November is Red Fife month

from my little website at


Just took delivery of several types of Red Fife, namely kernels and ‘whole white’ from Speerville, and stone ground whole grain and stone ground white from Milanaise and will be experimenting with them over the next few months. For now the focaccia and sandwich loaves will continue to be made with conventional/modern (Milanaise) stone ground white flours, but all other loaves with wheat will feature Red Fife instead. The Walnut Loaf is thus 25% fresh-ground (from the kernels), 5% fresh ground spelt, and 70% Red Fife white (Milanaise) or Whole White (Speerville). The Soldier’s Loaf Red Fife Rye will sometimes be fresh-ground, sometimes stone ground. Also, I will make loaves with Red Fife only, either whole grain or whole white or white as both I and my customers familiarise themselves more with this soft, but rich-tasting strain of wheat.

It has been mentioned elsewhere on the site and the wordpress blog, but Red Fife comes originally from Ukraine, long known as ‘the bread basket of Europe’, and has not suffered from being hyper-hybridized in equatorial laboratories with year-round growing seasons like conventional wheat, which is now a high-gluten dwarf variety. Red Fife grows to shoulder height and more. It has lower level of gluten, or at least its gluten is far less springy and resilient, albeit sufficient for making nice-rising loaves. The advantage of a nice rise is that the crumb becomes lighter and more aromatic, not to mention we are used to associating this with a nice bread. Those familiar with very dark breads, however, especially for example 100% Rye, know that although a crumb might not be light and springy, that doesn’t mean that the bread sits heavy in the stomach. However, with high gluten loaves, it seems (to me at least) that such bread does sit heavier if it doesn’t rise well, unless it has been over-fermented, wherein you can end up with an overly compact and rubbery substance that, although highly digestible, isn’t really ‘bread’ any more, more like an unsweetened, baked grain pudding of sorts.

All this to say that Red Fife, though rich in flavour, has a more traditional, which means softer, gluten profile. Like spelt it doesn’t rise as much, is not as springy, and also like spelt it absorbs water, and breaks down much faster than modern wheat, making it easier to digest and therefore more healthy. And the easier things are to digest, usually the more nutritional they are since they break down well and can be absorbed.

In any case, I look forward to becoming familiar with Red Fife. I am also pleased because despite initial reluctance, Meunerie Milanaise then went forward with an experimental crop this year, so hopefully this high quality organic miller and farm operator will be supplying us with high quality Red Fife White for years to come.


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