Saturday, September 19, 2009


Why have a bread machine in France when you can buy fresh bread on nearly every corner?

The bread machine I bought years ago from a French TV shopping program has been sitting idle and taking up cabinet space for so long that I think of it more as a disabled and mopey R2D2 than a kitchen appliance.  I was on the verge of giving it to a charity until I visited a French friend who had just bought one.

My friend, a Hildegarde von Bingen-nick, was not only making her own bread, but growing her own cereal grain to have milled for flour. On her country property she had planted a field of épeautre, or spelt wheat, an ancient grain strongly recommended by Hildegarde, a 12th century German benedictine abbess, a sort of a wise and spiritual Martha Stewart of the Middle Ages.

A hardy and nourishing favorite of the Gauls, épeautre was eventually abandoned because its thick and heavy husk made hulling and whitening more expensive than modern wheat.

But times are changing and people are rediscovering this naturally disease resistant cereal that tolerates arid and poor soils, cold weather, and never needs fertilizers or pesticides. It's high in carbohydrates and has proteins, but low in gluten and more easily tolerated by those with wheat allergies. It makes a pale, coarse, nutty- and slightly sweet-tasting bread. Queen of health food cereals,  farine d'épeautre (spelt wheat flour)  is increasingly available in French supermarkets.

For an environmentally sustainable & correct loaf of fresh bread from your kitchen:      

Pour into your bread machine the following ingredients, at room temperature, in this order:
250 g (1 cup) water
1 teaspoon of natural sea salt
450 g (3 cups) épeautre (spelt wheat) flour
1 1/2  teaspoon active dried yeast
Program for whole bread and select medium crust. After baking, remove and let cool one hour before slicing.

Who was Hildegarde?
Hildegarde von Bingen (1098-1179), although never canonized, is often referred to as a saint. Besides being a mystic, composer, herbalist, author, philosopher, naturalist, linguist and abbess, she wrote recipes and gave advice on how to eat and live well.

Text & photos ©2009 P.B. Lecron

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