My Farmer's Flour

I have been wanting to tell you all Fall how excited I am that one of the farmers at the market I frequent is selling whole wheat flour from his first crop of Dark Northern Red Wheat.

While we are accustomed in this area to local meats, poultry, produce, cheeses, and honey, flour I have never seen. This brought our mostly local eating to another level.

I thought I might start a local-finds column here, maybe once a month or so. Since then, I have been experimenting with the flour, and my intention was to share a bread recipe with you.

The flour looked coarsely ground to me, so I began using it tentatively at first, using just a little when whole wheat flour was called for. I have come to realize that it's probably not a coarse grind, but the fact that it is hand-sifted, creating a slightly irregular consistency.

I finally grew bolder as my desire to write a post increased, and I began using entirely his flour in some whole wheat recipes. What I noticed is that not as much water was being absorbed, and I needed to add more flour, sometimes as much as a cup to a cup and a half. The end result, however, was really good bread.

It turns out that my farmer is not the only one locally with his own wheat and mill. This article features another farmer. The loaf pictured above is Michael Dolich's Whole Wheat Levain Bread. I used a levain starter I made from Peter Reinhart's Artisan Breads Every Day. It was a hearty 100% whole wheat bread with wonderful flavor. You will need to scroll down a bit through the article to get to the recipe.

While I've enjoyed making all manner of breads with this flour, I realized that bringing you a particular recipe was really not what I was after. It’s about the meaning of that flour to me. When I bake with it, I think of my farmer, and his concern one day, asking me if the flour was alright. Sometimes I’ve gotten bits of something straw-like. I smile because it brings me closer to the source.

I wonder if this is how it used to be for bakers before commercial brands of flour. We've come to expect every package to be just the same. I've noticed with the more recent containers of Rineer's flour that is seems a little finer, fewer bits. Either way, I'm grateful and inspired. The best part is that Rineer Family Farms is on land that is certified to always remain farmland.