Baking for work and pleasure

For the 100th anniversary of the Oregon State University Sherman County Experiment Station: They had a nursery of historical crops grown there over the last 100 years. I was asked to bake from what grain/flour I could glean of some of the historical wheat varieties [and barley].

I baked wholewheat sourdough loaves in a traditional style made from stone-ground wholewheat flours with the coarse bran [>850 um] sieved out.

Norwest553 – one of ours; a modern semi-dwarf hard red winter (HRW) . Made good bread; its very strong dough properties make it a great choice for wholewheat products made by long fermentation processes. A robust flavored HRW.

Turkey – a HRW introduced to Kansas only a few miles from Elizabeth’s family farm. Origin Turkey/Ukraine. Made good bread; the dough was a bit tender to too much molding. Also a robust flavored HRW, not much different in flavor profile to the Norwest553 bread.

Red Fife – an old hard red spring [HRS]. A parent of “Marquis”, the foundation variety of the Canadian western HRS industry. Made good bread; but the dough was very tender to too much molding and mixing. The least robust flavored of these red wheats; suggesting other attributes other than being grown in the 19th century, are important in terms of the grain’s contribution to bread flavor. 

Red May – a very old soft red winter. Grown in the east and grown in Kansas prior to the introduction in the 1870s of the hard wheats, which were more winter hardy. This made a dense bread with a crumbly non-resilient crumb typical of breads made from soft wheats. It also took about 10% less water and even then the dough was close to being unhandleably sticky. This isn’t ideal for making bread, but was a lesson to me in what was available for breadmaking in the era prior to 1860. Elizabeth made cookies out of it from a old “White House Cookbook” recipe from the 1890s – a far more appropriate product for this wheat. 

Spelt and Emmer: These ancient wheats were still grown in yield trials at the station until the 1930s. The milled nicely and as expected had tender, rather fragile doughs, susceptible to overwork, but with proper attention made nice bread in this style. Both type, especially the emmer, had unique flavor profiles, very robust, but qualitatively distinct from all the modern hexaploids we baked. 

Hard white winter blend: In deference to the hard white wheats grown in the region mostly before 1940. Including the Australian varieties “Baart” and “Federation” which had a considerable acreage. This was a less strong dough than the Norwest553, comparable to the Turkey, but it milled very granular from the stone-mill. The bread had the least robust flavor profile of all these breads, as expected. Some will like this flavor better for wholewheat products, but basically it depends to some extent on wheat consumers are used to. 

ORSS1757/Skiles: Modern soft white winter wheats bred by our program. We made cookies out of these, as appropriate to the class of wheat. The cookies were fractionally, but noticably more tender the the Red May cookies.

We also made a bread dough out of this blend for the Summer Ag Institute. It was very notable that after about 2 hours of bulk fermentation that the dough had started to “pin-hole” leaving the fermentation gases to vent to atmosphere instead of being trapped by in dough [as with the bread wheats; the contrast was striking]. The pin-holing showed the weakness [literally] of the soft whites for bread making; and you could track at which point the dough stopped rising.

Front to rear: Each different cut pattern in turn: Turkey Red, Red Fife, Red May, a multigrain made with Norwest553 and grains of many of the alternative crops tried at the station over the last 100 years [barley; millet; buckwheat; rye; & flax]


Summer Ag Institute: Baked contrasts: long v short fermentation baguettes [standard roler-milled bread flour]; red versus white wholewheat sourdoughs; and of course strong versus weak doughs as noted above. Lots of fun.

Wholewheat sourdoughs for the Summer Ag Institute: closest – Hard White, cross-hatched – Norwest553;  rear – Turkey; right rear of frame – soft white



Beautiful but tasteless [other than the crust] short fermentation baguettes rear;

rather ugly looking but tasty [very] long fermentation “pain a al ancienne” a la Peter Reinhart front.

JOY !!! – MORE good news [well evidence] about coffee and caffeine

Well, it is only evidence and only mice – but I’m off for a coffee to celebrate!

quoted from the  Eurekalert press release…

Contact: Michael Bernstein

American Chemical Society

“New evidence that drinking coffee may reduce the risk of diabetes

 Scientists are reporting new evidence that drinking coffee may help prevent diabetes and that caffeine may be the ingredient largely responsible for this effect…

Fumihiko Horio and colleagues note that past studies have suggested that regular coffee drinking may reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes. The disease affects millions in the United States and is on the rise worldwide. However, little of that evidence comes from studies on lab animals used to do research that cannot be done in humans.

The scientists fed either water or coffee to a group of laboratory mice commonly used to study diabetes. Coffee consumption prevented the development of high-blood sugar and also improved insulin sensitivity in the mice, thereby reducing the risk of diabetes. Coffee also caused a cascade of other beneficial changes in the fatty liver and inflammatory adipocytokines related to a reduced diabetes risk. Additional lab studies showed that caffeine may be “one of the most effective anti-diabetic compounds in coffee,” the scientists say”.


“Coffee and Caffeine Ameliorate Hyperglycemia, Fatty Liver, and Inflammatory Adipocytokine Expression in Spontaneously Diabetic KK-Ay Mice”