Edible Phoenix Summer 2016 : Page 16
When she sees that the dough is ready, she kneads it on a counter briefly, shapes it into a round and—after a long rest— folds and tucks the 16-pound mass gently, “keeping the top on top, the bottom on the bottom to keep the gluten structure intact.” This looks simple but it is tricky, rather like tossing pizza dough. Rachelle hand kneads three to five batches of dough every day because the commercial Hobart mixer is too strong for the naturally fermented whole-grain dough. “When it is stretchy and cohesive, with big bubbles forming, you can see that it is alive.” It is tricky to handle the floppy, sticky dough; “the tendency is to fight it.” She handles it deftly, pats the springy mound and smiles: “It has the feel of a baby’s bottom.” After another rest on the counter, she cuts, weighs and shapes the dough into loaves, which rise in baskets a couple of hours until ready to bake. Scoring the tops with a razor, she loads them into the 400° oven, spraying them with a giant mister. When they have baked, she takes them out, cools them and slices them on an electric slicing machine before bagging and labeling them for market. In all, it takes a 16-hour day to bake for the market. “Figuring out how to work with live grain was a challenge. White flour is much easier to handle, and shape. The whole-grain dough is more alive and hard to control. There is a lot of chemistry going on in it.” And that chemistry gives the bread great flavor, nutrition and texture. Long fermentation is how bread was made for centuries. Then, around 1900 commercial fast-rising yeasts were developed and bleached, bromated flours were introduced to enable fast, large-scale factory bread production. The nutritious wheat germ was removed to promote long shelf life. To make up for all that has been removed, factory bread has added wheat gluten, refined sugars, dough conditioners, vitamins and more. Nutritionally and gastronomically Rachelle’s bread compared to commercial bread is like fresh fruit compared to canned. Today there is a list of health prob-lems attributed to non-Celiac gluten sensitivity leading to the current trend of gluten-free diets, and a plethora of ques-tionable gluten-free substitutes. Rachel believes this demise of a healthy food that sustained people across the world for millennia is lamenta-ble. An advocate for bread’s nutritional  �f; �b;  �c;�d;  �f;  �c;�b;  �b;�c;�a; value, she seeks to share her creative experience and educate the wheat-wary, fast food plagued public so that they can enjoy all the deliciousness and nutrition that whole grains have to offer— in good health and guilt-free. “Even people who have gluten sensitivity can eat these breads. I have pages of testimony from people to confirm this.” In business for five years now, she has developed a loyal clientele. Some days they sell out of bread after only an hour. European customers who return each winter say they miss her bread when they are away. Like other artisanal, passionate bread bakers, Rachelle is on a mission: She would like the world to rediscover the glory of real bread, the kind that can be called the staff of life. And about those donuts? “We have a cult following for the donuts. People line up to get them before the market opens.” I can assure you—like the bread, they are worth a long wait in line! Gay Chanler is a professionally trained chef by trade, with an MA in cultural anthropology from Northern Arizona University. A former co-leader of Slow Food Northern Arizona, she currently serves on Slow Food USA’s Southwest / Mountain Ark of Taste Committee.
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