Making and Breaking Bread with Grandma Boyd

This Apron Strings post was submitted By Mike Schreiner, Leader of the Green Party of Ontario. He’s also well known for his leadership in co-founding the award-winning organization Local Food Plus.

Also, please keep sending in your own stories and recipes. This project will continue long past Mother’s Day.

Wheat harvest on my parent’s farm was a time of hot, hard work and celebration.  Our extended family helped during those tense days of harvesting, hoping to get the crop in before a storm wreaked havoc on our hard work and income.

Most of our wheat was loaded onto one of my dad’s eighteen wheelers and shipped directly to the local co-op to be transported by train to distant markets.  Unlike his corn and soybeans, which dad sold to local feed mills for cattle, our wheat travelled far from home.

The one exception was the annual ritual of collecting bins of wheat berries for my Grandma Boyd, my mom’s mother.  Idabelle, my ten year old daughter Isabelle’s namesake, collected wheat each year from our harvest, in order to grind it into fresh flour for her famous breads, buns, and cinnamon rolls.  Thanksgiving and Christmas, in particular, would not be complete without a large assortment of her fresh baked goods celebrating the bounty of our harvest.

Grandma Boyd’s delicious baked goods were a stark contrast to the spongy loafs of bread in our small town grocery store.  It seemed absurd to me, growing up on the prairie with abundant fields of grain for a far as the eye could see, that the only bread available in the local store was tasteless and made hundreds of miles away in a factory.

Growing up in the 1970s and 80s, I was one of the few lucky kids who had someone in the family with the time and desire to grind their own flour and hand roll dough.  As bread connoisseurs know, flour is a lot like coffee, it begins the process of going rancid the minute the grain is ground into flour.  For bread, there is little comparison between fresh ground, fresh baked loafs and those you find wrapped in plastic on a shelf.

One of my favourite meals as a kid was a hamburger made with ground beef from our farm and grandma’s whole wheat hamburger buns.  My mom’s hand cut homemade fries completed the meal.  Not bad for a kid who grew up where the nearest fast food restaurant was miles away.

I can’t describe the exact moment when my advocacy for local food and farmers started.  It’s simply been part of my life.  I do, however, recall long hours on the combine or tractor thinking about how idiotic it was to work so hard growing wheat for a low price, shipping it away, having it shipped back and spending what seemed like a lot of money on a tasteless sponge.

It was probably those thoughtful hours driving in around our family farm combined with the joy of those buns on holidays, birthdays and family dinners that led me down a path to promoting local food and farmers.  For me, food is a connector – a connector of friends, family, and memories, as well as economy, community and health.

Ultimately, it connects me to the earth and life itself.

On Mother’s Day I want to thank, celebrate and honour my mother, grandmother and wife for the wonderful moments and memories of growing, making and breaking bread with them.

Grandma Boyd’s Hamburger Buns

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup warm water (105 degrees – 115)
  • 2 pkgs yeast
  • 3/4 cup warm milk
  • 2 tsp. sea salt
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 3 Tablespoons butter
  • 1 1/2 TBs onion powder
  • 4 3/4 – 5 1/4 cups fresh ground all purpose flour
  • 3 eggs
  • poppy seeds, onion flakes, or sesame seeds

Directions

Put warm water in a bowl and sprinkle yeast in water and stir till dissolved.  Add warm milk. Add sugar, salt, butter, onion flakes, and 2 cups flour and blend well.

Stir in 2 eggs and rest of flour to make a soft dough.  Knead on lightly floured surface until smooth and elastic (about 4 – 6 minutes)  Place dough in a greased bowl, cover and let rise in a warm draft- free place.  (about 30 – 45 minutes)

Punch dough down and remove to a lightly floured surface.  Divide dough into 8 equal pieces.  Form each piece into a small ball on a greased baking sheet.  Flatten balls into 4 inch rounds. Cover and let rise in a warm draft-free place until double in size.

Lightly beat remaining egg, brush on rolls and if desired sprinkle seeds on top.  Bake 400 degrees F.  10 – 15 min. or until done.

Remove from baking sheet and let cool on a wire rack.

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