Random food noodlings – bread flours, plus pickling chillies and ginger…

Right, then. Last year I was sold 5 kilos of something rather special. No, not drugs, something better – Swedish Spring Wheat Flour. Most of it has now been used, experimenting with it in various combinations with other flours and, on its own, in makes amazingly good rolls, with a surprisingly yellow crumb. One thing I failed to do, while I had plenty, was make a loaf using it alone.

Now, I have just one kilo left, and it’s pretty much too late.

Well, OK, I could make one loaf, but the problem is that I want to make a couple of loaves, but a kilo just isn’t enough for a couple of 2lb loaves, so I need to pad it out with something which will either have little effect on its character, or, perhaps, complement it.

I’ve a couple of white flours to choose from, both my standard flour and a French baguette flour, but they’d simply dilute its essential character. Light rye is a possibility – it’ll taste good, but detract from the Swedish flour, by imposing its own flavour. Not necessarily a bad thing, though, as the base flour will still come through.

The one flour that will complement its characteristics, without dominating it is, I think, Spelt flour.

Just one problem – just had a look in the freezer (flour, with almost zero moisture content, freezes beautifully), and I’ve used up all my speciality flours except the baguette flour. Clearly, time to restock. Winter’s coming on (hell, today it’s here, gloomy, cold and wet!), a good time for some of the more robust, rye-based breads to make an appearance.

So, I’ve just ordered the following from Shipton Mill, where I get all my flours:-

Organic Spelt Wholemeal Flour, is an ancient form of wheat which, along with Emmer and Khorason, makes all three important dietary items for people who are unable to tolerate modern, massively-hybridised, wheat strains, as the protein structure – the gluten – is substantially different. Different enough, in fact, not to trigger allergic reactions in many people (don’t know about coeliacs, though).

They also taste different (but pretty good), though to be fair, anyone raised on Chorleywood-produced white bread would get a hell of a surprise if they tried bread made with even my standard white bread flour, Shipton Mill’s Organic Strong Plain White (701) – it actually tastes of something! They also have the same blend of wheats in a Stoneground Wholemeal Flour – and both go into my rather good standard loaf (600g white plus 500g wholemeal per loaf).

Organic Light Rye Flour, a sort of semi-wholegrain flour, is an excellent way to add flavour to an otherwise white loaf (20% up to 50%).

Organic Emmer Wholemeal. Emmer is an ancient grain, believed to be a precursor, along with Einkorn, of Durum wheat and, indeed, can also be used for pasta making as well as bread. It dates back to Babylonia, in 7,000BC. I’ve made a 50% emmer loaf in the past, but, in some parts of Italy, they make a 100% emmer bread, which is something I want to try.

Organic Khorason Flour. Khorason is also sold as Kamut which, according to legend was originally grown from a few ancient grains discovered in an Egyptian tomb in the Forties and, to cut a long story short, was eventually grown commercially in the USA in the Seventies under the brand-name Kamut.

However, it turns out that Kamut is, in reality, Khorason, which has long been grown in the area of Iran from which it takes its name, closer inspection suggests the legend is probably a crock, and it’s likely that the grain found in Egypt wasn’t as ancient as claimed, and probably just a few stray grains of Khorason which as well as its home range in Iran is grown across the Middle East. Kamut is actually nothing more than bog-standard Khorason which has been trade-marked as Kamut.

So, that’ll keep me going for a while, as I have ample supplies of white and wholemeal flour as well, and over the next few months I’ll be ringing the changes on my weekly bread-making session. I particularly want to try a 100% Emmer loaf, not least because I’ve been repeatedly asked for information on the subject, so all being well, this will be done in the coming week, as my odre should arrive by Tuesday.

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Moving on from bread, I’m able to cook only rarely, getting by on convenience crap and snacks for much of the time so, when I am able to cook – and it’s unpredictable – I tend not to have flavourings like chillies or ginger. I can always keep meat in the freezer, but not this stuff, it just gets mushy.

The answer, then, is pickling. It’s really not hard, as both lend themselves very well to the process. Indeed, pickled ginger is an Oriental staple, though not in the form I want.

You really don’t want a highly-flavoured vinegar, like malt, but something lighter – I use Aspall Organic Cyder Vinegar for a wide variety of food-related uses – it even goes into my bread as a mould inhibitor, in summer, at least, as prior to that I was throwing away a huge amount of mouldy bread. For pickles, while it’s the same strength as standard malt vinegar, 5%, it has a very light taste. Don’t use distilled, or spirit, vinegar – it’s an industrial product which has no place in the kitchen (except for cleaning).

The chillies, usually medium-hot red ones, about as long as my finger, are trimmed, split lengthways, seeds and membranes removed – use a teaspoon – and packed into a sterile jar. That’s then filled up to the brim with vinegar in which a quarter of a soluble vitamin C tablet has been dissolved (obviously, dissolve it in a small amount first, pour that in, then top up). Tightly cap then invert a couple of times to ensure mixing, and removal of air bubbles. Store in the fridge.

Vitamin C is a powerful anti-oxidant and putting it in pickles extends the shelf life considerably. In this case, the chillies will stay sound for at least a year, though they won’t be around that long. Home-made pickled eggs are still good after six months.

For ginger, try to get a piece, or several pieces, that are stick-like in shape – it makes life easier. Peel thinly – don’t take too much ginger with the skin – then cut into chunks about as thick as your thumb and maybe an inch long, put into a suitably-sized jar and repeat the vinegar – vitamin C thing. Tightly cap and store in the fridge.

Ginger stored like this will be difficult to grate safely, not much to get hold of, so I don’t bother, I slice it thinly then julienne it.

I believe it’s possible – though I’ve never tried it – to grate ginger and freeze it in suitably-sized blobs. Freezing ungrated ginger, though, just results in mush.

There is a bonus resulting from this. As long as both chillies and ginger are used within a sensible time span, you’ll be left with small amounts of flavoured vinegar.

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7 thoughts on “Random food noodlings – bread flours, plus pickling chillies and ginger…

  1. Ron I have noticed if you keep flour long enough weevils appear,assuming they are not there when you first buy it ,where do they come from,how do they find my pantry?
    Stan

    • Hi Stan,

      I never keep flour long enough. But, assuming they are weevils, and not silverfish (which love flour but are otherwise harmless), then the eggs might have been in the flour. Or your pantry might have been infested for generations, assuming it’s not a new house. How do the find it? The same way ants and wasps find spilled jam – an exceptionally good sense of smell. Plus, with ants, they send out scouts constantly.

      Flour should always be kept in a sealed container, earthenware or enamelled steel are popular, though I keep 2.5 kilos on the worktop in a skip-shaped food-grade plastic container with a hatch on the front – totally bug proof. If you do keep it in the bag, use a clip to close it, like Lakeland’s Klippits – don’t just scrunch the top. Any smaller bags are kept, tightly clipped, in a plastic bowl, the smooth sides unclimbable by wildlife. In both cases, never more than a couple of weeks worth at a time.

      The main bulk of my flour is kept in a freezer, which will kill anything it might be harbouring. It’s good in there for a year or more.

      And if weevils worry you, you really don’t want to know exactly what proportion of verminous crap is allowed, by law, in chocolate! 😉

      Bottom line – it’s impossible to totally eliminate weevils from flour, though I have to confess I’ve never seen one, without using toxic chemicals – a solution worse than the problem. But look on the bright side – free protein!

      Ron.

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