Husband and I were delighted to find a bag of Swany White flour recently in a natural food store in Fargo. The store owner told us that Nicole, of Nicole’s Fine Pastry in downtown Fargo, won’t use anything but Swany White. Nicole makes great pastries. He also said that Nicole and the mill owner were cousins. (I love the small town angle in these conversations.) I hadn’t seen any Swany White since the Freeport, MN mill burned down a few years ago. We had heard rumors that the mill was operating again. We snapped up a 25 lb bag, and hauled it home. I baked French bread with it this past weekend. I used a combination of Swany, Artisan flour, and Bread flour. We froze all the loaves as we had too much bread already to start another loaf, so I can’t say if the flour quality is the same. It doesn’t have the same bran flecks the original flour had. It is just as finely ground though, like silk.
I think we have more kinds of flour than most people. In addition to the Swany White, we have King Arthur all-purpose white flour and King Arthur bread flour. We have King Arthur artisan flour, French flour, whole wheat flour, and white whole wheat flour. We also have a bag of White Lily flour for Southern-style biscuits and white wheat berries for a rustic Italian bread we like to make.
Husband is a real fan of baking rye bread, so he has white rye, pumpernickel, medium rye, rye flour blend, rye chops (coursely ground rye berries), rye bread improver, deli rye sour, First Clear flour (it increases the gluten content in rye breads), and frozen rye sourdough starter. He tries to replicate the wonderful rye breads we found in Winnipeg.
On Sunday, Husband bought Rose Beranbaum’s The Baking Bible for me as a Mother’s Day present. I think he had ulterior motives for me to bake pastries for him. Rose is an absolute fanatic about flour, and compares the protein content of various flours and likes to balance the proteins in her breads using bleached and unbleached flours for just the right results. I think she goes too far, but who am I to judge. She really likes Gold Medal bleached flour as a basic baking flour.
Husband’s brother-in-law has tried for years to replicate the hard rolls baked in their home town of Sheboygan WI that are used for bratwurst. They are wonderful rolls that I have not encountered anywhere but in Sheboygan. Batch after batch has been baked and deemed lacking. I convinced him that the problem is in his home oven, and so he is thinking about a wood fired clay oven in the back yard. He is also thinking about apprenticing himself to a Sheyboygan bakery to finally solve the problem. If you knew Husband’s brother-in-law, you would agree that keeping him busy with this is best for all concerned.
We read at Easter about Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness when he says to Lucifer that man doesn’t live by bread alone. I think the Devil has a point, though. Bread is wonderful. I don’t see our going overboard over bread or flour as sinful at all. There are worse things we could be doing.
What makes you go overboard?