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Saturday, January 15, 2011

Stonehouse Roastery Part 2

Food of the gods - a Stonehouse Scone

I sit, golden retriever at my feet, sipping on a steamy cup of Jamaican Blue Mountain Coffee, mulling over my latest visit to Stonehouse Roastery in Nisswa, Minnesota. Occasionally Maggie lifts her head, growls softly at some unseeable-to-me potential menace (squirrel) outside, then lays her head back down.

Is there anything better than a really good cup of coffee on a bright, wintry day? Yes. Coffee and scones.

Before you say anything, I am not talking about those nasty, ubiquitous, rock-hard scones, left languishing for days in the glass case of an ordinary coffee shop. Stonehouse Roastery, besides hand-crafting great coffee, happens also to be the home of what is, in my opinion, the best scone anywhere. Tender on the inside, chock full of fresh berries with a light sugar crust – this one goes on the OMG list. You won't believe it until you try it. I dragged my sister, visiting from Nebraska last summer, into the shop kicking and screaming to get her to taste one of these. She expected what we all have come to expect, a dry biscuit that even my dog would sooner bury than eat. But these...ooh la la. Mary still begs me to mail them to her.

The grinding stone
The 'new baby'
But I digress. I promised you news on the latest Stonehouse venture and you shall have it. A week ago, I stopped in and asked Mike French, owner of Stonehouse, about a rumor I had heard. As an over-enthusiastic baker, I was dying to know. Was it true?

“Come with me”, he said, “You've got to see this”. We walked down a back hallway to what I thought must be a storage room and he unlocked the door. In the middle of the room stood a huge, 7+ foot tall, lemon-cream colored machine. “This is the new baby”, he said. A true stone mill for grinding wheat flour. 

To the right, dozens of bags of Minnesota-grown hard red spring wheat* from the Red River Valley were stacked and ready for grinding. I was utterly impressed. FRESH, ORGANIC, STONE GROUND WHOLE WHEAT FLOUR in my own backyard? Life just got better. 

I brought home a few pounds to play with and this is a beautiful thing. It is virtually impossible to find freshly ground whole grain flour in this part of the state. The issue is that the fatty acids in the wheat germ in whole grain flour will go rancid after a couple of months of shelf life (or you can refrigerate/freeze it to preserve it longer) so major producers don't like to deal with it. But once you compare the flavor and texture of stone ground wheat in your breads, especially freshly ground flour, you will be hooked.

*(To you bread geeks out there: flour from hard red wheat is often preferred for artisan bread because of its relatively low protein levels, giving breads a crispier crust and a nice crumb. It also has a more defined 'wheaty' flavor.)

If you love whole grain seeded breads, this recipe is a good starting place. This makes a very wet dough that will keep in your refrigerator for days until you are ready to bake. It makes 3 good sized loaves.

Sharon's Stonehouse Wheat Oatmeal Bread
Don't let the ingredients list fool you. This is a simple to make, NO KNEAD hearty whole grain bread.

2 ¼ c lukewarm Water
1 c whole Milk
½ c pure Maple Syrup (I use Severt's Woods Maple Syrup – local and delicious)
2 Tbsp Yeast
1 Tbsp Kosher Salt
1/3 c melted Butter OR cold pressed Sunflower Oil
½ c Malted Wheat Flakes (available from King Arthur Flour)
¼ c Flax Seeds
½ c Sunflower Seeds
½ c Pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
½ c Oat Bran
1/3 c Wheat Bran
1 c organic Rolled Oats
1 ½ c Stonehouse organic stone ground Whole Wheat Flour
3 ¼ c Unbleached organic AP Flour
1 c Raisins
1 c lightly toasted Walnut pieces
Ready for the oven

This is a no-knead bread. Simply mix the ingredients together until well combined to make a wet dough. Let the dough stand, covered, at a warm room temperature for about 2 hours. It will rise and fall – perfect. It is just doing it's job. Once the dough has fallen you can either bake the dough immediately or place it in your refrigerator to bake in the next few days.

Shape the loaves, let them rise and give them a 'slash' with a sharp knife or clean razor just before baking to prevent a torn look to the dough. Bake at 420 degrees for 20-30 minutes until a deep golden brown. Makes 3 big loaves.

  • If you bake the dough the day you make it, you may wish to bake it in a pan to give it more shape. Once chilled, the dough becomes firmer and can easily be shaped into free form loaves and baked on a stone.
  • You can vary the type of seeds, nuts and grains to suit your taste and what you happen to have on hand in your pantry.
  • Store whole grain bread uncovered, cut side down on a clean countertop or bread board. The bread will keep well for days. Storing the bread in plastic encourages moisture buildup and mold as well as 'messing' with the texture.
  • I use a preheated bread stone inside my oven. You can purchase unglazed clay tiles that work just as well for about 50 cents each at your local home store.

Learn more about no-knead breads from my previous blog: 'What Happened to my Peanut Butter Sandwich'

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