Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Prelude to Pretzel Class: Wheat Life Cycle, Other Grains, and Gluten

Before I go to my kids' preschool to bake pretzels with them next week, the teacher is weaving "baking" into the daily work, by reading them related stories, and having them use the grinder/flaker. I provide a variety of grains to be squashed into flakes, crushed into flour, handled, and maybe sprouted. I'm not sure why some grains are referred to as "berries", e.g. wheat berries, rye berries, etc. Oats are called "groats". Go figure.

This photo shows the preschoolers the life cycle of wheat, helping them discover that grain is grass seeds. Sprouting some certainly beats a photo, if you've got the time; just put a few on a wet paper towel, inside a zip-lock. They will absorb water, and sprout in just a couple of days. I started three varieties going at home yesterday, to show my daughter and to get some pictures. They are already plump from the water. I hope to keep them going until they look like green blades of grass; one day maybe I'll grow some that I can harvest... Hopefully the teacher will sprout some too.

Images from here, here, and here.

It's probably waaay overboard, but I gave the class 13 kinds of grain to crush. Most of them can sprout, too.

It's normal to have a grain collection, right? Once I wondered why we make bread with so few, given how many varieties there are. With tasting comes understanding. Much as I wanted to love them all, alas, it was not to be. Also, many of them are too low in gluten to make a loaf; they can only be additions to a good dough.

Here's info I've collected on grain varieties. I'm probably missing some. Unless someone tells me that teff or sorghum really do something fantastic for bread (do they?) I probably won't try any more. Anyone have opinions to share?

My greatest discovery: Kamut®; great story behind it, and it tastes great, good for you, hypo-allergenic, and more nutritious than red wheat.
My greatest dissapointment: Quinoa; great story, great nutrition, native to America, I really wanted to like it, but, yuck; big time yuck; tried it again, still yuck.

GrainGlutenMy Comments
Wheathigh"Hard" wheats are high in gluten. People who don't like whole wheat often like the taste of white wheats.
ricenoneHaven't tried in yeast bread.
cornnoneA bread called "Anadama" calls for corn meal.
milletnoneIt's very mild; it might give some texture to a loaf.
sorghumnoneI have never tried it.
ryehighNot my favorite, so I haven't used it much.
triticalehighI don't care for this grain.
oatsnoneI like adding a handful or two, either rolled or steel-cut, to my bread.
barleymoderateApparently you can make bread from barley alone, but I have not ever tried. It's nice in soup.
teffnoneI have never tried it.
wild ricenoneHaven't tried in yeast bread. Just doesn't strike me as a great idea.
spelthigh**I think this one tastes ok, but not as good as wheat.
Kamut®high**My favorite whole grain, even more than wheat.
buckwheat*noneI have never tried it.
amaranth*noneI like throwing these into yeast bread whole, for texture in the bread.
quinoa*noneReading about Quinoa makes me want to like it, but I just don't; tastes bad.
kaƱiwa*none?I have never tried it.
cockscomb*none?I have never tried it.

*a non-grass grain, or "pseudocereal".
**The gluten is different from wheat gluten, and may be ok for people who cannot eat wheat gluten; or so I understand.

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