Find Wheat

I'll give up anything except good bread. Here at the farm, in Peru, we have all the facilities to make it: a proper adobe-and-sugar-coated oven (igloo shaped), plenty of eucalyptus wood as fuel, and all but the one essential ingredient: real, authentic, un-bleached- and-milled-at- the-premises wheat flour. There is plenty of imported "whole-wheat flour" to be bought at the stores, which behaves dutifully and produces perfect looking but tasteless bread. I want the real thing, in other words my quest for the perfect un-bleached- milled-at the-premises flour has begun. No simple feat as 95% of the wheat flour here is imported.

This means going to the most remote corners of the sierra, as we say here, "where the devil lost his poncho", and where I've been told some folks grow their own wheat and mill it too. Wheat is not indigenous to this part of the world, but there are varieties which have adapted well to the Andes and are used exclusively by the local populations.

At every remote little village, the first thing I do is head to the local bakery which in most cases is a house like all the rest but with an oven-room attached. I found what I have come looking for: a family of farmers who grow their own wheat and mill it. It's an ancient stone mill, which has been in the family for a few hundred years. I am very lucky, it's spring and the wheat is about to be milled. The wheat goes through the milling process twice with nothing lost or removed, and the end product is unlike any flour I have ever seen: tan and full of interesting little particles.

Now to make some bread: The yeast seems delighted to work along a flour so yielding. It doesn't rise much, though, because of the altitude. But the end result is well worth the search.

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