Published Apr 30, 2010

Iowa bread

By Tomoko Ogawa

As part of my project to investigate the possibility for Iowa grown cover crop grains to be used as food, a local CSA called Farm to Folk in Ames has been providing me the space to share my breads. So far, I’ve been using two different varieties of hard red winter wheat and buckwheat from Iowa farmers in my ciabatta bread.

Making ciabatta starts with preparing biga (pre-ferment), which consists of whole wheat flour from Iowa (I alternate between wheat from Steenblocks in Kanawha and Dahls in Rolfe); rye flour from Pauls’ Grains in Laurel; high-gluten flour and all-purpose flour from Heartland Mill in Marienthal, Kansas; water; and active dry yeast. In addition, buckwheat ciabatta contains buckwheat flour (20%) from Hafners in Panora. Whole wheat ciabatta has 20% whole-wheat flour from the above-mentioned farms. I grind wheat berries every week, thanks to Helen Gunderson who has generously been lending me her household-sized mill.

There seems to be a growing interest in locally grown small grains. Grain CSAs are emerging in different parts of the country. These CSAs usually provide a share of small grains, flours, and beans. University of Maine Extension received a USDA grant to investigate local organic bread wheat production. While the argument for terroir of wine or cheese is widely mentioned, terroir of bread does not seem to get the spotlight too often. Sure, Iowa climate may not be suited to produce wheat that works best for mass production or for certain recipes which require very specific protein levels, moisture content, ash content, etc. But Iowa grown grains may create bread that can only be tasted in Iowa.

There are many obstacles for Iowa-grown small grains, especially related to economic feasibility and lack of small-scale processors who can clean, store, and mill grains. However, I’m excited to continue exploring the possibilities for Iowa-grown cover crop small grains.

If you have any questions or comments about the cover crop small grain project, please let me know. I’d love to talk with you!