Diving into Ancient Grains with Janie's Mill!

Back again with some flour fun working with the flours from my Janie’s Mill subscription! This time I got the Antient and Heirloom Sampler and I was so excited to try these flours out! This sampler came with Einkorn, Red Fife, Turkey Red, and Spelt flours. I have been learning more and more about ancient grains and the benefits to using them more in baking and one’s diet. This was going to be a lot of fun seeing what grains work in what recipes to make pastries a little better for you.



Like last time before we just into what amazing things I made with these grains let’s talk a bit about Janie’s Mill. Right now summer is in full drive and the fields are starting to get harvested on their farm. I love watching their posts on Instagram and seeing the work farmer Harold is doing and all the gorgeous crops he is collecting. Recently they shared a little anniversary online so I felt like this is the best place to talk about them this round.


The name of the farm and mill comes from Harold’s daughter Janie. This month was the 20th anniversary of her passing at the age of 15. Her passing is what inspired Harold and his family to start to focus more on organic and regenerative farming to produce better grains and flours for people to use. It is with her spirit that Janie’s Mill continues to do the good work they do, tending to the land and creating a great product for bakers like me to use.


Although they do not share a lot about Janie’s passing, I can only assume that it was health related. As a baker, my craft is not always associated with healthy eating and that’s something that needs to change. Not everything you bake has high amounts of sugar. And in recent years with the trend of gluten free and grain free diets, any type of flour has been labeled as something less healthy for you. But that’s not the truth. Grains were one of the first crops our species began to cultivate. We would not be where we are today if our ancient ancestors didn’t start growing large amounts of grain to feed a growing population. For those thousands of years, grains were pretty much the same. Slowly, farmers crossed species and landed on the few they liked, mostly for yields. And bread was a standard part of the diet to get carbohydrates for energy and nutrients from the grains.


In the past few hundred years, grain started changing to what it is today. Parts of the world focused on a few grains instead of variety. And the process of making flour was industrialized. From steam powering mills instead of using running water, using rollers made of metal instead of stone to grind the grains, and the one that reduced nutrients the most, refining. Most of the nutrients are found in the brand and endosperm, removing them and focusing on the germ and we lose those vitamins and minerals.


Janie’s uses stone mills to grind all their grains, most of their flours contain the whole grain, and they grow a variety of grains in their fields instead of a single crop. In a world of eat this not that, one thing I will stand my ground in is eat as whole and a variety as possible. Make a pie crust with spelt, pasta with einkorn, bread with one of the various types wheats they have. Just use different grains and see how delicious they are! I’m no dietitian but we have eaten these grains throughout history so why not continue to enjoy them in the modern era?


Have I convinced you to play with new grains? I’m starting to use them in more and more of my baking. I will always give suggestions if you are using standard wheat, but I will say treat yo’self to some unique flours.

 

Einkorn Flour


Geeze I was so excited to use this flour. There is a local farmers market bakery (literally down the street) that does all einkorn flour. I have started to learn a lot more about this flour and see it pop up in a lot more baker’s kitchens. Einkorn is often referred to as the original wheat. It is a wild type of wheat that is the first one cultivated and used by humans as a crop. Due to the lack of DNA in modern wheat, einkorn lacks the chromosome that has been linked to wheat intolerances. Depending on the type and severity of the allergy, some can enjoy einkorn products.



I wanted to try two recipes with this einkorn flour. The first is something savory like pasta. I love pasta but would love to have a healthier more nutritious grain in the dough. I simply used a same ratio as Type 00 flour in my recipe and ended up needed a few wet hands worth of water to bring the dough together. Overall though about 100g flour per whole egg and it was a great pasta dough! It doesn’t need as much kneading as standard pasta dough which was great and was simply delicious!


The other, sweeter recipe I wanted to make were graham crackers for some vanilla marshmallow s’mores. I have a recipe I have been playing with a couple times a year. I want to find the best flour for it and einkorn had some great results. It was still a little lighter than I wanted, I think a bit of corn flour might be the way but that’s for another day. These s’mores were still ooey and gooey. The perfect summer night snack.



Red Fife Wheat Flour



Red Fife is a type of wheat. It has been passed around by farmers since the 1800’s. It has a deeper nuttiness to it and a distinctive red color to the berry. It’s high in protein, which makes it great for using with lower gluten grains. I have loved the soft texture of Janie’s flours already, so I figured a nice bread product should be made. What’s better than a buttery morning bun?


The flour made a gorgeous dough. It was a little stickier at first but quickly developed during lamination. It was great to roll out with no issues as it got longer and longer. The pastries were incredible and perfect to come to some family time that weekend. I added a little cardamom and orange oil to the sugar filling and it was just a lovely extra note in the already great buns. The flour does add a nice nuttiness from the Red Fife and I can’t wait to make more with the flour.

Turkey Red Wheat Flour


Turkey Red came from Russian immigrants in 1873. It originated in Turkey and was common in a lot of eastern European breads. It has a nice medium high protein content (11.6%) that makes it great for bready products or artisanal breads. I used the flour for a number of recipes. First was some griller cobbler. I had some fresh strawberries and rhubarb from the farmer’s market and with the heat I didn’t want to turn on the oven. It was a great little treat.

I also used half Turkey Red in a loaf of bread with the spelt flour. The last thing I made was some crepes. I’ve read traditional crepes are made with whole grains so I wanted to make something That potentially could have been made decades ago. They just some Nutella in the filling and on top and I just wanted to be back in France.



Spelt Flour


The Spelt flour I was most excited for. Like Einkorn, it is an old grain. Like 8,000 year old grain. It hasn’t been crossed and has been able to maintain the original nutrient content. The best part is that it is soft and can easily be used as an all purpose flour in most baking. I mentioned above that I used half Spelt and half Turkey Red in a loaf of bread. The Spelt to increase the nutrition of the loaf.


Since it’s used as an all-purpose flour I wanted an all-purpose recipe. I made a pie dough with a cherry filling and let me tell you. This crust was incredible. The flavor. The texture. The look. The color. Fuck I fell hard for Spelt.. The crust was one of the best pie crust I have ever made. It didn’t move at all and maintained a flakey texture. The nuttiness from the whole grain was a perfect added flavor and instant proof of the benefit of whole grains. It was just perfect. I’ve already started getting more spelt for use in other baking so keep an eye out for those recipes to come.

 

This time around the flours have really ignited something in me to bake with more of them and start investing in more unique flours from various grains. I cannot wait to keep playing with all the types of grains that exist and the new ones that come out. For now, I will keep baking in the kitchen and wait for the next box from Janie’s Mill.