In late-February, when Greenmarket farmers could still claim they were in ‘winter hibernation,’ Thor Oeschner and Erik Smith of Farmer Ground Flour and Cayuga Pure Organics snuck away from their farms in the Finger Lakes to make an appearance at the Brooklyn Kitchen. Each presented a series of slides that documented the process that takes place from seed to market to bring local grain and flour down to sell to city customers. It wasn’t so many years ago that they started selling their products at Greenmarket to begin with, and now their whole grains like freekeh and emmer appear on the menu at places like the John Dory Oyster Bar and have graced the airwaves on National Public Radio. With a burgeoning market for their products in the city, their business has been able to expand, meaning new equipment, new varieties in the field and luckily for us, many new loaves of bread around town. Earlier this week, 75 bread baking enthusiasts from around the city made their way out of the woodwork (okay, their pint sized city kitchens) to share what they’ve been concocting with local flour. Into the Home Baker’s Meet-up streamed carefully wrapped loaves of hard red wheat sourdough, whole wheat levain, honey whole wheat, Irish soda bread, sourdough topped with flax, nigella sesame, celery and mustard seeds, and thin sheets of einkorn flatbread, among many, many others. Bakers eagerly shared recipes and ideas: how to use fermented apple peels to make sourdough starter, or how to make a rye and pickle loaf (again, nice and sour). People talked about experimenting with the local flour available at farmstands like Oak Grove Plantation, Cayuga Pure Organics and Wild Hive Bakery to make monkey bread and pizza dough.
Professional bakers Sharon Leader of Bread Alone, Terrence Geary of Orwasher’s and Peter Endriss of Runner and Stone talked to the group about what the introduction of local flour to the market over the last few years has meant to their respective businesses. They have adjusted long-standing recipes and invented new ones based on the products that are now available. And they’re literally buying tons. Turning from the commodity hard wheat crop from big mills in the Midwest, these bakers have figured out how to work with varieties that grow well in our immediate surroundings like spelt, einkorn, buckwheat and triticale while still meeting customers’ expectations for superior taste and quality, and at the same time introducing them to products they have never tasted before. Gable Erenzo of Tuthilltown Spirits has embraced regional grain in liquid form: we love him for his excellent Hudson Baby Bourbon, but in the distillery’s reserve he’s got trial bottles of spirits made of triticale and whatever else he can get his hands on. We can’t wait to taste what makes it to the top shelf. Visit our collection of recipes < http://www.grownyc.org> for inspiration to start baking on your own with local grains!