Tag Archives: heritage grain

MEET THE WHEAT

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SONORAN WHITE WHEAT
Sonoran White wheat was introduced to the Southwestern United States and Northern Mexico in the 16th century by the Spanish colonizers to make communion wafers and provide sustenance and it became a staple in the local cuisine as exemplified by the flour tortilla.  It is adapted to this region’s growing conditions and is very hardy and drought tolerant, thrives in alkaline soil and it is disease resistant. Wheat was a useful food crop as it could be planted in the fall and grown in winter and early spring before the native crops of corn, beans and squash which are all warm season crops. As recently as 100 years ago southern CA, Sonora, Mexico, New Mexico and Arizona were major wheat producers and Sonoran White was a widely grown variety.

Sonoran White is now being rediscovered by eaters and bakers and farmers interested in heritage wheat as an alternative to industrialized dwarf modern wheat.  Older wheat varieties are incredibly hardy and need less inputs and lend themselves to regenerative organic farming.  As a fall planted crop, grains can provide living root systems in the soil all winter long which reduces erosion and builds soil fertility and sequesters carbon from the atmosphere.  Ancient and heritage grains also contain more nutrients which have been bred out of modern wheat in favor of a high starch content.  Heritage wheat also offer an incredible array of flavors and textures not found in supermarket wheat.

It is a soft white wheat meaning that its outer bran layer is light in color and it has a low gluten/protein content which makes it excellent for pastries and tortillas where gluten strength is not required.  It makes a very stretchy dough which rolls out very well. When you mill whole berry Sonoran White wheat you get a 100% wholegrain flour with a lovely pale golden color much lighter than standard whole wheat.  It’s flavor is rich, smooth and nutty and it  is a great choice if you want to work in more wholegrain flour into your baking.

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It is a soft white wheat meaning that its outer bran layer is light in color and it has a low gluten/protein content which makes it excellent for pastries and tortillas where gluten strength is not required.  It makes a very stretchy dough which rolls out very well. When you mill whole berry Sonoran White wheat you get a 100% wholegrain flour with a lovely pale golden color much lighter than standard whole wheat.  It’s flavor is rich, smooth and nutty and it  is a great choice if you want to work in more wholegrain flour into your baking.

If you are interested in exploring the wide variety of heritage grains available for baking a counter top grain mill is essential.  While there are many small mills producing heritage and ancient grain flours the home mill gives you access to a wider choice of grains and freshly ground flour is more nutritious and flavorful.   Whole grain flour tends to deteriorate rapidly after milling due to the volatile oils in the germ and bran.  Refined white flour has these super healthful components removed and so has a much longer shelf life.

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The Rio Grande Grain project is one of many groups promoting small scale heritage and ancient grains.  We feel this is a needed component in our local food supply chain.  Here in New Mexico we can find amazing locally grown beans and corn at our farmer’s markets but the wheat and other cereal grains are under represented.  Farmers will be more willing to grow these grains if we are willing to pay a fair price and learn how to use them!

Let’s get started with the classic flour tortilla!

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SONORAN WHITE FLOUR TORTILLAS
I’m no tortilla expert and I’m more familiar with making corn tortillas than flour ones but I just had to see how the Sonoran White flour worked in the homemade tortilla!  This recipe is 100% whole grain Sonoran White milled to a fine flour in the Komo Mio mill.  Whole grain flours tend to be thirstier and require more water than refined white flours so this has been adjusted for in the recipe. Whole grains also benefit from a longer resting time after adding the water to the flour to absorb the water.

Lard would be the traditional shortening but I used butter as it was handy.  Duck fat also was tasty.

Using a stand mixer combine the dry ingredients:

279 grams (2 cups) Sonoran White whole grain flour

15 grams (aprx 1.5 teaspoons salt depending on the type of salt)

5 grams (1 teaspoon) baking powder

With a paddle attachment drizzle in:

30 grams (2 tablespoons) melted shortening

180 grams (3/4 cup) hot water.

Watch the consistency here.  The dough should be somewhat wetter and stickier than the final consistency for rolling it out as it will get less wet as the whole grain Sonoran White absorbs the water during the resting period.

Knead for about 2 minutes then let the dough rest in a plastic bag 1-2 hours to fully hydrate the flour.

Make golf ball sized balls and rest covered on lightly floured surface for 20-30 minutes.

Heat cast iron pan or comal over medium-high heat.  When it is ready a few drops of water will sizzle and pop on the surface.

Since my tortilla rolling skills are abysmal I used a combo method to shape the tortillas.  First I hand flattened the balls into thick discs and then pressed these between plastic sheets in the tortilla press as if making corn tortillas.  This produced a nice round shape that was then hand rolled out as thin as possible.  You can also just handroll out the tortillas with a rolling pin.  Either way they should be thin enough to be translucent when held up to the light.

Cook tortillas on the hot pan until a few golden spots appear on the bottom.  Then flip over. Total time is about 20-30 seconds on each side.  Wrap in a clean towel and keep warm until serving.

SOURCES:
Until we have some local sources here in New Mexico you can find Sonoran White wheat at:
Hayden Mills, AZ
Native Seed Search AZ
Barton Springs Mill, TX
Breadtopia