Black bread from Xeixa flour

Ark of taste
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Pa moreno de Blat XeixaIl grano 

The bread is made in Majorca, Balearic islands, with the local variety of grain, “xeixa”, a cereal at high risk of extinction because the industrial bread makers use other varieties of grain. Up to now the cultivation has been very limited, however some young farmers who practice biodynamic agriculture have begun to sow the seeds of the grain, helping to spread its genetic heritage. It is considered an ancient grain and differs from modern grain varieties that have been manipulated. The digestive characteristics are said to be much superior, with a more intense taste, and it is virtually allergen free. Xeixa is the most cited grain in stories, poetry and legends of the Balearic Islands, although other soft wheat varieties, such as the Xeixa Rotja or the Garonzona, also can be found in the Balearic Islands. It is a rustic grain that adapts to all types of terrain and is said to have even greater bread making properties when it comes from land that is difficult to cultivate. It responds well to organic cultivation based only on use of manure. It is important to note that this bread is made only from grain that is certified organic by the qualifying organization CBPAE (Consell Balear de la Producció Agraria Ecológica). The flour is ground in an ancient traditional stone mill. In fact, it utilizes the last functioning traditional mill in Majorca. After the grain is milled, it is filtered and then sorted whole, complete with the bran, the protein, and the germ, thus producing whole grain flour that is very rich and high in nutritive properties. At the end of the milling process some of the whole wheat is lightly filtered to eliminate some parts of the bran to become a black, or dark, flour with a more delicate taste and more easily digested. The bread, “Pa moreno de Blat Xeixa”, conserves the traditional form of a large round loaf; it is made on a wooden table, called a “pastera”, left to ferment naturally and then cooked in a wood oven. The slow fermentation process gives the bread an intense flavor, the right level of acidity and helps to preserve it for up to a week if kept correctly (in a cool ventilated place and wrapped in a cotton cloth). Today this ancestral process of fermentation has been substituted for the most part by more instantaneous methods, such as those based on brewer’s yeast. The bread making process lasts two to three days (depending on the ambient temperature), also taking into consideration the “refreshment” of the mother culture. The third day begins the laborious work kneading the dough and cooking in the wood oven. Patience and this long process of fermentation give the product its characteristic taste that increases even in the days after baking. The first step is to take a portion of the mother culture from the previous dough, add it to water (without chlorine) and flour, mixing it various times over one to two days, in order to “refresh” it and reactivate it in a natural manner. Before the bread goes into the wood oven (which should be preheated to a temperature of 250° – 270° C), the dough (flour, water and a small amount of salt) is kneaded by hand on the “pastera”. After two hours it is kneaded briefly a second time. One hour later the loaves are weighed and made into the characteristic round form. Then the bread ferments for another hour in a wicker basket or in the traditional cotton cloth. When the oven reaches the required temperature, the loaves are placed in the oven with the help of a wooden paddle. As they are baking, which takes about an hour, the loaves are rotated and checked so that the cooking is uniform. Once outside the oven the loaves are placed on wooden shelves to cool. The loaves are 20 to 40 cm in diameter and 6 to 9 cm in height and weigh between 600 grams to a kilogram.

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