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🐓The Farmgirl Monthly🐓
February: The Old-World Craft of Bread-Making
Seasons' Yield Farm
What do you enjoy most about the “crafting of bread” process?

There are so many appealing aspects of the craft, but my favorite is the visceral, life-giving process of the sourdough. The leaven is fed, the bread the kneaded, the fire is stoked, the loaves are formed. This process produces a beautiful product that is a reflection of time investment and care taken. I find that process exceptionally fulfilling.
Challenger Breadware
Alongside his wife Lisa, Jim Challenger began in 2016, and, as bakers do, became obsessed with baking the perfect loaf. What started out as an expression of love—making healthy food for his family—grew into a commitment to learning the craft of baking bread. Challenger Breadware grew out of Jim’s daily baking practice, and his personal goal to help more people bake better and eat more healthfully, one delicious loaf at a time. Frustrated by the seeming impossibility of achieving the perfect loaf, and unsuccessful in finding the equipment he needed to do so at home—an ever-optimistic Jim decided to create exactly what he wanted and what the baking community needed: a cast iron bread pan specifically designed to produce bakery quality bread, baked in a home oven. The Challenger Bread Pan was born, and the breadware became his passion.

Jim & Lisa live just north of Chicago at Blue Moon Farms—their home and the Challenger Breadware headquarters. With five children, Jambo the Bernese Mountain dog, and their local community of friends and neighbors, there’s always someone in the Challenger kitchen.

Janie's Mill
Janie's Mill is a family owned organic flour mill in Ashkum, Illinois - south of Chicago. Our owners are the Wilken Family, 5th-generation farmers using certified organic and regenerative practices on their Illinois farms.

On Janie's Farm they grow many different organic crops in a biodiverse rotation.

At Janie’s Mill, we transform those organic crops, especially the wheat and corn, into dozens of delicious and nutrient-dense products; flour, grits and grains. Our cool-temperature stone-milling process ensures that all of the nutrition present in the germ, endosperm and bran are also in the flour. That's REAL organic whole-kernel flour, and yes, it's REALLY good for you!

The Bloom Barn Farm
Renee is the mastermind behind The Bloom Barn Farm- a busy flower farm, homestead and vineyard in the Sierra foothills of California. Renee is a mother to 3 wild cubs, wife, baker, and a homeschool teacher. She and her family strive for self sufficiency on their 20 acre property. They tend to their garden, pasture raise their own animals with dignity and respect, preserve fruits and nuts from their large orchard and make wine yearly with grapes from their vineyard. With the herbs and flowers she grows Renee makes homemade tinctures, salves and natural remedies. Renee believes in taking back wild mothering and preserving her children’s childhood. She and her children spend most of their time playing, adventuring, foraging and baking. Sourdough bread is one of her many passions and has been baking most of her life. She sells her sourdough starter on Etsy to people all around the world along with her starter feeding and baking instructions. Renee loves to share and help others along their sourdough bread baking journey!

Serenity Farm Bread
Serenity Farm Bread has been making old world sourdough in a wood-fired brick oven since 1992. We are located in the rural town of Leslie, Arkansas. We offer a wide variety of sourdough bread, focaccia, sourdough cookies & pastries. Serenity Farm Bread products are shipped to all lower 48 states and sold wholesale regionally. A long fermentation process, no oils, sugars, baker’s yeast or preservatives, alongside artisan shaping and baking techniques set us apart. Our oven is an early Alan Scott prototype wood-fired brick oven, in which we bake our bread off the retained heat stored within the bricks. It takes us two days to prepare our bread, between slowly building the leaven up, firing the oven, mixing, shaping, and proofing the loaves. We are proponents of the Westin A. Price diet and believe that real ingredients, properly prepared, without substitutions, are the key to a healthy lifestyle.

The Bread We Make
In the summer of 2017 Johanson Farm was officially established as a physical place and we began selling bread, among other farm goods, at the local farmers market in Menard, TX. Leading up to that point I baked appropriately 7,574,677 loaves of bread. Just kidding, I have no idea how many countless loaves I baked, but I am positive that at least half of them had some sort of issue, and at least half of those were a total flop, or brick, if you will. My sweet husband powered through, providing soft and kind suggestions, though somewhat inaudible depending on how extremely I failed. Bread has a learning curve, and what I know now is that, just like with most good things, it’s the continual practice and dedication that gets us around the curve or to the point of excessive compliments on your “best rolls I’ve ever tasted” at the family Thanksgiving that year.

My process included trying all sorts of recipes, finding what we liked and then making slight changes to see how different elements affected the final product. In steps Laura Shane’s beautiful Facebook feed from farm animals to kiddos to including, of course, tantalizing images of food and baked goods. Her sandwich bread looked magnificent, beyond compare. Big beautiful rounded tops, busting out of their pans, glistening with egg white wash. So I reached out to her, told her our long term plans, and asked if she would consider sharing her recipe with me. Being the loving, kind, amazing woman that she is, she said yes and quickly sent over the recipe. After a tiny bit of tweaking to fit my own process, our “Laura Shane Farm Bread” was born.

Shepherd's Grain
Shepherd’s Grain was started by a couple of Easter Washington wheat farmers that wanted to re-connect farms to consumers who eat their agricultural food crops. Approximately 90% of the wheat produced in Washington State gets exported overseas, and it wasn’t fulfilling to baby their crop along all year, pouring all of their love and labor into seeing that crop through harvest, and then just kiss it all goodbye with no connection to those who would purchase and use it. Not only did they want to re-establish this connection between farmers and bakers and consumers, but they wanted to do it on the foundation of truly sustainable agriculture – the cropping system of No-Till and diverse crop rotations.

They wanted to create a market that would create and support true agricultural and economic sustainability. They wanted to make sure that soils, our precious natural resource, would be managed so that it was healthy. And they wanted to support Regenerative Agriculture – the aggressive pursuit of rebuilding soil that had been lost through poor management in the past.

A common theme among all Shepherd’s Grain growers is that soil must be preserved for generations to come. They are stewards of the land, and they take that role seriously, knowing they will pass the baton on to the next generation of farmers. The history of civilizations shows the destructive power of tillage. Shepherd’s Grain growers are about the business of not repeating those past mistakes, and also set to the task of rebuilding soils that have been degraded in the past. Soil can only be built if it stays in its place. The issue of erosion is the most obvious concern when it comes to agricultural sustainability. Soil is a resource that is easy to lose and it is easy to lose quickly. It takes far longer and much more work to rebuild.

Wild Flower Farm & Bakery
I grew up in the kitchen baking with my mom and grandmother. When I left home and I was formally trained as a pastry chef. After owning a bakery in downtown Bismarck my husband and I decided we needed a change. We moved back to my hometown in northern Minnesota where I had planned to trade my chef hat for a straw hat. We found a little old farm that I loved and that was that… so I thought. It didn’t take long before I started to bake again but this time I was right in the heart of where my ingredients would come from. It was in that tiny little farmhouse kitchen that I started our on-farm bakery and it has been growing ever since.

When we moved onto the farm in 2013 the animals had been gone for years and the fence lines were in need of repair. I was in love with the place. The house was built in 1920, same as the barn. We found out later that it had been built as the dairy farm for the Lake Julia Sanatorium. The gutter and broken manger are still in the barn where the milking took place many years ago. (I now milk our cows by hand in the other side of the barn; for the time being, it’s more convenient.)
It was only months after we moved in that I had chicks on order and that first spring my husband and dad built our chicken coop. Right after that we started setting fence posts for the pasture to hold the cow that was on the way as well. I was determined to have a milk cow in addition to our own beef, pork, eggs and chicken.

As the years went on we added fainting goats, runner ducks, turkeys and guinea hens each for a bit of time. Currently we have our herd of Irish Dexter cows, one Jersey heifer, the sweetest donkey, a coop full of chickens, a few hives of bees, a pair of bunnies, a couple cats in the barn to keep the mice at bay and a trusty old dog at the front door. We have also been blessed with five children too. It’s a joyfully busy little farm!

The recipe that I’m sharing today is a wonderfully soft bun that has a bit of everything we have to offer- wheat flour, milk, eggs and honey.

Milling Flour: A Modern Miller's Tale
A Modern Miller’s Tale. By Andrew Wilkinson, Gilchesters Organics, Northumberland, England. 2021

A lot has been asked of plant breeders over the last 70 years for cereals to match the demands of modern agricultural practices and yields with the functionality of those grains within the modern processing systems of industrial roller milling.

During this time the main consumer of flour has been principally the industrial bakery. However, over the last 10 years there has been a quiet change in demand from local home bakers and small artisan bakers, who have cometogether with regional growers and farmers to create a local grain economy. This has required these farmers to re-evaluate the grains they grow and invest in milling systems that can deliver consistently good flour in terms of performance but on the understanding that it’s quality is bound directly to the grains suitability and the farmer’s ability to acquire a new skill – that of traditional stone milling.

We at Gilchesters, in the North East England county of Northumberland, have had to make one such journey. Looking back the decision to grow heritage and diverse cereals was always going to lead us to milling our own, simply because they were such niche grains at the time. Building the mill to process these grains seems the easy part now. The acquisition of the art of milling has taken nearly 20years of patient learning.

Sourdough Schoolhouse
Is Bread Bad? What About Sourdough?

Bread has gotten a bad rap over the last few decades. More and more people are sensitive to gluten, commercial yeasts and generally feel "lousy" after eating bread. This is due to a combination of things, and for "keep it simple" terms, we chalk it up to:

  1. Rushing the food preparation process
  2. Not treating our food and ingredients in the way they were intended

Baking sourdough bread is an ancient art. It is a simple bread made of flour, water, and salt. Through fermentation, you are able to produce a bread that is high in flavour, while low in gluten and free of phytic acid. It is like a "pre-digested" food due to the magical properties of "wild yeast".

Although our ingredients are not the same today as they were centuries ago (from a nutritional standpoint), if we use the traditional, time-honoured methods of preparation, we are able to create beautiful, flavourful and healthy bread today!
So What Exactly is Sourdough?
Sourdough is a very simple thing. It is derived from the wild yeast that is literally everywhere. It is in the air, on the surface of the fruit, fruit trees, leaves, in your bag of flour, literally everywhere!

In the sourdough baking process, we simply capture this yeast and tame it - like any PET. Learning to bake with sourdough is a process that cares for this wild yeast, which then rewards us with delicious and healthy breads, buns, pastries and more. The sky is the limit with sourdough.

How Does the Sourdough Process Work?

Simple Sourdough Starter Guide + Farmhouse Sourdough Bread
Farmhouse Sourdough Bread

Serving: Makes 2 Loaves

Prep Time: 1 hour active, up to 20 hours inactive

Cook Time: 20 to 30 Minutes

  • 1¾ cup milk
  • 4 tablespoon sugar...
Ashley Marie Farm and Bakery is a small homestead in Mid West Michigan where we hope to pass down a love of crafting good food and good land with our own hands. We chose to share this recipe with you because historically when packaged yeast was not available our ancestors would turn to their sourdough starters to bring fresh, tasty bread to the table. This is the loaf we bake weekly for our children to enjoy. It is perfect for toast, sandwiches, or just slathered with butter fresh from the oven!

Simple Sourdough Starter Guide

  • ½ cup flour
  • ½ cup water

Place the flour and water in a quart mason jar or equivalent sized container, stir until well mixed. Cover with a loose lid and leave at room temperature for approximately 8 hours.

After 8 hours, scoop out approximately...
How to Make a Sour Dough Sourdough Starter from Scratch
Farmhouse On Boone
The Sourdough Podcast
The Sourdough Podcast shares inspiring conversations from leaders and innovators throughout the sourdough community. Hear the personal stories behind the bakers, authors, growers, millers, artists, and other creative minds, that you've always wondered about.

Lane’s End Farm
Sourdough Bread French Toast

My husband, Jesse, and I own a Microdairy in Western Pennsylvania. We milk five Jersey cows twice each day, pasteurize and bottle all the milk here at our small, state-inspected creamery. We try endlessly to utilize local, slow-food in our our family’s meals, and have started making sourdough bread in all forms. This recipe is the perfect way to use up sourdough, and can be served for breakfast, lunch or dinner!

Challenger Breadware
Where to Buy Grains & Flours

It’s hard for bakers to source flour right now. But there are small farmers and millers all over the world who have both grains and flour available. And what a great exchange: they help bakers bake; bakers in turn support small and local business. You’ll also find that their grains and flours are healthier because they’re locally grown and milled – fresh as can be!

We will continue to grow this list, including more international resources. If you know of a farm or mill selling grains and flours, please email us, and we’ll add them here.

This is a community resource. Challenger Breadware does not receive affiliate commissions when you purchase from this list.

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