Bringing back grains that have fallen out of favor in our food system requires farmers to relearn how to grow them and to determine what grows best in their region. The Kitchen Trials are a “citizen science” effort to understand more about how these grains bake as each region offers a different growing environment that impacts the grains (protein level, flavor, etc.). The knowledge gained will inform the effort to create viable supply networks for large-scale production and consumption.
December 17th, 2021
We recently finished a really cool project: the Rocky Mountain Seed Alliance (RMSA)’s Kitchen Trials. The purpose of the program is to get home and professional bakers making bread with ancient and heritage grains. You receive three varieties of whole wheat berries (Emmer, Einkorn, and Red Fife), two recipes (sourdough and yeast), and an assessment sheet to bake a loaf with each variety and compare the results. I chose the sourdough version, which is a good base recipe that I’m now using to test some different wheat varieties.
We eat roughly a loaf of bread per week, so I substituted the Kitchen Trials loaves for the bread I usually bake. The recipe’s process will be familiar to sourdough bakers: build a levain the night before, mill your flour, make the dough (autolyse, stretch and fold, preshape and shape, etc), and bake. The hardest part was not being able to immediately dig into the bread. We had to weigh and measure it first, then we tasted for certain qualities (aroma, crumb texture, crust flavor, etc). I did catch Paul checking the aroma of a loaf I baked yesterday that wasn’t for the Kitchen Trials, so maybe we’ve become more appreciative of our bread as a result of this experience.
I recommend the Kitchen Trials because it’s a good way to get more “scientific” about how you’re baking. I sometimes bake by feel and appearance, but that makes it difficult to share recipes with others. The Kitchen Trials helped me think through and document everything I did. It’s also a small way to contribute to the growing knowledge about how these grains bake and to support regional seed growers and the seed stewardship movement.
About Rocky Mountain Seed Alliance: The RMSA is an organization I joined earlier this year. In their own words, “We are a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization dedicated to strengthening seed and food security in our region. Our mission is to assure a diverse and abundant supply of locally grown seeds for the Rocky Mountain West through networking, education and helping establish community-based models of seed stewardship.” In addition to the Kitchen Trials, I’ve participated in the RMSA Grain School, Baking and Milling Bonanza, and monthly Grain Gatherings. The work they’re doing is worthwhile, and they’re a friendly, passionate group of people that I truly enjoy interacting with.