The heart is like grain, we are the mill.
How does the mill know why it turns?
The body is the mill stone, the water its thoughts.
The stone says "The water knows its course."
The water says "Ask the miller, he is the one,
Who sends this water cascading down."
The miller says "If there is no turning,
O bread-eater, there will be no dough."
Turn and turn again. Silence!
Let silence ask about the wheat, the river
the miller and the stone....
what this bread-making is about?
Rumi (Jalal ad-Din Muhammad Rumi, 1207 Balkh -1273 Konya)
Khorasan can refer to many things, but there are two in particular that I wanted to consider for this post.
Khorasan was historically a Persian province, the name derives from the noun "khwar" meaning sun and the verb "asan" meaning to come - in other words, this was the "land of the rising sun". Khorasan is first referred to in historical texts around the 3rd century AD as a geographical creation of the Sassanid rulers who had conquered Persia and established this administrative zone. After the fall of the Sassanid empire in the 6th century, the area of Khorasan was maintained by the Umayyad dynasty, who had taken over control, and it continued to be so named. At its peak, Greater Khorasan extended to parts of Afghanistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan. Its general boundaries were the cities of Balkh (east), Nishapur (west), and Merv (north) and the region known as Sistan (south) - at its heart was the "pearl of Khorasan", the city of Herat. The importance of Khorasan as an administrative area as well as the centre of "cultural Persia" continued until the Mongol invasions of the 13th century.
The great cultural flourishing of Khorasan which started in the 7th century brought us the "Khorasan poets" such as Asjadi, Attar, Rudaki and Ferdowsi. Both their lyrical style and use of imagery inspired many later great Persian poets such as Rumi and Omar Khayyam, Anvari and Hafez. Rumi was born in the province of Balkh around 1207, which was part of Greater Khorasan and while he did not belong to the Khorasan school of poetry, he certainly did read those poets, Attar in particular, and was influenced by the Khorasan lyricism. He is one of the foremost mystic and Sufi poets, composing in Persian - most of his work was written down by one of his students as he recited. Through his peregrinations, he became an ascetic (probably in Damascus) and ended up in Konya in Turkey where he spent the last twelve years of his life. During these years in Konya, he is said to have turned round and round while reciting and this is thought to be the origin for the "whirling dervishes". After his death in 1273, the Mevlevi Order (eg. the whirling dervishes) was established at the school in Konya. I highly recommend going to see the Yesil Türbe in Konya (also known as the Mevlana Museum) which was his school and now holds his tomb. His poetry is mystically beautiful and it seemed to me that there was a serendipitous link to be made between the "Khorasan" poetry and his origins and the wheat of the same name…….
The other great gift to us from Khorasan (at least in name) is…Triticum turgidum aka Triticum turanicum, Khorasan wheat. This is one of the "ancient grains" and has a lovely nutty flavour. We don't actually know where the Khorasan wheat grain originated or was first cultivated - possibly in the Fertile Crescent, or western Anatolia? In any event, it holds the name Khorasan so we will go with that for now. The story goes that samples of this grain arrived in North America after WWII, but didn't appear to have raised much interest at the time. In 1997, the Quinn brothers in Montana decided to cultivate the grain and registered their cultivated variety QK-77 as Kamut ™. While most people use Kamut, in fact Khorasan wheat is also available and the Quinn family has established criteria for a Khorasan wheat variety to be classified as a Kamut variety. The grain is larger than modern wheat and is highly nutritious. It makes amazing bread, as to which……..
1. Tartine 3 "Sprouted Quinoa and Kamut" Bread.
I particularly liked the idea of using an ancient Andean pseudocereal and an ancient grain from (probably) Mesopotamia. I used black quinoa which sprouted in no time, it being "hot" for London - it yields a fresh grassy smell. The Husband declared that we had aliens growing in the kitchen and was promptly sent off to swim in the Serpentine with the swans and ducks, in the hopes that they might quack some sense into him, as I clearly could not. I followed Chad "by the book", my bulk ferment took about 3.5hrs and I proofed it overnight in the fridge. In the morning, straight into the DO, as you can see I am still having fun with my scissors scoring at the moment (I'll get over than soon enough, I dare say). This bread is really something - the quinoa gives a slight crunch and the "grassy" flavour came through, as did the warmth and nuttiness of the Kamut. We ate this with everything, but it was particularly excellent with some rather stinky runny St Felicien cheese, some smoked salmon, and surprisingly some French saucisson sec with fennel. It was perhaps too "grassy" to complement the harder cheeses, but it did go with hummus, olive oil on its own and a glass of solid Rioja.
2. Sow's ear turned into a (silk?) purse bread??
I think I might just have turned a sow's ear into a purse - perhaps not silk but at least some good basic cotton? A few weeks ago, I made a rather shocking runt of a loaf - unashamedly pictured in an earlier post, it was a sesame seed loaf. Not my favourite seed, but this was actually surprisingly good bread - I held some back with the idea of trying to use some of the flavour from this as altus for a new bread. Credit due to the Wild Yeast blog which had a recipe for using Susan's old Norwich sourdough bread as breadcrumbs and replacing some of the flour with the breadcrumbs (thank you Susan!!). I changed the amounts slightly, increased hydration to 70%, reduced the levain to 20%. I had some levain which was very ready, 100% hydration, having been fed about 10hrs before it was looking like it was contemplating deflation, so I used less than Susan (she used around 30%) as an experiment.
White bread flour: 300g (60%)
Whole wheat flour: 125g (25%)
Breadcrumbs: 75g (15%)
Total flour (incl. breadcrumbs): 500g (100%)
Water: 350ml (70%)
Levain: 100g (20%)
Salt: 9g (1.8%)
1. Autolyse the BF, WW and breadcrumbs with 300ml of water for 3 hours, I wanted to get as much out of the breadcrumbs as possible, getting them as "dissolved" as possible.
2. Mix in the salt (I used slightly less than 2% because there is some salt in the breadcrumbs), levain and additional 50ml water. Pincer it all together, a la Forkish.
3. S&F 6x every half hour for the first 3hrs. Total bulk ferment for me was 5 hours at 25C/78F, until it rose about 30%. The dough was initially tricky to handle, it didn't want to stay together - in part, I suspect because my breadcrumbs were not super finely ground and there were still some larger "bits" which may have slowed/hampered the gluten development.
4. Pre-shape and bench rest for 30mins.
5. Shape and proof. I shaped as a boule and popped into a banetton, proofed on counter at 25C/78F for a smidgen more than 2hrs until it passed the finger poke test.
6. Baked in DO at 250C/480F, lid off and turned it down to 230C/450F after 20 minutes, but that was just an act of self-delusion as my oven really has a mind of its own - it did eventually get itself down to 230 after another 15mins…. when the bread was pretty much done.
It worked!! The altus bread's flavour comes through but is quite subtle, the new bread has a slightly nutty smell and there is something of a "melting" mouth feel to it when eaten on its own. This was good with everything, as far as we could tell. In honour of David Esq., I made The Husband a PB&J sandwich on his return from yet another interminable cycling session to revive him as he started decomposing from pain and effort. It disappeared and another was promptly demanded, made and hovered up. He absolutely loved this loaf and proceeded to try everything with it - smoked sea bass (tick), Wyfe of Bath cheese (tick), butter (tick), jam (tick), saucisson sec (tick), tick, tick tick tick so I got a hug and finished the last drops of the Puligny Montrachet. Good innings, for a sow's ear!!
The lover's food is the love of the bread;
no bread need be at hand:
no one who is sincere in his love is a slave to existence.
Rumi (Jalal ad-Din Muhammad Rumi, 1207 Balkh -1273 Konya)