One of the most frightening books that I have ever read is John Christoper’s The Death of Grass, which describes a future world in which a new strain of virus kills off grass. It does not sound too bad, until you realise that rice, wheat and barley are all types of grass, and with the death of grass comes famine, the complete breakdown of civilisation and survival of those willing to kill.
As part of my degree I studied crop science, and was told that a huge percentage of rice grown in the world is from just a few strains. I am all for selective breeding of crops; drought resistance, saline resistance and shorter stems can all be desirable characteristics, but creating a monoculture also increases the risk of one variety of a crop being susceptible to, or decimated by pest or disease.
The topic could easily take up several blog posts, and is something that I would like to return to in the future, but I was reminded of The Death of Grass, and associated potential problems of monocultures when I bought a packet of Doves Farm Einkorn flour.
Doves Farm have devoted a great deal of time and resources into growing Einkorn and turning it into a commercial crop. Einkorn was the original wheat, first developed over 20,000 years ago. Its yield is lower than modern wheats, and consequently it costs more. It is a golden colour, and the flour smells of fresh hay. Who knows what properties are locked into its genome that could benefit modern wheat and farmers? I feel we should be profoundly thankful to Doves Farm for resurrecting this grain and making it available to us.
I have to confess that I did not get on that well with the einkorn the first time I made bread with it, I used 100% and the loaf was heavy and vaguely worthy. This time I mixed it with some standard bread flour and the resulting loaf was a huge success – full of substance without being heavy, an even crumb, and a lightly nutty toasted flavour. I am a convert and will be trying it in cakes and a pizza base.
I am rarely taken by surprise by a product, but the Natural Selection Californian raisins did just that. On the packet I was promised “deliciously sweet jumbo raisins with a beautiful crimson colour”, and in the manner of Ronseal doing exactly what it says on the tin, they did exactly what it said on the packet and more. These raisins really are jumbo; I would venture to say woolly mammoth sized – most are larger than my thumbnail – and are indeed the most glorious crimson colour and totally delicious. A handful was perfect to add to the loaf.
Recipe: Heritage Einkorn Loaf with Crimson Raisins
Makes 1 medium loaf (lasts the 2 of us 2 days)
300ml warm water
1 heaped tsp yeast (dried active – I used the one for hand baking)
275g strong white flour
175g einkorn flour
1 vitamin C tablet – finely ground with a spoon of the flour
1 tsp salt
1 tbs oil – olive / rapeseed / hemp etc.
Generous handful raisins
Pour the water into bowl, add the yeast and swirl to it is dissolved. Add the other ingredients.
Knead with the dough hook attachment of your mixer on the lowest speed for about 4 minutes until a smooth stretchy dough has formed (if you knead by hand it will take longer).
Cover with cling film and leave in the fridge overnight. It should more than double in size.
In the morning turn out onto a floured board and gently knock the dough back. Place in an oiled and floured 1lb loaf tin. Leave somewhere warm until doubled in size again.
Place in a preheated oven at GM7 / 220C / 425F and bake for about 40 minutes. For a crustier loaf place a small dish of water in the oven under the loaf.
When it is done it should turn out of the tin and sound hollow when tapped. It always takes longer to bake than you think it will, so my general rule of thumb is that if you are unsure give it another 5 mins.
Sending this to this month’s…
Bake Your Own Bread – hosted by Girlichef…
.. and to Yeastspotting.