We get our flour from two sources – Meunerie Milenaise, an organic mill in Quebec, and Brookford Farm, a diversified organic farm in southern New Hampshire. Meunerie Milenaise started as a small, on-farm mill to process the owners’ organic grains. It’s grown to be a full-sized industrial mill, but still gets 75% of its grain from Quebec – the closest grain source to our bakery that any industrial mill is using.
We were very excited last year to start using flour from Brookford Farm, in Rollingsford New Hampshire. Brookford is a sustainable farm producing a very wide range of products, including baking-quality organic grains. While the supply isn’t large enough to use their flour exclusively, many of our breads contain Brookford flour. The breads we bake for Brookford’s CSA are made primarily from their flour, and the breads we bring to the Seacoast Winter Farmers’ Market all contain Brookford flour.
All of our breads contain natural leavening. Also known as sourdough, starter or levain, natural leavening has been used to rise bread for most of history – commerical yeast has only been available for about two hundred years. We use natural leavening because of the quality of the bread it creates, and because of the health benefits. Some of our breads contain yeast in addition to starter, but all get their rising power primarily from natural leavening.
Natural leavening rises the bread more slowly than commercial yeast and adds a wider variety of yeasts, bacteria and enzymes, giving it a rich flavor and satisfying texture which breads risen solely with yeast lack. We keep our starter young and fresh to reduce the sharp acidic taste found in strong sourdough breads, while retaining the complex flavor.
Beyond improving texture and flavor, natural leavening also increases the keeping quality of bread without the use of preservatives and dough conditioners. When bread is risen slowly, Because of this, our bread will keep for several days stored in paper, or over a week stored in plastic.
Even more important, natural leavening improves our bread’s nutritional value. Unlike ruminants like cows and sheep with their four stomachs, we’re not designed to eat grains. Bread is one way we trick nature and do it anyway. To fully process the nutrients in the grains, we need them broken down.
Breads made with commercial yeast don’t do this completely – they leave important minerals found in whole grains inaccessible, including calcium, iron, magnesium, and zinc. The process of fermenting bread with natural leavening changes the nutrients and minerals into forms our bodies can use, so that we get the full nutritional benefit of the grains.
We use well water in our bread, straight from the ground around our bakery on the edge of the White Mountains. More important that the source of our water, however, is the amount that we use. We use a high percentage of water in our doughs which, in additional to allowing us to mix the dough by hand, is vital for producing the best texture, flavor, and digestability in whole grain breads.
Under-hydrated whole grain breads are dry, crumbly, and lack flavor (and give whole grains a bad name!). Using extra water in whole grain breads prevents these problems, while also making the bread easier to digest.