For a home baker, the local flour movement can be a bit daunting. After all, protein content matters; hard wheats, containing more gluten, are better for baking bread. They make the elastic dough that stretches to capture air during kneading, rising to yield a nice, high bread with an airy crumb. Softer wheats with less gluten are better for pastry. And though low-gluten grains like rye can be used for breads and baked goods, they act entirely different than the all-purpose flour you’re used to, and the results can be baffling. Where do you turn for help? A great starting point is the local farmer's market.
If you live in New York City, the best place to go is the Union Square Greenmarket. There, on any given Wednesday or Saturday, you’ll find a booth selling an array of New York State grains and flours and knowledgeable folks who are eager to help explain what to purchase and how to cook and bake with it. You’ll also find samples of dishes made with the grains—everything from emmer crackers to the Moroccan stew, harira.
- 5 Bakers Behind the Whole Grain Bread Revolution
- 5 Healthy Grain Dishes That Are (Almost) Better Than Pasta
- Video: Folksbier's Travis Kauffman Turns Grains and Hops into Liquid Sunshine
The operation, helmed by the Greenmarket Regional Grains Project (GRGP), provides consumer support as part of a much larger mission. From research to technical assistance for farmers to creating markets for local grains and fresh-milled flours, the Project works to integrate grains into the artisan food movement and bring the grains economy back to the Northeast. Why? Because the ultimate goal of the Greenmarket is to help local farmers grow great food. And grains, if dealt with right, can be gold to farmers. With everyone from millers and maltsters to animal farmers needing high-quality grain, it can be a valuable crop. And, as cover crops, grains also fix soils, putting nutrients depleted by vegetable farming back into earth.