Kneading Conference East 2013: Crackers, Wood-fired Ovens & Tandoor Baking. (Recipes)

All of the baking at the conference was done in wood-fired ovens, which needed to be kept warm all night for the next days bake.

All of the baking at the conference was done in wood-fired ovens, which needed to be kept warm all night for the next days bake. (all photos copyrighted and credited to: Edmund Rek/rekfotos.com)

Evelyn’s Crackers participated in the Kneading Conference again this year. Co-teaching three workshops with Naomi Duguid: Crackers, Tandoor Baking and Grain Tasting was like a homecoming seeing many of the familiar faces of fellow lecturers and attendees. The conference draws some of the best talent in bread baking, oven building and anything related to dough or grains (even rice this year) making the event one not to miss.

We owe thanks a group of Skowhegan residents who were motivated to address wheat production as an important cornerstone of a growing local food movement. The first Kneading Conference was held in July of 2007 in the heart of Somerset County,

“where wheat production fed over 100,000 people annually until the mid-1800′s. Reviving wheat varieties that succeed in Maine’s climate is not only a realistic goal, but a critical one in light of rising transportation costs and the recognition that food security must rely on local farms. By bringing together the diverse stakeholders who collectively can rebuild lost infrastructure and create demand for local and regional grain systems – farmers, millers, bakers, chefs, wheat researchers – on-the-ground plans take shape. In Maine, the Kneading Conference has been the impetus for start-ups amongst a growing cluster of grain related businesses.” http://kneadingconference.com/

Multiple workshops were going on simultaneously and the images below capture only a fraction of the offering from the Kneading Conference. The open venue is airy and relaxed. One can mingle from one class to another and serves as a model for the Kneading Conference West coming up in September near Seattle, Washington and other agricultural areas interested in reviving local farming heritage.

A view of our outdoor workshop with our own copper covered hearth in the background.

A view of our outdoor workshop with our own copper covered hearth in the background.

The rolling pins of choice for the cracker class are without handles offer a better feel for the dough and become an extension of the your hands.

The rolling pins are without handles for offer a better feel for the dough become an extension of the your hands.

Stamping the rye crackers with Middle Eastern bread stamps before being baked in the wood-fired oven.

Stamping the rye crackers with Middle Eastern bread stamps before being baked in the wood-fired oven.

A beautiful rustic rye cracker stamped by wooden handled bread stamps from the Middle East.

A beautiful rustic rye cracker stamped by wooden handled bread stamps from the Middle East.

Sour dough bagels waiting to be baked for a few minutes before being flipped.

Bagels going into the oven.  They had to be turned on their backs and baked for a few minutes on the wooden board as not to stick to the "floor" of the oven.

Bagels going into the oven. They had to be turned on their backs and baked for a few minutes on the wooden board as not to stick to the “floor” of the oven.

The bagel workshop was full of history and techniques taught by Jeffrey Hamelman.  Truly amazing to watch him bake in the wood-fired oven and learning the adjustments he had to make from a traditional oven. This photo shows a few that stayed in a little too long, but look great to me.

As varied and versatile as the workshop program was, so were the types of ovens at the fairgrounds for the bakers to use. This one was placed on cinder blocks vs. a trailer.

As varied and versatile as the workshop program was, so were the types of ovens at the fairgrounds for the bakers to use. This one was placed on cinder blocks, most were on movable trailers.

Tandoor baking class.

Tandoor baking class with Naomi Duguid.

Stretching the dough before baking it in the Tandoor.

Stretching the dough before baking it in the Tandoor.

Carefully adding the dough to the sides of the tandoor oven.

Carefully adding the dough to the sides of the tandoor oven.

A piece of naan bread ready to come out of the Tandoor oven.  The long steel tools hold the bread in place and pull it from the oven sides at the same time.

A piece of naan bread ready to come out of the Tandoor oven. The long steel tools hold the bread in place and pull it from the oven sides at the same time.

Fresh from the Tandoor.

Fresh from the Tandoor.

Rye bread dough ready to be shaped.

Barak Olins has shaped his rye dough that will be baked in the copper wood oven.

Barak Olins has shaped his rye dough that will be baked in the copper covered wood oven.

Rye bread just out of the wood-fired oven.

Rye bread just out of the wood-fired oven.

The most important part of a wood-fired oven.  The door.

The most important part of a wood-fired oven. The door.

From Porridge to Polenta: cooked cereal grains made easy

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Cooked cereal grains have been a staple throughout civilization and “provide more food energy worldwide than any other crop.” As whole grains, they provide more vitamins, minerals and protein than their refined counterparts. (After removal of the bran and germ where mostly carbohydrates are left behind.) Ancient farming communities from areas in and around Egypt and Iraq first domesticated emmeri wheat, einkorn wheat and barley.

Beyond west Asia there are several important staple cereal grains grown worldwide: maize (Americas, Africa), rice (tropical, temperate regions), sorghum (Asia, Africa), millet (Asia, Africa), oats (worldwide), rye (colder climates), fonio (Africa), buckwheat Europe, Asia), quinoa (Andes).

Closer to home, our three favorite cereals are congee, museli (hot or cold) and polenta.

Congee is eaten all over eastern Asia, mostly for breakfast, or a late supper. A little rice and a lot if water (about 1:10 ratio) are cooked together to a porridge consistency. It’s personality is in the accompaniments: grilled pork, egg, chili, scallions, cilantro, you name it! It’s a blank canvas of any flavor inspiration.

Birchemuesli, or muesli, is a popular Swiss German breakfast cereal and late night snack. Renouned for being healthy it originally was prepared for recoverying hospital patients. Full of oat flakes (sometimes wheat, or rye), seeds, nuts and fruit it is often soaked ahead of time in water, cream or yogurt. We have been making our own version of “muse-li” and eat it as a hot cereal. A great way to start the day as the chill of winter is upon us. (About 1:4 cereal to water; cooked until thickens and grains are tender; serve with sheep’s yogurt, cinnamon (copious amounts), our granola and maple syrup).

Polenta: one of the three holy “P’s” behind pizza and pasta is not always considered a cereal. More often, this creamy, starchy, once Roman staple is cooked with seasoned stock, cream, milk, or water and paired with sauces, meats and vegetables. You can add less liquid and slice and grill the polenta after it cools and becomes firm. We use organic stone ground corn from Stoddarts Farm that has both coarse and fine grain mixed in (and it actually smells like corn!). The liquid base is 1/2 stock and 1/2 milk with bay leaf, salt and touch of cayenne pepper, plenty of garlic cooked in butter and a lot of grated cheese stirred in at the end. (I mentioned stir.) The best polenta is stirred constantly throughout cooking to prevent scorching and splatter as it thickens. (1:5 ratio cornmeal to liquid for creamy; 1:4 for firm; cook until thickens and the grains are tender; Buckwheat can be substituted or added with the cornmeal.)

Many whole cereal grains are available to us can easily be added to our diet. Freshly milled ones have a obvious benefits of more flavor and can be healthier for you. Try and buy from the source. A local farming community (or farmers market) is a great place to look. Although often more variety, keep in mind store bought ones will have gone through a distributor and may have been warehoused for some time.