Category: baking

Ancient grains flourish again in Sweden

Triticum turgidum subsp. dicoccoides Thell (Wild Emmer) - cultivated

Photo of wild emmer by Flickr user Arthur Chapman, used under a Creative Commons license (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

I’ve often sung the praises of spelt and other grains that predate modern wheat, but it’s a topic worth revisiting, especially with an engaging angle. Cole Ruth recently detailed for Modern Farmer how a group of Swedes is invigorating a market for grains other than run-of-the-mill (pun intended) wheat:

[Curt] Niklasson banded together with a group of five other farms and a mill to create a cooperative called Gutekorn. It became their mission to protect and manage Gotland’s ancient grains by making them financially viable….

Gotland is located smack-dab in the middle of the Baltic trade route between Denmark and Sweden. Originally, einkorn made its way from Persia, crossed with wild grasses and turned into wild emmer, was cultivated and crossed with another wild grass and became spelt. There is evidence that einkorn, emmer and spelt were all cultivated on Gotland as far back as 500 B.C. and seeds of all of these were found in Ardre, including multiple sub-varieties, like summer wheat, white, red, blue and black emmer, and borstvete, a variety of wheat that appears to be unique to Gotland. Borstvete, or “brushed wheat” is now listed in the Slow Food Ark of Taste.

I recently visited Niklasson and his wife Lotta on their farm, where they also raise Gotlandish sheep. Niklasson made coffee and set rolls and crispbread on the table, all made from Gutekorn flour….

“A farmer today isn’t free,” says Niklasson. “Farmers are dependent on the seed distributors and since the modern seeds don’t have the right resistances, they are dependent on pesticide producers, and since the pesticides kill the healthy microbes in the soil, they are also dependent on the fertilizer companies. At Gutekorn we are some of the last free farmers.”

Check out the full post (with photos) here.

There’s vodka in that pie crust, you betcha

I just stumbled upon this nice audio piece from Nora Hertel for The Daily Page that features Jeffrey Doyle-Horney and his award-winning pies. Music teacher by vocation and baker by avocation, Hertel reports that Doyle-Horney has been entering his pies into competition at the Stoughton Fair for five years, but his first foray into statewide competition came earlier this month. He “won ribbons in three out of nine classes in the pie division, including ‘first time pie entry,’ ‘pecan/nut pie,’ and ‘raspberry pie.’ His black raspberry pie, entered in the ‘first time’ class, took home the highest honor — best in the division.”

It’s a lovely piece, covering everything from the cash prizes that winning pies receive (hint: it could barely cover the cost of gas to drive to and from the fair!), to some of his baking tips, to the long line of male cooks in his family. Check out the audio below, then head to the Isthmus website for a few photos and Doyle-Horney’s recipe for raspberry lattice pie.

Picking wild black raspberries. Photo by Chiot’s Run (Susy Morris) via Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0)

Madison loves the Bakers Window

Photo by The Conscientious Omnivore (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0)

I haven’t made it back to the Bakers Window in downtown Madison since I last raved about their apple pie (which, by the way, I’m not alone in thinking is “über-delicious”). Now, Stephanie Bedford’s recent piece at 77 Square has me hankering to stop by again.

She writes,

A peek inside on a recent visit revealed a selection of sweet cookies and danishes as well as individually-sized pies and quiches, all bronzed and buttery looking. While its baking is clearly Francophone in origin — baguettes and croissants abound — the ingredients are sourced locally wherever possible.

On our visit, Door County cherries were in abundant use….

Also irresistible was the individual-sized lemon crème tart, a coaster-sized dessert topped with thick whipped cream ($4.75). It’s a hallmark of the Window’s level of sophistication that the cream is not in a from-the-can rosette, or even a homely dollop, but a perfectly-formed quenelle, sprinkled with vibrant lavender. The lavender contributes its faint fragrance as much as its flavor.

While sweets are most likely to draw customers to The Baker’s Window, the savories are not to be overlooked, either.

Head here for Bedford’s full piece, and also check out this great recent article from André Darlington at Isthmus. Then, treat yourself to a trip to 122 State Street.

Baker helps effect change in cottage food law

Photo by babe_kats via Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Thanks to Helena Bottemiller, a reporter for Food Safety News, I came across this recent piece from Cami Joner for The Columbian (Vancouver, Washington’s daily newspaper). Joner reports how Felicia Hill, a part-time baker working out of her home, helped get Washington state to update its laws that govern proprietors of small-scale, direct-sales food operations.

As a sidebar explains, “The Cottage Food Operations Law allows people to make low-risk food products in their own home kitchens and sell directly to consumers. Until this change, no [commercial] food processing has been allowed to take place in home kitchens.”

Joner reports that

For her work last year outlining the rules behind Washington’s Cottage Food Act, Hill will ceremoniously receive the first legal permit to sell low-risk foods made in the home.

The Washington state Department of Agriculture expects more than 1,000 potential small businesses across the state to apply for permits to sell baked goods, nuts, jams and jellies at farmers markets and through other direct-sales avenues. The permit is available for bakeries that generate no more than $15,000 in gross sales annually….

Washington is among three states to recently enact a cottage food law, putting the rule in place just before South Carolina and Colorado, which both passed similar legislation this year. In all, 26 states now have cottage food laws, breaking away from traditional models of production in which food is sold to consumers who have little or no idea where it came from.

For more, check out the full article here.

High praise for the Silly Yak

Photo by elana’s pantry via Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Stephanie Bedford recently posted a glowing review at 77 Square of the baked goods available at The Silly Yak Bakery & Bread Barn. Located on Madison’s west side, and also a vendor at the Dane County Farmers’ Market, The Silly Yak has made a name for itself as Madison’s go-to bakery for those on a gluten-free diet. As Bedford writes,

I’ll admit to a bit of skepticism about gluten-free baking. As a hard-core baker, I’ve always shied away from substituting ingredients, partly for quality control purposes (only real butter in the frosting, never shortening) and partly because baking is a famously precise science. The mysterious chemical reactions that take place in the oven are not mine to scrutinize; like most bakers, I follow the recipe to the letter. But a sampling of treats from the Silly Yak is enough to make a true believer out of even the most loyal wheat-flour devotee….

The Silly Yak also bakes regular wheat-flour breads and desserts — the gluten-free kitchen is kept vigorously separate from the gluten-full one. However, the quality of the GF desserts is such that as an enthusiastic omnivore, I feel confident choosing from the available selections based on what I’m jonesing for, whether it’s wheat-free or not.

For all the details, check out Bedford’s full piece.

Guerrilla cookies reborn

The University of Wisconsin-Madison online alumni magazine just ran this nice piece about guerrilla cookies.

Created during the heady days of campus protest in the ’60s and continuing in production through the ’80s, they predate my arrival in Madison for grad school, and so this was the first I’d heard of them. The article features the recollections and reporting of UW alum and longtime Wisconsin State Journal reporter George Hesselberg. It also highlights the efforts of alum Karen McKim, who’s created scores of recipes in her attempts to duplicate the classic cookie.

Check out the article, which hints at the way specific foods can become so evocative of a particular time in our lives, and then head over to McKim’s blog where she details her ongoing efforts to recreate the guerrilla cookie. In particular, I recommend the entry where—in addition to providing more of the baked good’s history—she describes an encounter with a young Willy Street Co-op worker who misunderstands the cookie’s name.