It must have been a wonderful cookie, a ganache bar made with freshly milled wheat, oats, fine butter and chocolate. Amy calls it her “door-opening cookie” because it inspired her to write a book. Not a recipe book, although she includes one recipe, her favorite pancake recipe.
The New Bread Basket
Amy’s new book, published in July, is a tribute to the men and women who are reviving regional farming, specifically growing, harvesting, and milling of locally grown wheat. She asks good questions. “Shouldn’t we all have fresh flour? Shouldn’t flour and bread be made close enough to home that you can see the fields and know your farmers?” (p.30)
Theoretically we should know some wheat farmers, because wheat grows in 40 of the 50 states. The reason most of us don’t have any wheat-growing acquaintances is because there’s been a shift away from regional and local farming to agribusiness and large scale wheat production. In Amy’s book you meet the people who are turning things around, who are changing patterns in their local areas. They are realists and know our nation’s agricultural system can’t be changed at a “flick of a switch,” or perhaps never totally changed. “Radical change is risky…especially in agriculture where farmers are always gambling against the variables of working within a natural system” (p.217).
Yet, there’s a small number of regional farmers who tackle the big questions about land use, building community, local economy, and healthful food. Amy interviews scores of farmers, millers, brewers, bakers, maltsters, and food scientists about what’s happening in their regions. Two things are clear. Revitalizing local agriculture is hard work. And the people involved are excited about what they’re doing.
Revival Baking and Wood-fired Ovens Go Together
For owners of wood-fired ovens, Amy covers the work of Alan Scott, the famous oven-builder who initiated the concept of micro-bakeries. For bakers, she refers to The Bread Baker’s Apprentice by Peter Reinhart,* distribution methods for small bakeries, and bread making classes. Amy predicts that the next wave in bread baking will be home-milled grains for health and taste. (See our blog on the best whole wheat pizza dough.)
Amy ends her book with this truthful statement. Some things we have to prove for ourselves. We’ll never know how good bread can taste unless we find someone making bread from local wheat milled at home. Taking Amy’s advice, I made her pancake recipe from wheat milled at home. Light and flavorful, served with organic butter and maple syrup…mmm.
Redefining Our Daily Loaf
The New Bread Basket is an excellent book, but it’s not a light read. Plenty of data on plant breeding, people in the forefront, bakeries with quaint-sounding names, speculation on gluten intolerance, new grains in brewing, community-supported agriculture, and more.
* On her website Amy includes photos of Peter Reinhart involved in a regional baking class. He praises the regional movement and new generation of bakers concerned with health and taste. The results we get from the whole-milled wheat is so exceptional…and just eating whole grain itself is a step in itself; it will improve gut health…and anything that can make whole grain products better will be the future…but it all comes down to flavor and the sprouted ones taste better – sweeter, less bitter and easier to digest. It is a progression of logic.