Mediterranean Breads

My dream, when I left home and relocated in the Hudson Valley, was to work in culinary publishing. I had no idea what a competitive field it was but eventually found a job with a local publishing company after culinary school. While the primary focus of my job is not culinary based, I do get to keep my hand and name in the biz by writing, recipe development and food styling.

2012 Fall issue, published by The Poughkeepsie Journal

Twice a year we publish a sweet little magazine called Cuisine of the Hudson Valley.

I have had the great fortune to have styled the cover for the last two issues and written the cover stories.

In the Fall 2012 issue I got to play with dough. Yes, someone has to do it. Here are some excerpts from the story.

“Growing up, some of my fondest memories (food or otherwise) are coming home from school and being greeted by the aroma of my mother’s fresh baked bread wafted from the kitchen.

When my mother shopped for flour for her weekly baking, what was mostly available to her were national brands such as Pillsbury and Gold Medal. Whole wheat was available, but it was still generally over-refined wheat. Keep in mind this was back in the era of Wonder Bread® being the bench mark for bread.

As a young adult, I remember the joy my mother and my Tias (Aunts) felt when they found a locally grown (Colorado) and milled red winter wheat flour called Blue Bird Flour. When I moved here several years ago, I had three, 25-pounds bags of it in the back of my car. That is how precious fresh flour has been to my family and myself.

Eventually, I discovered King Arthur flour that is milled up in Vermont. Originally, only their unbleached all-purpose flour and 100% whole wheat flour was all I could find here. But slowly their different styles of flour are becoming more readily available in our local markets. They are becoming less of a novelty as more consumers seek out these types of products.

There are many reasons to seek out local sources for grains and flours for home baking. One is the obvious reason of stimulating the local economy and supporting our farmers. But the biggest reason is freshness and flavor. Because locally grown grains and flour is produced in smaller quantities, the quality is higher. I would much rather take the time to bake with flour that was milled days or weeks ago versus something that has been sitting in a warehouse for months!

Because much of what is milled locally is “unrefined”, meaning the germ and bran are not removed from the flour, it needs to be treated with a bit more respect that bigger brands. Its shelf life is shorter and it should be stored in a cool, dry place to protect it from going rancid. I store mine in air-tight containers in the fridge.

Don’t be put off by the word “unrefined”. It simply means that all of the nutrition and flavor are still intact. The grains (or flour) haven’t been stripped of their very goodness only to be injected by, or “enriched” by adding artificial means. Funny how throughout time, in an attempt to “refine” things in our lives, the very things that are good about something have been removed…”

“For all three, I started with my basic recipes and then had some fun with them. Whole wheat was added to the pita, sesame oil and seeds to the naan and cornmeal to my basic tortilla recipe. Other ideas might be to add spices – like ground curry powder – to the pita to create a different flavor. With the naan, fresh herbs can be kneaded into the dough instead of the sesame seeds. Or sauté onion or garlic and use that as your add in, just be sure to bring it to room temperature first. The possibilities are only limited by the imagination…”

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