How we bake

The nostalgia of bygone years permeates our bakery. We chop the wood and fire the brick oven. We stonegrind the ancient grains, and feed the starter as our grandmothers did. Then we craft with our hands and hearts using carefully selected ingredients. The brick oven welcomes the dough that has been transformed into various shapes and sizes.

 

Firing the oven

 

The brick oven is fired with locally harvested tamarack wood the day before baking begins. The fire is made directly in the oven chamber and burns 15–18 hours. In the early hours of the morning the coals and ash are raked out by Dwight when he comes to mix dough. The heat equalizes in the oven for 5 hours or more. When Cornelius arrives, the hearth is swept with a broom and then cleaned up with a wet mop. With the retained heat in the bricks, the oven is ready to bake many loads. The modern temperature readers display the temperature at various depths and indicate that there is adequate heat for the day. The heat retention in this »old world« oven continues to amaze us!

 

 

Milling the grain

 

Milling the grain on site is of utmost importance to us. We often refer to the milling room as the Quality Control Center. The stonegrinder rubs (grinds) the grain into flour. The flour is freshly milled for every baking day. We use only »whole grain« flour in all our goods – all of nature's goodness is left intact.

 

Quality assurance criteria for our flour:

1. The grain is grown organically with diligent sustainable practices
2. All nature's goodness is left intact

  • freshly milled so the oils from the germ are not stale
  • vitamins and minerals found in the germ, endosperm and bran are available
  • we do no sifting to remove the nutrient rich germ or bran (the fiber is a broom for the digestive tract).

3. Free of treatment with bleach and other chemicals – only natural
4. The stonegrinder is dedicated to mill only spelt and KAMUT® wheat flour.

 

What is »whole grain«?

The American Association of Cereal Chemists International (AACC) defines whole grains as consisting of the »intact, ground, cracked or flaked caryopsis (grain), whose principal components – the starchy endosperm, germ and bran – are present in the same relative proportions as they exist in the intact caryopsis« (AACC, 1999). In other words, what was in the orginal grain kernel, is in the flour.

 

Benefits of whole grains

The Whole Grains Council states, »the benefits of whole grains most documented by repeated studies include:

  • stroke risk reduced 30–36%
  • type 2 diabetes risk reduced 21–30%
  • heart disease risk reduced 25–28%
  • better weight maintenance«

To learn more about whole grains and its benefits, go to wholegrainscouncil.org

 

 

About the starter

 

The history of bread making is synonymous with a starter or sour-dough. If the starter was lost by improper care or other reasons, folks would go to the neighbours and ask for some. Thus bread making continued generation after generation. Dora's grandmother stored her starter in the cellar. In the evening before baking day she would fetch it and feed it in preparation for baking. We do the same today.

 

Our starter is homegrown. It was not brought in from Europe or San Francisco (which is so famous for its sourdough). This starter was cultured in 2002 when we built the original brick oven under the tutelage of the late Alan Scott, master ovencrafter. During a break time from building, he mixed up a ball of dough using spelt flour and water and buried it in a bucket of organic spelt flour. This was to protect it from the wild yeast in the air, which is the basis for typical sourdough. The micro-organisms from the grain played a vital part in culturing the starter. While in the culturing stage, it was always protected in flour so wild yeast would not invade it. When it became mature we began incorporating it into our baking. Today we view it as the »mother« of all our desem goods.

 

Desem is the Flemish/Dutch name for sourdough. The French refer to it as levain; the English as sourdough; the Italians have the name biga for a type of pre-ferment. We use the term »natural leavening« to describe our desem baked goods. It contains no commercial yeast (which is produced in labs and used in modern bread).

 

Benefits and characteristics of bread with natural leavening

The lactic acid breaks down the carbohydrates in a desem style bread more slowly in the digestive system – thus releasing glucose into the bloodstream gradually. This is a bonus for diabetics. It is also important for prevention of diabetes, according to a study from the University of Guelph. Bakers Journal December, 2010

  • The naturally occurring lactobacillus in the starter aid in digestion – making it a good choice for people with health challenges
  • The slow fermentation creates an exceptional tangy, complex taste with a pleasing texture
  • The chewy crust activates the saliva and digestive juices
  • Irresistible aroma fresh out of the oven or toasted
  • Rustic color – pleasing to the eyes
  • Stores well at room temperature about a week. It freezes exceptionally well up to 6 months.

 

 

Crafting with hands and hearts

 

We use our hands a lot around here! »Artisan« has the image of hands at work. We have chosen to employ people rather than machines. As the hands are at work, hearts and minds are engaging in conversation. We wish for our energy to pass on to you by way of the goods we prepare with your health in mind. Meet our team in The People on our Farm.

 

Here is a tour through our week:

Monday – fire the oven, mill the grain, feed the starter (adding water and flour) twice to expand it to the required amount, receive orders from the stores, other preparations for the week

Tuesday – baking. Dwight arrives at 2:00 am to tend the oven and mix dough. The bagel shapers arrive at 7:00 am. Packaging begins in the afternoon. Goods are shipped out in the evening via Greyhound. At times we do the deliveries to maintain good connections with the staff in the stores and pick up supplies.

Wednesday – clean up, pita and pizza crust bake, refire the oven for the next day, mill grain, tend the starter

Thursday – same as Tuesday

Friday – cleaning day, Mid June to mid September – preparations and Pizza Night

Saturday – Pizza Night – in summer

Sunday – Day of Rest! We are tired and need a break!

 

 

Selection of ingredients ...

 

... is an important process for us at Integrity Foods. We want the ingredients to reflect our name.

Flour – organically grown whole grain flour, freshly milled, ancient grains only

Water – unchlorinated, well water fresh from the earth. Tested annually.

Salt – natural, unrefined, unprocessed, high quality, sun-dried, additive free, 80+ naturally balanced minerals, Celtic style sea salts
Read more at  Nature's Cargo.

Sweeteners – honey and natural organic cane sugar (dehydrated cane juice). The honey is produced locally from alfalfa and clover blossoms. We purchase only honey from non GMO crops. Organic honey is not available in large quantity in Manitoba. The cane sugar is a natural cane sugar from dehydrated cane juice.
Read more on sugar at Natures' Cargo. Check under Grains.

Oils / fats – we choose natural, healthy ones – cold pressed extra virgin olive oil (1st pressing), butter, and palm oil (for the Chocolate Sunflower cookies and pie pastry)

Nuts and dried fruit – organic whenever possible

Some ingredients are not organic as it would price the final product too high.

No preservatives or additives used in our baked goods.

We use about 4 ingredients that have sub ingredients.

Take a look at the recent study on »Daily Bread: What is in yours?« at The Organic Center. It states, »on average, 28% of conventional bread ingredients are preservatives and/or additives!«

 

 

Baking in wood-fired brick ovens

 

Please meet Hildegard and Cora! They play their part in the bakery. Hildegard, the orignal, outdoor oven was named in honor of Hildegard von Bingen (1098–1179), who gifted the world with her writings on medicine, the goodness and benefits of spelt, musical compositions, and more. This oven baked year-round from July, 2002 till January 2011. She has a 3x4 foot hearth. Some days she was loaded 35 times. Our demands grew and a larger oven became a necessity. Hildegard is now semi-retired. During the summer she is on full duty with wood-fired pizza performances. Meet her in action in the Pizza Night section. Cora was built by our daughter Rebekah and team in the summer of 2010. She is the same design as her forerunner but with a hearth 5x6 feet. We built the bakehouse to house the oven and refrigeration units. Winter baking has taken on new comforts! Cora was named by our staff. It is a combination of Cornelius and Dora.

 

Placing the last facade brick

 

Order of baking is dictated by the oven temperature. In the morning when the oven is at its hottest, we bake the bagel. This is followed by buns and dinner rolls, especially in summer and for holidays. The desem bread has its turn next. This is the most pleasurable time in the baking day! The dough is tipped out of the proofing baskets onto the oven peel and slipped off onto the hearth. What a sight when the hearth is fully loaded! What an aroma when it comes out with its glorious color! Yum! Rewards beyond words. We built our ovens for this style of »old world« bread. Our greatest wish is that we could bake many more loads of this bread every day. We also bake the »modern« yeasted bread but with a slower fermentation time than most bakeries do. This bread finishes the brick oven's baking on Tuesday and Thursday. On Wednesday morning she is fired for the pita and pizza crust bake. The oven still has a fairly high temperature but we need the fire in the back to maintain the temperature and puff the pita. As the pita and crusts are being rolled out, the baker keeps up loading the hearth. In just a few minutes the pita are puffed into spheres and drawn out.

 

The best time to bake pies is Friday and Saturday when the oven temperature is moderate. On Sunday the oven turns out succulent dinners for family and friends. All this is done with the heat from the firing on Wednesday night! She is a beauty – to behold and in her performance!

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