Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Winter on the Farm, January 2010

Winter on our farm is a fairly relaxed time as we do not have livestock. As I've mentioned before in past blogs, this is a time when the tractors, trucks and combines are in for routine maintenance to try to ensure that all the equipment runs smoothly during the hectic times. Winter is also is the time of year best suited to our industry when we can attend meetings/seminars as this is our down time.

This winter my husband has been traveling quite a bit to attend the Idaho Grain Producer Assoc (IGPA) meetings as well as the National Association of Wheat Growers (NAWG). The men and women elected to their boards give their time, talent and energy to focus on upcoming issues/legislation that will affect our industry.

Last month Joe was called to Denver to help select the new CEO for NAWG. It was exciting to hear the news that the new CEO is a woman named Dana Peterson. I'm hoping to get a chance to meet her when I travel with Joe to the national NAWG meeting in March.

AS for the home scene on the farm : I read the voting results on what people want to see in the blog, so to comply, I'm going to start video taping things that are going on at the farm beginning with our Spring work. So stayed tuned! Also people have commented to me that they love the recipe section and my activities too. So I'll keep posting recipes and report on my adventures. Check out the "app" on my blog called "How to Cook Anything", you simply put a couple of ingredients that you want to cook and it lists recipes to choose from. I tried it myself last night and made Lemon Spaghetti. It was really good. So to my recipe foodies, I'll post more specific blogs that focus solely on food.
Thanks for reading it, and please feel free to ask questions. =)

Flour School, Differences in Flour

Opening this mornings paper, there lo and behold were recipes on pizza, then I started reading my new Sunset magazine and it had a whole section on pizza and chocolate (my 2 favorite food
groups). So I thought I would address what the difference is between bleached and unbleached flour as it can make a difference in the results of your baking adventures.
Bleached Flour has a slightly lower protein content than unbleached flour because of the chlorination process it goes through. Protein develops into gluten, which provides structure in baked goods. Less protein in bleached flour means less gluten and a softer, lighter texture and finer grain, just the qualities you want in more delicate pastries like cakes, pastry dough, muffins and shortcakes.
Unbleached Flour is better for sturdier baked goods, like yeast breads or pizza dough. Its higher protein content allows the yeast to rise and still support the structure of the dough.

Now to get even more technical about some of the wheat we grow on our farm. Each class of wheat has its own characteristics and are used by the buyers as such:
Soft White Wheat (winter & spring wheat) - mainly used for pastries, pancakes, cakes, cookies, crackers, flat breads, snack foods and cereals.
Hard Red Wheat (winter & spring) yeast breads, hard rolls, bagels, Asian noodles, flat breads
Hard White Wheat (winter & spring) blended flours, Asian noodles, steam breads, domestic foods made with whole wheat
Durum: pasta

Idaho wheat production is usually between 85-95 million bushels/year. Wheat production plays an important role in the Idaho economy. The value of production in 2008 was $646 million.

I will try the recipes listed in the paper and the magazine, but for now, here is my personal favorite pizza recipe and a yummy chocolate recipe to round out the meal.
Pizza Dough
Combine in a mixing bowl
1 cup warm water
1/2 teas salt
1 Tbl olive oil
1 teas sugar
1 pkg yeast or 2 1/2 teas yeast (if you buy in bulk)
Once the yeast is bubbly, then add:
2 cups unbleached flour
1/4 cup cornmeal
Then add 1/2 -3/4 cup more flour to make a firm dough.
Let rise to double, punch down and prepare as you normally would. My personal favorite is brush the pizza stone with a mixture of olive oil and about 2 teas of minced garlic, then spread the dough out on the stone. Then add more olive oil and garlic ( 2-3 Tbl of olive oil and 1-2 teas minced garlic) just enough to cover all the dough. Then add your favorite toppings and add mozzarella cheese. I like to bake mine on the convection setting of 425 for 17 minutes.

Chocolate Shortbread Cookies
1/2 cup softened butter (no substitutions)
3/4 cup bleached flour
3/4 cup confectioners' sugar
3 Tbls unsweetened cocoa powder

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. With electric mixer, beat butter until creamy, add flour, sugar and cocoa until combined. If dough is too soft to handle, chill in refrigerator 10 min). Pat dough into an 8 in round greased cake pan, press edges down with the tines of a fork. Bake until firm, about 30 min. Immediately score into 8 sections and cool completely. Turn out of the pan and break wedges apart.