Well, 2018 has been different! We bought an awesome little crêpe trailer and planted heirloom wheat for it in a long-fallow field (the crêpes were great, the field needs work). We developed a bunch of really cool recipes. We worked really hard. And now we’re ready to watch the contrails and tiny flickering lights of 2018 streak across the sky at midnight on December 31.
Changes are afoot at ansonmills.com. The current website will remain as it is, for the moment, and we’ll post new recipes, as always. Our seasonal newsletters, on the other hand, feel rather too stagecrafted for 2019. Look for fewer of them. We’re craving ways to gain greater freedom of expression and movement, opportunities to be spontaneous, flexible, and fasterin our recipe releases and product information. We would like to respond nimbly to questions and comments from our customers and readers. We need video. The best way to accomplish this, we believe, is with Instagram.
Some of you may already follow Anson Mills on Instagram. But most of you probably do not know that Anson Mills has a separate fledgling recipe account on Instagram called Anson Mills Kitchen. Anson Mills Kitchen will offer video clips, in-process development, and changes or improvements to existing recipes. Images will be larger and illustrative photos clearer than on our website. We’ll be able to field your questions quickly. It will all feel much more interactive.
Thank you, one and all, loyal newsletter readers. It has been loads of fun. Please join ansonmills.com as we move into our next phase.
Meanwhile, how about a few recipes?
A click on each image will take you to its recipe.
Cornmeal-Crusted Baked Ham
Here’s a tasty rustic touch for the old-fashioned baked ham, one that moves ham from lace-tablecloth territory to a hip, reclaimed wood sideboard. With fine yellow cornmeal oven-toasted to sensory brilliance and blended with hot water, this grade-school simple coating is brushed on the ham and bakes to a crunchy, buttery crumb-coat. We’ll tell you where to get the best ham, too.
Red Fife Natural Levain
The way a single pebble leaves ripples on the surface of a puddle, this swirl touches only the surface of the mystery that is natural levain. Here’s a novel concept: successful artisan bread making has little to do with yeast or dough and everything to do with levain. Levain—the ancient amalgam of flour, water, human attention, air, and time—harnesses populations of beneficial microorganisms in the atmosphere to combine and react with heirloom wheat flour. Several days later it becomes a naturally balanced yeasty initiator of beauty, aroma, diverse texture, and superb flavor in breads. For years we have been wanting to offer a reliable method for enhanced flavor pathways that match the era of our various wheats. Finally, here it is—Part One.
Red Fife Natural Levain Boule
Our first natural levain, 100 percent whole grain boule, developed by the young, talented baker Henry Jones with Anson Mills Red Fife wheat, is a revelation in flavor, texture, and crumb. This is the bread that emerges from your oven if you coax a flour and water slurry over the course of several days into a mature natural levain fermentation. (See its full body shot on the recipe page.) Grown in native tilth (meaning no chemicals, ever), Red Fife wheat produces whole grain breads with unparalleled flavor. What you taste: bran that is thin and supple, not brittle, with natural oils and nutrients in balance with the rest of the kernel; small kernels with a high protein-to-starch ratio; a large germ-to-kernel ratio (from which flavor emanates); and, finally, flavor diversity resulting from the massive mineral uptake by the wheat’s deep, uncrowded roots.
So, if you think natural levain is another descriptor for the tongue-stinging, sinewy-crumbed bread known as sourdough, you’d be mostly wrong. It is true that “sourdough” is a natural levain process, but not all sourdough is taut of crumb and inhospitable to the taste buds. Natural levain bread does not have to be sour unless you want it to be—it can be sweet and its palate impression is subject to adjustments under your direction and in your own hands. And here it is—Part Two.
Just an enticement. No recipe required.
Kick-Ass Caramel Corn
Unlike the heavily lacquered corn you’re probably used to and thought you actually enjoyed, these kernels are feather-light, yet indescribably rich with caramel and vanilla. The recipe owes part of its success to Anson Mills popping corn, of course, which is delicate and diminutive of kernel. But the rest of its appeal comes from the light hand used in ingredients, ratios, and technique. This corn is so good, in fact, that half the time we forget to eat the red-skinned peanuts brought into the recipe to offer companionship for the corn. Here is the truth: you can’t get this caramel corn into your mouth fast enough. But keep trying.
It is no exaggeration to say that Dawn is the bedrock of ansonmills.com., stiffening the spines of each of us who works with her. Dawn probably edited the sentence you’re reading right now. She might have created your favorite recipe on our website—like the caramel corn in this issue. Dawn is a model of multidimensionality, poise, reason, and restraint. She is a great cook. We hate having to share her with anyone, frankly, but them’s the breaks. We’ll take what she can offer us, and say thank you. Thank you, Dawn.
A graduate of New England Culinary Institute, Henry moved to Charleston, South Carolina three years ago to learn about historic breads and work at Butcher & Bee restaurant and bakery. Within months, Henry was tapped to be the bakery manager and his breads became well known around Charleston. He takes a scholarly approach to baking and has a journeyman’s sensibility for keeping things simple—perfect qualities for bringing obscure bread ideas into the realm of home bakers with the mission, always, to simplify methods. Henry developed the levain and boule recipes for this issue.