Friday Bread Basket 2/17/23
Welcome to the Wordloaf Friday Bread Basket, a weekly roundup of links and items relating to bread, baking, and grain. Before we get into this week’s items, I have a request:
If you were one of those people who responded to my call for recipe testers for my upcoming bread cookbook—or even if you didn’t, but still want to be one—please respond to this email with “TESTER” in the subject line and be sure to use or include the email address you use for Substack. I want to add you to my new/private/secret/free separate newsletter that is just for book-related content and discussions. I’ll say more about it once there’s a solid list of subscribers, but for now I’ll say that while I’ll be sharing updates and thoughts about the book here all along the way, that is the place to be if you want to follow along in real time and/or participate in experiments and recipe testing. I’m excited to get started with this, and I already have some projects for people to work on with me ready to go.
Relatedly, this is the rare instance where I’d prefer you’d respond to a query via email rather than in the comment section below the post. Most of the time, I really would prefer you’d use the comment section, unless you want to keep the comment private for some reason; that way everyone can learn from it, and it can generate a conversation. (Also: it is far easier for me to keep track of responses here than in my inbox, given the volume of email I receive daily.)
Sorgum to the rescue
Last week I mentioned that “naked barley” was being looked at for its potential as a climate-crisis resistant grain. This week, via Civil Eats, we have sorgum poised to play a similar role:
Farmers in drought-prone areas are increasingly relying on crops that require less water to help them adapt to the effects of climate change. The Great Plains is currently facing exceptional drought, and agricultural hub states like Nebraska, Kansas, and Oklahoma are dealing with long-term consequences. Sorghum is looking especially appealing as a solution.
Rendel, a sixth-generation farmer, said sorghum has a long history on his land, dating all the way back to his great-great-grandfather’s time. He is a member of the Eastern Shawnee Tribe of Oklahoma and said his predecessors primarily planted sorghum for their own subsistence.
“Back then, everybody had a farm. You had to grow food for your family. Sorghum was relatively cheap to put in the ground, it had a very good yield to it, and it could withstand some hot, dry summers,” Rendel said.
I so want to get to Pan Estilo Copala, the “secret” Mexican bakery in Compton just profiled by Bill Esparza an Eater LA:
Drive through the tranquil neighborhood of East Compton at 5 a.m. and you might stumble upon a garage illuminated at the end of a long driveway with pleasantly malty aromas wafting from within. Inside, you’ll find Aniceto Polanco and his wife, Nolberta, filling commercial ovens with batches of conchas, cuernitos, and other Guerrero-style pan dulce for the morning rush. In small towns across Mexico, bakers have produced pastries and bread from garages and homes for generations, and the Polancos reflect that tradition with their bakery Pan Estilo Copala, one of the few artisan panaderías in Southern California.
The full-fledged bakery includes commercial Hobart floor mixers, Vulcan and Wolf ovens, and refrigerated proofing chambers that transform flour, yeast, eggs, sugar, salt, and lard into dreamy pan dulce. Unlike most pan dulce, crumbly toppings accent the deliciousness of the pastries instead of overwhelming them. Tanned conchas (shells) comaltecas are wider than the standard concha, and covered in a cream-colored swirl of flour, confectioner’s sugar, and lard. Pan de yema, also called pan de huevo (egg bread), are dark brown, and smaller than the Valles Centrales version from Oaxaca. They come with a hint of sweetness and are perfect for dunking in coffee or hot chocolate.
Both Anticeto, who goes by Cheto, and Nolberta come from families of panaderos back in Copala, who also ran bakeries out of their homes. “The secret ingredient is love,” says Cheto, who perpetually smiles as he bounces between ovens and bakery racks to chat with customers.
LA is pretty much top of my list of US cities to visit again soon.
It’s not possible to embed an Instagram reel, but please click the image above (or use this link) to learn the story of Joseph Lee, an American bread making icon. He was born enslaved, and went on to become a successful hotelier in Massachusetts, and to invent and patent machines for making bread crumbs from waste bread, and a unique style of dough mixer. The reel is part of an ongoing series of videos about Black Boston history being produced by the great Boston bagelry, Exodus Bagels.
That’s it for this week’s Bread Basket. Don’t forget to email me back if you want in on the secret bread book testing club, and have a peaceful weekend.