Artisan Producers, Farming, Field Notes, Foodshed, Meet the Makers

Honoré Farm and Mill Gives Us Back Our Daily Bread

Fifteen years ago, Episcopal vicar Elizabeth DeRuff was presiding over the eucharist at a retreat center in Healdsburg when a congregant declined to take communion. This wasn’t unusual, but the woman’s reasoning was, at least for the time: she was allergic to wheat and certain that eating the Bread of Heaven would make her sick.

Cut to 2010. The number of people avoiding gluten is trending upwards (it will go on to triple over the next 8 years). It’s a post–South Beach Diet world. Bread is now seen as a guilty pleasure at best. But that moment at the altar is still firmly lodged in Elizabeth’s mind. As she puts it now, “what does it say about our food and farming systems if someone can be allergic to the food that is the very symbol of all food?”

That year while working on an agricultural service project, Elizabeth met a farmer who was growing heirloom wheat—wheat which, seemingly by magic, even gluten-sensitive people could eat with abandon. The problem for most people wasn’t actually wheat or gluten but rather industrial processing, which strips grains of their nutrients and divorces bread from traditional sourdough fermentation, which makes wheat more digestible. The problem was equally compelling to her from a theological point of view: the supply chain behind most communion loaves hardly reflects care for creation. Thus began Elizabeth’s 8-year deep dive into the science and spirituality of wheat, and thus began Honoré Farm and Mill.

Honoré is a nonprofit that integrates spiritual care, climate action, and heirloom grain stewardship. In practice, their work is multifaceted: Honoré grows, mills, and sells Red Fife and Sonora wheat (and incredible shortbread cookies!), hosts sourdough classes and educational workshops, and runs a flour and communion wafer CSA for churches. In 2016 they crowdfunded a mobile stone mill to travel to schools, churches, synagogues, and markets.

The mobile mill was Honoré’s answer to what Elizabeth sees as the biggest barrier to thriving grain economies: lack of infrastructure. There used to be more than 20,000 stone mills around the country, but now that industrial agriculture is the status quo there are just a small handful. In fact, when Elizabeth first started working on heirloom grain issues she had to drive to Ukiah to find fresh flour. Most people don’t think of flour as perishable, but the difference between fresh-milled and conventional flour in terms of both flavor and nutrition is astonishing. To a grain-lover like Elizabeth, “it was like if you had to drive 200 miles whenever you wanted a good cup of coffee.”

Thankfully, Honore’s community saw the value in getting a little closer to their daily bread. Their kickstarter campaign reached 125% funding, and the mobile mill was able to take its first major trip in June, to the Episcopal General Convention in Austin. It’s also the centerpiece of Honoré’s “Wheat Wednesdays” educational program at underserved local schools. Their next project is a conference in May of 2019, which will gather farmers, millers, bakers, and church members together to build community through workshops, panels, and a planting day. (In a bit of spiritual kismet, the Growers Guild Conference will be held at the very retreat center where that fateful 2003 communion took place.) They’re also searching for land to create a home base for Honoré, which has been loosely based in and around Marin County thus far. Elizabeth envisions an educational farm for land-based healing ministry—simply touching organic matter is good for us, Elizabeth points out.

Spirituality and nutrition are singularly slippery topics that can be difficult to discuss. Trying to relate one to the other is an even more esoteric challenge. But listening to Elizabeth, it feels like the most natural thing in the world. She says the reception to Honoré’s work has been overwhelmingly positive (though she’ll admit a Dow Chemical executive’s wife walked out on one of her climate-focused sermons once). Not only that, but people seem to be more and more interested as time goes on: their booth at the general convention three years ago garnered mostly blank stares, but this year they were deluged with interest.

“I haven’t met very many farmers who don’t think farming is a very spiritual practice,” Elizabeth says. “And spiritually it’s so rich to be able to inhabit the life of scripture for a moment while you’re threshing or harvesting.”

Eat Good Food

Pan Bagnat Sandwich Recipe

sandwich

Pan bagnat, or “bathed bread,” is the Provençal sandwich found at every bakery and market in the region. A sandwich in name but packed with tomatoes, local bell peppers, black Niçoise olives, anchovies and tuna, pan bagnat is basically a salade Niçoise on crusty bread. What’s not to like!

Here’s how to make your own.

Pan Bagnat

2 ripe tomatoes, cored and thinly sliced crosswise
1 (5-oz.) can olive oil-packed tuna, drained
1 small red onion, thinly sliced
1⁄2 cup arugula
1⁄3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
1 rustic baguette, split
1 small bulb fennel, cored and thinly sliced crosswise
2 hard-boiled eggs, thinly sliced crosswise
8 salt-cured anchovies, briefly soaked to remove salt, then dried
1-2 tbsp Nicoise olive powder
Freshly ground black pepper and Kosher salt, to taste

Sprinkle tomato slices liberally with salt and transfer to a colander; set aside to drain for 30 minutes.

In a small bowl, break up tuna with a fork. In another small bowl, whisk together oil and mustard; set dressing aside.

Scoop the insides from the bread loaf and reserve for another use. Place tomatoes evenly over the bottom of the bread and then top with arugula, fennel, and red onion; spread tuna over top, then top with egg slices, anchovies, and Nicoise olive powder.

Pour dressing evenly over ingredients, and season with salt and pepper; cover with top of bread, pressing lightly. Wrap tightly and allow time for flavors to mingle before slicing in quarters.

Recipe adapted from Saveur Magazine

Cooking, Field Notes

Mill and Churn with Avery Ruzicka

photo: Aubrie Pick

With both a culinary and bread degree from the French Culinary Institute as well as having worked a staging stint under Per Se restaurant’s master baker Ben Hershberger, Avery Ruzicka knew that she wanted to devote her career to the miracle of grains and yeast and ovens.

But she had to take an unusual route to get there. Which is how she ended up working the front of the house running food at Los Gato’s famed Manresa in 2012. After six months of delivering chef David Kinch’s three-Michelin-star dishes to diners, she made her way into the kitchen, where she had been headed all along.

There, she founded the Manresa Bread Project, an endeavor that began in the restaurant with an official bread course included in prix-fixe dinners, moved to serve a rabid farmers’ market fanbase, and now includes bakeries in Palo Alto and Los Gatos with a new one set to open in Campbell.

Ruzicka comes to SHED on May 12 to demonstrate some of what makes her bread so acclaimed. And of course, it starts with the grain. As do we, Ruzicka mills her own grain for making bread and even oatmeal.

For her class, she’ll tote along her favorite tabletop mill, a KoMo Mockmill that she adores for its price and durability. The similar hand-cranked Country Living Grain Mill is a staple of our kitchen.

“My vision is to show people that this simple piece of equipment can open up so many avenues of creativity,” Ruzicka told us by phone recently.

“I want to show people that what we do is possible. The Mockmill especially is not a huge financial investment. It’s a couple hundred dollars and will last a lifetime. Instead of grabbing a bag of old flour from your cupboard, you can make fresh ingredients that are a million times better.”

Supporting local grain growers is a passion for us. We’re so excited to see young chefs like Ruzicka embracing real grains for taste and good health.

“We use all organic grains,” Ruzicka explains, adding that she purchases pre-milled flour from Central Milling Co. out of Petaluma and buys grain from Coke Farm, an organic produce farm in San Juan Bautista.

“Owner Dale Coke is a passionate bread baker and, as a farmer, decided to start selling some grain,” she says. “He grows some rye, a variety of bread wheat called Patron and a white wheat called Blanco Grande.”

Ruzicka explains that you don’t have to own a bakery to purchase whole grains to mill yourself, listing more of the producers she uses that sell to the public as well.

“We get einkorn and spelt from a farm in Oregon called Bluebird Grain Farms. I have also purchased a lot of wheat from Camas Country in Washington, also family-run, and they mill as well. When you’re buying direct from farmers, you have to contend with the fact that they don’t have a shipping system. It’s pushed us to find even more California grain. It’s around, but it’s in smaller volume.”

Ruzicka’s sourdough breads rise for up to 36 hours. Allowing for such a long fermentation period makes the loaves easier to digest and makes them palatable to those who are typically bothered by gluten (celiac sufferers still can’t consume it). It also creates airy pockets inside the loaves that make the bread tender and perhaps even more addictive.

It’s all a product of patience and science, but mostly patience. Ruzicka stresses that any one who is interested can get learn how to source and make good food. “If you eat a delicious meal, ask where it came from,” she says simply.

Avery Ruzicka comes to our Healdsburg store on Saturday, May 12, at 11am for a two-hour workshop on simple bread and butter. We’ll learn to churn our own fresh cream into butter and how to make sourdough flatbreads. Students will receive recipes and a 10% SHED discount on all purchases that day. Join us!

Cooking, Craftsmanship

Sourdough Starter Is a Living Thing

“Sourdough starter is a living thing,” author Stephen Yafa told us on a warm Saturday afternoon in August. “Think of it as being the union of lovers. Yeast falls in love with lactobacillus and together, they’re perfectly harmonious.”

Yafa had a bowl full of love with him when he joined us in our upstairs Grange to demonstrate his sourdough starter recipe and support his new book, Grain of Truth: The Real Case For and Against Wheat and Gluten.

Turns out, your main job with starter is simply to provide what Yafa calls a “honeymoon suite.” Yeast and lactobacillus, he says, “like to be left alone, fed, and to be safe in a warm, hospitable place.”

An award-winning North Bay journalist and screenwriter, Yafa fell upon the topic of starters and yeast and gluten and wheat and lovers when his wife came home from a spa day announcing that she had “gluten neck.” Whatever that is.

And indeed, what the heck is it? Yafa was intrigued.

Grain of Truth follows wheat from the good old days when it harmed only those with true celiac disease through to today, where the majority of the wheat consumed in the U.S. has been disastrously stripped of its nutrition and vitality and is quite literally making us all sick.

Like Tartine’s Chad Robertson — who also became interested in heirloom wheat and ancient grains in an effort to help his gluten-intolerant wife  — Yafa bakes whole wheat bread that has an extraordinarily long rising time, usually 16 to 18 hours. This extended fermentation produces loaves that those who are ordinarily gluten intolerant can consume with pleasure. (It is still not edible for those with celiac disease.)

But none of this yummy goodness can happen without the starter — a mix of whole flour, water, wild yeast, and bacteria that takes about two weeks to mature and, when properly maintained, can last a lifetime.

“The starter is the engine that drives the sourdough,” Yafa said. “It can be a legacy that you can pass to other generations.”

SHED’s pastry chef Lorrette Patzwald understands Yafa’s point of view.

“For me, the process of building a new starter is akin to bringing home a new baby,” she says. “You can glean advice from professionals and read about how to take care of it in books, but it’s entirely up to you to figure out what it takes to help it thrive.”

Patzwald has been so successful at keeping her starter thriving that she’s named it “Shirley.” Of course we’re not kidding.

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“Once I was able to get consistently good results with my new starter it was time to give her a name,” Patzwald explains. “Shirley is not just used for bread. She gives additional depth of flavor to the Little Shirley cookies sold at our coffee bar. She has also made appearances in pancakes, shortcakes, and waffles. Shirley has traveled to the Gold Coast of Long Island and to Greenwich Village for a bread baker’s competition.

“I often offer some Shirley to my baking students,” she says. “Hence there is little bit of her here and there around the Bay Area.”

Once you have a stable starter — regardless of its name — you have the basis for your bread. Using some of the starter, you add flour to create a levain basis for your loaves.

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“You’re doing a ‘build,'” Yafa explained. “The levain reduces the vinegary quality of the starter. You want to balance sour and sweetness.”

By taking some of the starter and mixing it with flour to make a dough, you’re also ensuring that there is enough starter to continue on to its next iteration. You want a wet dough, Yafa assured, and you want to slap it about to wake it up.

Several audience members gamely stood with Yafa slapping dough to awaken its gluten. He appeared to be delighted.

“You will screw it up,” he assured the audience happily. “Everyone screws up. So what. Throw it out and start again.”

Stephen Yafa’s Sourdough Starter Tips

  • Use non-chlorinated filtered water for both your starter and your levain to nurture the growth of good bacteria.
  • Use organic whole grain wheat or rye flours, not all-purpose. They’re more nutritious and offer more fuel to the microorganisms that will build your starter.
  • An electric plant propagation bed used to help sprout seeds is a nice way to keep your starter warm during its first few weeks. Place your bowl on it and leave it.
  • Buy a digital kitchen scale and use it. It takes the element of volume out of your recipe and reduces everything to weight. (Be certain, however, that you measure water and flour in the same signature. Yafa once tried to make bread with the water in ounces and the flour in grams. He needed a bathing suit, he says, to handle the ensuing tsunami.)
  • Try to use your clean, freshly washed and carefully dried hands to handle the dough, not a mixer’s dough hook. You can feel the gluten strands hardening and you can transfer more natural bacteria to your starter if you use your hands. Plus, it just feels good!
  • Need help, direction, or inspiration? The King Arthur Flour website is Yafa’s go-to site.

Artisan Producers, Chefs, Cooking, Modern Grange

Baking for Geeks: Chad Robertson at SHED

When Michael Pollan visited SHED earlier this year in support of his new book Cooked, he joked about the experience of shaking master baker Chad Robertson's hand. Michael hesitated to wash his own hands later, thinking that perhaps, just maybe, something magical and yeasty from Chad might have translated. Something he could use in his own bread to bring it even halfway to the greatness that the Tartine Bakery, which Chad co-owns with wife Elizabeth Pruitt, daily achieves.

But as became clear when Chad talked about his new book, Tartine No. 3, with our own Lora Zarubin at SHED on Sept. 14, 2014, it takes more than a mere handshake to glean some of his mojo. Chad is a man obsessed, a fermentation geek and a chemistry nerd whose experiments just happen to be delicious.

What he experiments with in No. 3 are whole grains. But he doesn't just do a straight trade with white flour recipes for its browner cousin. Rather, he deconstructs and then reassembles the very nature of bread's essence using many whole ancient grains which now rarely feed us. Moreover, he ferments. Anyone who proofs yeast engages in the fermentation process, but the secret to Tartine Bakery bread is in the length, the delirious lassitude, of the ferment. Chad regularly lets his loaves rise for 10 to 12 hours before baking. 

Of course, certain grains have fallen out of favor for understandable reasons: they're difficult to bake with and require clever work-arounds to make edible, let alone delicious. Chad and his team — including head baker Richard Hart, who was onsite at SHED to assist — regularly make what they call "porridges" from "difficult" regional grains.

Inspired by René Redzepi's work with ancient Nordic grains for his world-renowned restaurant NOMA and emboldened by the superior team he had in the kitchen, Chad took his essential recipes and reimagined them for an older larder. One a pharaoh might recognize.

Remembering Chad as a "surfer/baker dude" in Pt. Reyes when he and wife Elizabeth first opened their Bay Village Breads Bakery out there over a decade ago, Lora asked Chad about the impetus of this newest cookbook, the third in his series emanating from Tartine Bakery's work.

"It started as another bread book and then went into pastries," Chad said. "I knew there was more we could do with whole grain pastries." He added, "I was getting slightly tired with the taste of white flour. I wanted to go back with my team and see what we could imagine, rather than just swappping out the white flour.

"We didn't go back to the drawing board," Chad stressed. "We went to our basic way of making breas and adjusted from that. We deconstructed it, trying different grains, particularly those without gluten, to incorporate into the breads. We made porridges and tried sprouting grains to discover new ways."

Chad discussed growing up in the French pain levain tradition and living in France with Elizabeth, who has gluten-intolerance, yet could eat the bread without distress. Broke and baking, bread is something they ate without cease. When they returned to the U.S., her discomfort and symptoms returned and she had to stop eating bread again. 

"That was the 20-year question for me," Chad said. "Why could she eat bread there and not here?"

He came to understand that fermentation probably has a lot to do with it, meaning that the way bread is produced might indicate whether it will cause upset to someone who has difficulty processing gluten (unrelated to celiac disease). "We were already making bread that gluten-intolerant people could eat," Chad says. "We just didn't know it."

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Heritage, ancient, whole grains have less gluten than the enriched white flour that forms the basis of most modern bread today. They're also extermely versatile, as Chad's team discovered during the year that they devised and tested recipes for the book.

"Our goals was to show the range of possibilities," Chad said. "We stopped at 10 recipes for porridge, for example, but we could have gone on and on."

Other questions included whether his bread is affected by place (not unless he's using local flour, in which case it adds its own terroir); if he prefers high-tech or wood-fired ovens (he loves them both for different reasons but misses working so much with fire); when his Tokyo store will open (mid-year, 2015); does fresh-milled flour affect the taste? (yes, it's like the difference between fresh ground pepper and a box of the dusty stuff from the store); does he collaborate with any farmers (he works closely with the Bread Lab at the University of Washington, which is experimenting with 40,000 different grain varieties); what's the best way to keep your sourdough starter alive when you're on vacation (either spread it out on a piece of parchment paper set on a cookie sheet and let it air dry while you're gone or take a small amount and add a lot of flour, until the consistency is like Play-Doh — that slows the starter down vastly and it can be reconstituted upon return); how to get airy bread (be careful with your preshape molding: the tighter you make the bread, the less air holes you'll get); and what he would do if he didn't bake (restaurant owners and trained chefs, he and Elizabeth would cook).

What should home bakers take away from the book, Lora asked.

"A lot of people don't know how to use amaranth or other grains that I've learned to work with," he said. "This is a way to incorporate these grains into your diet. There are other grains than wheat and they're very interesting and have their own unique qualities."

One of the ways that such decidedly non-sexy items as old grains become fashionable, Chad said, is to be championed by those bakers and chefs who want to use them, making it sensical for farmers to grow them, making them available to consumers to taste them. 

"I'd like to help reposition old grains in a more stylish way," he said, "so that people choose to eat them and not just for the health reasons. Before, it was boring; there weren't a lot of choices.

"Now, we have hundreds of varieties of wheat to choose from."

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Artisan Producers, Foodshed, HomeFarm

Feeding Body and Mind

Community Supported Agriculture — and Art!

Winter comes and fields go fallow. With many farmer's markets shuttered for the season, getting fresh, locally-grown food becomes more difficult — and more important — than ever.

Which is why we're excited to announce our new CSA program, launching January 2014. 

The notion of a CSA is grounded in long-term support. Farmers gravitated to the concept from the Slow Money movement, which looks for sustainable ways to keep small growers in business.

Your monthly CSA crate will feature whatever is growing fresh at our HomeFarm (think: greens in winter), as well as such treats from SHED as freshly milled polenta or heirloom beans, a jar of our house-made pickled vegetables, a fresh loaf of bread from the ovens, an excellent cheese, or some olio nuevo squeezed from our own olives. However it's compiled, each crate offers $70 worth of products.

To make it easy to join, we've created a three-tiered system for you to choose from:

Three Months Get three months' worth of items for $210 and enjoy a free non-alcoholic drink from our espresso or fermentation bar upon pick-up. Plus, get 10% off the price of our weekly SHED events.

Six Months Get six months' worth of items for $420, enjoy a free non-alc drink upon pick-up, receive 10% off our events, and get a 10% storewide discount on any SHED product that might pique your interest that day.

12 Months Subscribe for a year at $840, enjoy all the other perks, and come out to our HomeFarm in 2014 for a tour and luncheon. We'd love to host you!

Community Supported ART

We're thrilled that the 10 smart women of the 428 Collective have chosen SHED as the spot in which to launch their new CSA program for the arts.

Please join us on Sunday, Dec. 8, from 10am to 1pm for a free kickoff party to learn the details. The short version is that for $500 (if you join before Dec. 31), you'll receive 10 pieces of limited-edition, signed, original art over the course of 2014. Five percent of proceeds are to be donated to the Imaginists, an innovative local theater company.

The whole thing is a gas. Come on down and join both CSA programs at the same time. Feed body and mind in the New Year.