Wednesday, June 02, 2010

A Walk Through Silver Hills

Last week I went on a walking tour of Silver Hills Bakery. I was there to see how sprouted bread was made in large quantities. I didn't ask how many loaves they popped out a day, but there was a lot of bread there.

I concede, this first photo makes it looks like I'm advertising here. What really happened, adept photographer that I am, is that I forgot to take pictures of the bakery and the machines inside. I did take photos of the dough, they follow later.

After donning a very scientific looking lab coat and a brilliant red hair net (how come I had red and everyone else was in white or some other pale colour?) I was led into a huge room whose centre piece was a giant contraption that propelled loaves of baked bread in a massive spiral column, slowly spinning umpteen loaves upwards to cool. The smell of freshly baked bread was strangely absent considering the vast quantities embraced by various metal pans, sheeting, conveyor belts and bowls.

Sprouting wheat and making bread from it is as old as old can be imagined. Silver Hills seems to be following a very basic formula for making sprouted bread. The bread is made up of sprouted wheat (soaked) that is promptly ground, then kneaded with a few other ingredients, shaped, proofed and baked... within three hours. Its flavour reflects the speed of production. This isn't a criticism. Bread is like that. This is a good bread, chewy, healthy, a bit of crust. For such a short making/baking process, it doesn't suffer from that “yeasty” flavour that I have found at times in other fast loaves. When it is fresh it is fantastic. It doesn't have the complex, developed flavour of old world breads, but then it shouldn't, since it doesn't have the long proofs that provide time for that kind of textural and flavour complexity.

The ingredients are pretty basic: organic sprouted grain, water, organic cane juice, gluten, sea salt, yeast and citric acid. The Mack's Flax pictured had flax seed added. After going through the bakery and seeing how they made the bread I am inspired to make a sprouted bread with no commercial yeast or added sweetener that goes through a slower proofing time in hope of developing a bread that is more complex. I'm not sure about with-holding the gluten. I will try to go without, but the sprouting process may deplete the gluten/protein content of the wheat. This may effect the lightness of the bread – and one of the things I like about Silver Hills bread is how light it feels while still tasting earthy.

I brought a wide variety of bread home to try. Specifically, I was trying to see if my kids liked any of the breads. It is always a challenge for me to find a bread they like (unless it is fresh out of the oven, then they even like my heavier whole wheat breads, but only warm!). They didn't like any of them. They complained about the brown flecks in the bread. Obviously my children are spoiled, overfed and far too privileged.So its back to the old standby.

On the other hand, I quite like Silver Hills Bread. I have been told that sprouted wheat bread is easier to digest than ground wheat bread. So, I have eaten five pieces of toasted sprouted wheat bread. So far I feel fine; un-bloated, and ready to eat more. I love toast. I have been known, on occasion, to eat a whole loaf, especially if I have some really good jam and tea. And yes, I feel like crap afterwards. And no, I do not weigh three hundred pounds (although I am thickening a little around the middle these days, but I attribute that to age, and sitting too much in front of this computer).

Anyway, here are a few pictures from the bakery. The first is the grinder, mashing the sprouted wheat.

This picture is at the end of the kneading stage. Unfortunately, my pictures of the rough, freshly ground dough didn't turn out. When I grind my own at home I will include pictures of that stage. The dough went from rough, wet and shaggy to this smooth, elastic (albiet still somewhat rough do to the whole grain content), dough in under ten minutes of kneading.

A close up of the kneaded dough.

Stay tuned for my future posts as I try to make an artisian style, slow proof bread out of freshly ground sprouted wheat.