All grains contain peptides that mimic morphine or endogenous opioid substances. This is where I deal with my latest loaf craving. Get your bread-based exorphin fix here.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Horseradish Bread

 Horseradish Bread

In the News
The Canadian Federal Government is dismantling the Canadian Wheat Board.  This will be good news for American farmers, who have long sought a level playing field against what has amounted to a giant Canadian prairie monopoly over grain markets and exports in western Canada.

The Canadian Wheat Board (CWB) has been an integral part of Canadian grain farming since the 1920s, when smaller farmers banded together to sell their grain, pooling resources in order to get the best prices for their farm produce in what has always been a volatile market. 

I admit to being quite ignorant of how the CWB was formed.  I wish I knew more about the actual history, but the wiki article upon which I am dependent for information seems to be torn apart by recent strong opinion, negative and positive.   I am feeling a great deal of ambivalence about the news of the demise of the CWB.  I suspect that there has been a great deal of propaganda used on both sides of the issue, and whenever this is true, it becomes even more difficult to get the facts.  I find it interesting that the wiki article both reflects my own ambivalence, and becomes the stage where ideas and conversation begin to take place in the world.  There are battles going on behind the scenes, as lobbyists on both sides are trying to capture the support of the public.  These days, the wiki article is where it all takes place.   Have a look at the wiki's discussion page to get a taste of the arguments behind the scenes.

I know that the CWB has influenced delivery of grain in the western provinces but I am only vaguely aware of how it has coloured the whole history of agriculture in the prairies.  And since the opening of the western provinces is the story of agriculture and the transportation of grain, the CWB has played an important part in the history of my country.

Certainly the CWB has socialist roots -- but Americans might be surprised to learn that it was originally organized with the help of an American.  I believe the original mandate of the CWB was to protect the rights of the little farmer.  By banding together, the many little voices made up a unified sound. 

But times have changed.

Who benefits from the dismantling of the CWB?  Who benefits from keeping the CWB?

There are today fewer and fewer little farmers.  Larger farms have swallowed them up, and these large farms are no longer so much family farms as they are corporations. These huge operations think that they can do far better at marketing their grain, and they want to cut out the middleman.

Still, the CWB serves the entire farming community, from the smallest farmstead operation to the largest.  They say they polled their community and learned that a small majority of farmers were still in favour of keeping the CWB in place.  The Federal government has ignored the plebiscite, saying it is flawed (I haven't heard why; I might just as easily say that the last Federal election was flawed, without substantiating that statement).  The Feds will go ahead with its plans to dismantle the CWB, with little more than a conservative ideology to guide their plans for the future marketing of grain. 

Who will benefit from the dismantling of the CWB?  Probably the larger farms -- the corporations.  Most likely wheat traders who can capitalize on the volatility of the market.  Certainly the American grain farmers.  Who will not benefit is the smaller Canadian farms, the ones still in the hands of ordinary farming families.  And absolutely not the end consumers of grain -- all of us -- who will end up paying higher prices for grain that will not be shipped as far nor as widely.

The dismantling of the CWB ends an era of Canadian wheat primacy in the world's markets.  Now it will be more difficult for foreign markets to buy our grain, and the price of the end product will reflect that.  The costs will be handed down to the consumer.  And I predict that very little more will end up in the pockets of the smaller farmers. 

It might be the right decision, but the way the federal government is doing it is wrong.  The farmers -- and damn it, the consumers too, since taxpayers have helped pay for the CWB! -- should have a say in the matter.

I wish I knew more facts.  But like everything else, decisions are made for us by others that we elect, and elected officials are making those decisions, as anyone would, with insufficient data.  They are instead guided by intuition that is supported by ideologies and wishful thinking.  This leaves a lot of room for strong interests -- the big money -- to step in and take over the infrastructures that are being dismantled.  And they won't ultimately do it for the good of the consumer or to help out the small farmer.  They will do it for profit, at the cost of all else.

How this all will play out in the future is anyone's guess.  My bet is, it will ultimately affect the bread I can bake in my own kitchen.

Today's Bread
Here is a variation of Tartine Rye bread (17% rye, but with 83% ww), to which I have added a block of sharp cheddar cheese and some mashed horseradish.

I thought of making the bread with horseradish the other day, when the garden tomato bread used mashed ginger.  That's when I began to wonder if I could make a bread with horseradish -- a sharp taste that I love but don't eat much because I don't eat roast beef, and the two are generally served together.

Of course, you can google anything now and find that someone else has already come up with the idea.  Here is a loaf from Choosy Beggars blog.

The Choosy Beggars' loaf had shredded horseradish root, and although I looked for the root in the vegetable section of our two local supermarkets, there was none to be found.  I had to use the processed horseradish, which contains a bit of vinegar and some preservative.  Sigh.  I used 15% of the horseradish in my sourdough loaf, and I think that is somewhat less than Choosy Beggars used.  They used a cup of fresh, mine was about 1/4 cup of processed.

Instead of using regular cheddar, I've used a sharp cheddar: I thought that it probably had enough flavour to carry the bread on its own, but the horseradish is going to dominate this bread now, I'm sure.  The sharp cheddar can't be shredded, it is far too moist for that, so I've just cut it into chunks.  Just before I put it into the oven, my wife said, "you know that cheese that you put into the dough?  Well, it doesn't melt well.  It just turns granular when melted.  All the oil oozes from it, and it turns gritty."

Oh well.  Too late now.

These loaves smelled great when baking.  The scent is strongly horseradish, of course.

The bread was the first ever to stick to the cast iron Dutch ovens.  So I suspected, even before cutting into it, that my wife is right.  This bread has a lot of cheesy oil on the bottom of the loaf, where it has seeped, then encrusted.

The scent of horseradish is there, but there isn't enough horseradish taste.  The vinegar in the processed horseradish root has made it too sour.  I would really like to try this bread again with the real root.  I'll watch for it in the stores, and when it becomes available, I'll make this again. 

Every so often one gets a hint of cheese, but perhaps the way the Choosy Beggars folded their loaves would bring more cheese taste to every bite.

The cheese did granulate but it still held its spot in the loaf.  My wife seemed to think that the holes in the loaf around the cheese were due to the oil seeping from the cheese, but I'm not sure.  There are plenty of Tartine-style holes due to the expansion of the gases around the yeast.

Notes to Myself
  • If you have to make this again with the processed horseradish with vinegar, use some more malt or honey or molasses to counteract the sour notes. And use more horseradish! I would double it, to 300g, or even more.
  • Use a less expensive cheddar cheese that will hold up to melting: an old orange cheddar of lower quality would work okay here.
  • Use grated horseradish root, the real deal, and why not use a cupful like Choosy Beggars did?
  • What other roots could be similarly used? I have heard of people eating poke root, but to me that just seems dangerous because of its mutagenic properties. But what about beetroot? Or parsnips? Jerusalem Artichokes probably won't work. But what about returning to ginger?

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