Wintertime Scare with Whole Wheat Rolls; More About Grinding Grain

I just had a frustrating experience with my whole wheat rolls, so I offer you a cautionary tale.

I had great difficulty getting them to rise. At first, I thought it was because I got the water too hot for the yeast and killed them. Then I realized that it was simply too cool for them to rise well. They puff up like champs in the summer when the ambient temperature in our un-airconditioned home stays in the mid-80s most of the day. But with the inside temps down in the low 70s as they are for us during the winter during the day, the little yeast just don’t seem to be happy. What saved the day was the third rise, after I had formed them into rolls and had them in the pan. I placed the pan on the wood stove after the fire had been out for about three hours. That is, they weren’t in a hot spot, but it was warmer than the ambient air. There, finally, they remembered who they were and swelled nicely.

My takeaway lesson from this is that during the winter, I need to find a warm place for the rolls to rise, perhaps sitting on top of the oven with a towel draped over them to hold in the heat? On top of the refrigerator? Close to the wood stove? We all know places in our homes that are warmer than the rest of the dwelling, so I suggest you find one of those for rising.

On a related subject, a dear friend has asked me about the grain mill we use. When we bought ours it went by the (totally disingenuous) name of WhisperMill. It’s now called the WonderMill, and it works great for us. We buy a 50-pound bag of hard red winter wheat from our friends the Lambrechts at Oakview Farms down the road from us. I decant the berries into 1/2 gallon ball jars and store the jars in the root cellar, where as nearly as I can tell they keep virtually forever. When we need flour, we grind a half-gallon jar of berries, which produces about seven cups of flour. I keep the flour in a one-gallon Ziploc bag in the freezer and draw from that for routine baking. I have discovered that the flour needs to be at room temperature for most of the baking we do, so usually I measure it out and let it sit on the counter for a couple of hours before using it.

Our supply of wheat berries is down to about six jars, so it’s probably about time for me to be checking with Oakview Farms about a new bag.

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