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?