to meet Teppo from Viipurilainen kotileipomo again and the owner of their (and mine) mill of choice, Vääksyn mylly, Kari Savola for the first time. And look at what we found at a museum stand!

I need to get one of these…

And Here's Teppo sharing samples of their bread:

 

When we came back in the evening, everything was ready for bread making. The wheat was very soft and the soaking water had turned somewhat yellow, so I decided to use the liquid for bread making too. I mixed 500 grams of bread flour from Vääksyn mylly, some 50 grams of very coarse rye flour (from Vääksyn mylly as well) and a total of 400 grams of water (including the water used for soaking the wheat) and left for a one-hour autolyse.

After the autolyse, I mixed in my wheat berries, worked the dough on the table for about five minutes and left for another half hour. Then, I came back to the dough, added 11 grams of salt and kneaded for a further 5 minutes. 

It was rather cool outside already, about 8-10 degrees Celsius, so I let the dough rise on the balcony. In the morning, I preshaped and then shaped the dough into one boule which I baked a couple of hours later using my Tartine Bread inspired cast iron pan + clay pot ”cooker”.

 

The bread is delicious, and some grains that have baked on the surface of the bread bring a very nice addition of a roasted nut like aroma. With this bread, I feel the grains got a treating worthy of the attention that went into growing them. 

Now, as the weather gets cool, then cold, I will be spending the winter thinking of where to go from here. My balcony isn’t getting any bigger, but maybe I could sacrifice some other crops in favor of cultivating some more wheat… Or I could try rye next?

Comments

Franko's picture
Franko

Hi Jarko,

A timely post for me indeed as we've recently harvested some of our own home grown wheat. My wife planted some Red Fife wheat back in the Spring that grew remarkably well in our garden, reaching between 90-120 cm tall. Like your crop, not enough to make flour from and I've been wondering how best to use it. I'll follow your lead and use the berries in a soaker to include in a bread of some kind. Thanks for the inspiration as well as the photos of the food event and your lovely loaf. 

Best wishes,

Franko

jarkkolaine's picture
jarkkolaine

Hey Franko,

Good to hear that there are other people who grow wheat at home :) Glad you liked the post, and looking forward to yours!

Cheers,

Jarkko

dabrownman's picture
dabrownman

balcony wheat growing.  We are heading into fall here and in AZ we grow stuff in the winter.  It is still over 100 every day but soon we will be in growing season.  Nice baking.  Looking forward the next Bread.

jarkkolaine's picture
jarkkolaine

I enjoyed the experiment a lot, so good to hear it got you interested too :)

Working hard on the next Bread... I hope it will live up to the expectations...

isand66's picture
isand66

Jarko---beautiful looking loaf and great use of your bounty harvest of wheat!  Looks like your son would have preferred to grind it down himself so you may have to expand your "garden" next season!

I usually use hot water to soak the wheat berries otherwise I find them to be too hard, but it sounds like you did just fine with a cold soak.

Regards,
Ian

jarkkolaine's picture
jarkkolaine

I guess the reason why the cold soak worked well for me was because it went on for such a long time. In all, I think almost 48 hours. And maybe the wheat having been harvested just the day before helped too?

Anyhow, I'm sure there has to be some kind of farming next summer too... It's just that my balcony is already rather full with all kinds of stuff, so I'll have to get pretty creative if I want to increase the size of the harvest :) 

Cheers,

Jarkko

PMcCool's picture
PMcCool

Or hand mill, if you prefer.  Does someone use that quern on a regular basis, or is it just for demonstration purposes, Jarkko?

Paul

jarkkolaine's picture
jarkkolaine

Hi Paul,

The quern was at a farm museum's stand so I suppose they have it in a similar use as at this fair normally too: kids and other curious people get to try it in action, but that's all... But I didn't ask, so I'm not sure :) 

Cheers,

Jarkko

MC's picture
MC

Hi Jarkko, this bread is simply magnificent and to think that some part of it has actually been grown on your balcony, is mind-boggling. What a wonderful idea to use the handful of berries you got in a soaker... That's what I call thinking like a true locavore. Congratulations, 
MC

PS. Can't wait for the next issue of Bread.

jarkkolaine's picture
jarkkolaine

Bread always makes me happy, but there certainly was something very special about this one, knowing that I had been "making" it for the whole summer. Slicing and offering it to the family felt extremely rewarding. 

Thanks for your kind words! 

Cheers,

Jarkko

breadsong's picture
breadsong

Hello Jarkko,
Your photo of the wheatstalk in flower is so beautiful!
As are the wheat berries, and resulting loaf.
Congratulations on growing your first crop of wheat - it looks like you had a very successful project...
from start to finish!
:^) breadsong

jarkkolaine's picture
jarkkolaine

Hey Breadsong,

Thanks for your kind words! This definitely was one of my favorite bread projects so far :) 

Jarkko

varda's picture
varda

Jarkko,   I've been thinking about growing wheat in my back yard but never got to it.   How much would it take to make a whole loaf I wonder.   Everything that I grow to eat gets eaten by someone else - rabbits, birds, deer and so on.   I finally gave up since I don't want to put in fences or other defenses.    But wheat.    What a thought.    Your bread looks fantastic.   Sorry for the late comment.   I'm trying to catch up.  -Varda

jarkkolaine's picture
jarkkolaine

Hi Varda! 

From what I've read from the "Bake Your Lawn" campaign (http://www.sustainweb.org/realbread/bake_your_lawn/) I believe about two square meters of wheat crops should give you enough for one loaf of bread. Give it a try :) I would love to see how it works out!

Cheers,

Jarkko

isand66's picture
isand66

3/4's of my front lawn got invaded by crabgrass this year, so maybe I will give that a shot!  I don't think the neighbors would be too happy though! :)

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

:=)

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

bundles to mature.  The trick is to go decorative!    

...have perfect squares or spirals of wheat plants.  Add some bright blooming cosmos and a few merrigolds, it could look quite impressive!  Like a country bouquet!  

 

 

isand66's picture
isand66

I already have a million perennials so what's a few more bundles of wheat!