Seems you can count on me to tell another food story. At www.Nebraskaruralliving.com, we publish stories on the vitality and amenities of Nebraska. We often choose to write about growing food, preserving food, marketing food products, cooking and serving the foods, and all business ventures around food products. We count as our favorite moments those spent with people who share their stories and appreciate the spiritual connections among people, food, talk and table.
Two friends, Shirley and Lisa and I ventured boldly into the unknown and maybe even sacred territory of experimenting with a recipe belonging to my Swedish mother, her famous bread sticks. We gathered in Shirley’s well-appointed kitchen. I learned to make the recipe many years ago as I watched at her elbow. Notice, I used the phrase, “experiment-with” instead of “follow-the-recipe.” I often add an ingredient, remove another, simplify a method, and otherwise change the recipe.
On this December day so close to Christmas, I felt out-of-practice as a baker and especially one who promised to “show” my friends how to prepare mother’s truly amazing bread stick recipe.
Mother’s bread sticks are baked to a toasty brown, crisp, and they taste buttery, salty, and as Martha Stewart says, “utterly delicious.” When prepared properly, this product would be on Martha’s list of bread to bake before every holiday. And here I am deciding to make changes in mother’s recipe and on the very day my friends and I bake together and with no prior experimentation on effects to the end product!
We met at Shirley’s and straight a way set out the ingredients:
Whole fresh milk
My last minute and ill-advised switch replaced the flour commonly bought in our grocery store with a new-to-me and much admired Wauneta flour. Wauneta flour is milled in Nebraska at a town named Wauneta located near Imperial on the far western border of Nebraska. The owners, Rogan Einspahr, who was born and raised in the Wauneta area, and his wife, Ashley buy a high protein red wheat from nearby farmers, mill it, package it in a nostalgic gingham cloth bag, and market it on their website and www.whitethumbbakers.com
We used the high protein Wauneta flour in the bread stick recipe. The process went well, the dough felt and tasted as I remember. The bread sticks came out of the oven looking like I remembered, and we each picked up a stick for first taste. I expected a cracker-like crunch and a mouth of buttery, salty flakes of bread. Not quite! Upon first attempts to taste the bread sticks, the bite was more of a gnaw than a crunch, and I needed both hands to break into it.
Seems the high protein content of Wauneta Flour bakes the most glorious bread I ever tasted outside of San Francisco or Paris – bread with a firm texture, brown crunchy crust and rich flavor, yet too much protein for cracker crisp and flaky bread sticks.
I stirred up the bread stick recipe again when I returned to my house, using common, low protein flour. The bread sticks crackled, crunched, flaked, baked toasty brown, and tasted buttery and salty and “utterly delicious.”
Lesson Learned: Arrogance in the kitchen serves no one.