Industrial Harvest

Flatbreads day at Kendall by sarah kavage

I was invited by Melina Kelson, who teaches the artisan breadbaking class at Kendall College Culinary Schoool, to spend this morning talking to her class and baking pizza / foccacia in the brick oven she built with 4 students last year.  Today was the last class day of an intense session, where students come to class for 10 days straight, 6 am – noon.  Finals are tomorrow, so today was sort of a fun day.  The dough was made with the Industrial Harvest all-purpose flour, which Melina was quite happy with.  She said it is perfectly aged and working beautifully.  Greenfield Mills does it again – !

The students started by weighing and apportioning the dough into 12-oz pieces.

The dough is then rolled into balls.  Melina had the students double-fisting – rolling up two balls of dough at a time, one in each hand.

After each students rolls up their dough balls, they label it with their initials…

…and it is covered and left to proof.  The many gaps between breadbaking tasks leave plenty of time for short lectures, so we’d talk in between. We spent an entire break talking about the specifics of my futures transaction – pretty impressive!  The students asked lots of great questions and made it easy and fun to talk about what I was doing.

Here, Melina (center) demonstrates rolling out pizza dough.  I’ve seen this done many different ways, and Melina started with a rolling pin and then began to stretch the dough with her knuckles.  Her tip:  stretch the edges, the middle will take care of itself.

The final demo pizza:  thinly sliced Yukon Gold potatoes (a waxy potato that will retain its crunch better then starchy varieties), carmelized onions, blue cheese.

We migrate out into the courtyard, where the oven has been heating up all morning, and Melina loads the pizza in the oven.  She cracks an egg on top right before it goes in.  The oven needs to be at least 450 degrees, preferably hotter.

The demo pizza cooks for under 5 minutes, is lovingly documented and then consumed.

The finished demo pizza.  It was incredibly delicious.

We also got to make our own pizzas, and the students shared their dough with me and showed me the ropes.  Hannah was on top of it enough to suggest that she take a picture of my pizza going in the oven.  Having worked in at least 3 pizza restaurants in my “career” in the restaurant industry, I had collected a number of tips over the years:  don’t use too much sauce or cheese, oregano goes in pizza sauce (not basil, that goes in pasta sauce), and brush the crust with olive oil.  There were so many toppings that it was tough to decide what to do, but I went with olives, mushroom, mozzarella and parmesan.

The finished pizza – a couple blackened blisters which could have meant a re-do at Two Boots, but overall was great.  All in all, a pretty good morning’s work – I took it home and we had lunch, with 2 pieces left for dinner.  Thanks so much to Melina and all the students for creating such a sharing, welcoming atmosphere – I really had a blast playing chef for a few hours.


Women in Grains! by sarah kavage
July 21, 2010, 1:55 pm
Filed under: project updates

Finally getting around to posting a quick update / rundown of the Women in Grains show in Reedsburg, WI this weekend.  The weekend had a little bit of a bachelorette party feel to it (in a good way) with all of us women in grains packed into the upstairs apartment of the gallery drinking coffee, gabbing, eating and sharing the bathroom.  It was a great time and great community, and the gallery was located right between a thrift store and a brew pub, so we were well entertained and my temporary Chicago home is gradually getting appointed with the finest vintage kitchenware.

When I met Cathi Buzide last year, she gave me the lowdown on grain-related artwork around town, and in the process of the telling, happened to realize that much of it was by women.  In addition to her own work in ceramics and other media around corn and soil, she also told me about Ann Belden’s amazing corn basket, the mowed fields at the Fields Project, and Abby Sadauckas‘ sprouted wheat portraits of female grain farmers.   Corrine Peterson, Jiyeon Yim and Marjorie Woodruff – Cath’s studiomates at Lilstreet Art Center – also made work for the show, along with Anne Leuck Feldhaus, Carole Hennessy, and Stephanie Samuels (who has been known to be inspired by corn herself, but mostly creates art with baked goods at her bakery Angelfood).

Pictures of the show, & more descriptions here:

AND, in case you didn’t get the email, I’ll be giving away flour at the Milwaukee Avenue Arts Festival in Logan Square this weekend.  Industrial Harvest will be part of the Urban Ag Fair at the intersection of Medill & Milwaukee, 10-5 Saturday and Sunday (24th – 25th).  Stop by and say hello, bring your friends, get some flour, trade baking tips, gossip, dish on what the weather and the commodities markets are doing, whatever.  A super nice crew of volunteers has lined up to help me out both days – a big thanks to Neka, Robert, Jessica, Bryce, Kelly, Bettina and Ben!

To Market by sarah kavage

Yesterday was the first flour giveaway at a farmers’ market.  I have been working on setting up a few farmers’ market appearances around town, and this one is a brand new market on the UIC campus organized by the Hull House Museum.

Having several friends that are seasoned flea-market vendors, I dig the market vibe.  It can be an endurance test in the same way that waiting tables is – you either seem to be standing around twiddling your thumbs, or totally “in the weeds” – and there’s a cameraderie among market vendors that comes from going through all of it together, the same way there is with a good restaurant staff.  I’ve spent many an hour hanging out at friends’ booths, which usually means helping with setup / breakdown, watching booths during bathroom breaks, running food and water, kvetching about the customers and maintaining a running commentary on street style and dogs as the parade of humanity goes by.  So, given that I’ve also been schooled on proper market presentation, here’s the market signage…

We didn’t even get a chance to take a picture of the whole setup.  It was complete madness, in a good way of course.  The kind folks at the Hull House had arranged for a volunteer to help me.  I didn’t even know I needed help but was so, so glad to have it!  Cristina, a grad student in urban planning who is studying food systems, helped me set up, I walked her through the drill of the flour distribution and accounting “system” and we were swamped with “customers” shortly thereafter.  A line of people kept us hopping – Cristina did the accounting and label preparation, and I scooped flour into bags.  I started having flashbacks from my restaurant days and kept having to remind myself to relax.  People did not seem to mind standing around for 5 minutes, and if they did, well – whatever, it’s free.

Most of the folks that came by were from the UIC community – many of them had read about the project already, but for those who didn’t Cristina and I got lots of practice explaining the project.  There were a couple repeat customers from the Hull House talk, some visitors from New Orleans, an economist, most of the other market vendors, and the UIC food safety officer, who seemed curious but completely unphased by what I was doing (as it should be, but a relief nonetheless).  Someone pointed out to my surprise and delight that the vintage scale reads “not legal for trade”!  It took about 2 hours for the “lunch rush” to die down and we were able to visit the other market booths for some lunch of our own.  One of  the vendors told me that he thought we’d helped bring him some business – awesome!

By 3:00 the sun had taken its toll.  We had no tent or shade, and I could feel the sunburn / heatstroke coming on.  So we packed up (another nice thing about giving stuff away is that I’m not losing any money by going home early) and got out just in time.  Hopefully those that came later in the afternoon were not too disappointed.  I’ll surely be back to Hull House again and will also be making appearances at other markets around town.

Upon returning home, I was thrilled to find out the “official” ledgers had arrived!  These gorgeous ledgers have been gathering dust at home for at least several years, and when I realized they’d be the perfect thing to use for accounting purposes, I had Rob ship them out.  Much better than an old crappy notebook.  Get ready for a barrage of statistics.
FYI, these are actually Czech ledgers (you think they still make things as nice as this in the US??).  They appear to be made to track blood transfusions…

Shifting gears now as I go up to Wisconsin for the opening weekend of the “Women in Grains” show in Reedsburg…

Inspiration for Documentation by sarah kavage
July 11, 2010, 10:08 pm
Filed under: project updates, where the flour went | Tags: , , , , , ,

Today I received an email with documentation of what one of the flour recipients did with the flour and she gave me permission to share it with you all.  It’s a lovely story very much in the spirit of what I am trying to achieve with these flour giveaways, and sharing it articulates my goals better than I would ever be able to do on my own.  This is not to put undue pressure on the flour recipients, but I do hope that others find it inspiring.  A huge thanks to Erin for sharing!

Attached is photographic documentation of what I did with those four cups of flour on 4th of July weekend.

One of my favorite breads to make is Challah because it tastes so good and because of the mind/dough/body connection this bread inspires.  Challah means “dough offering” in Hebrew and, like any good offering, it never fails to bring my friends and family together in surprising and delicious ways.  The three strands of this braided bread stand for truth, peace, and justice.  Challah lets us hold these things in our hands and in our mouths, and it reminds us of all the ways in which human beings nourish each other.

Fourth of July weekend is a big celebration of national and personal independence.  This 4th of July, the people I love came together over challah and grilled vegetables to celebrate all the ways in which we are dependent.   We wanted to take the time to honor how much we mean to each other and how much we have needed each other.  And how much we hate to say good-bye.

Because this 4th of July was also a good-bye party.

After the January earthquake that devastated so much of Haiti, my Haitian friends came to live with me and my roommate in Chicago. The nearly-six months that have followed could not have happened without the miraculous support of so many people.  My Haitian friends (Michelaine and her children ages 12, 8, and 2) were given free food, toys, winter clothes, medical attention, English classes, and day care.  The alderman helped us find the family an apartment, the French immersion school accepted the kids for free in the middle of the year, and hundreds of friends, family members, and complete strangers donated their time and resources.  We raised $10,000.

Throughout those 6 months, the baby began to talk (in English, French AND Creole), the 8-year old made many new friends, and the 12-year old discovered that she likes to dance.   Michelaine made us diri ak pwa, my roommate gave up her bedroom, and I learned how to ask for help.  We tromped through snow.  We skyped family in Haiti.  We cried and laughed and played silly games.  We fed each other.

This 4th of July, as we stuffed challah rolls into our mouths, we celebrated all those things while we fed each other one last time in Chicago.  On July 5th, Michelaine and her kids flew back to Haiti.

We miss them terribly.

The bread we made with this flour was one of the many ways we learned to nourish each other.  We are very grateful for the time, the community, the stories, and the food that we have shared.

-Erin Edwards

Challah rolls and bread before they went into the oven

4th of July picnic with the challah (and other delicious foods!) in our garden.  Pictured:  Michelaine, Anaïka, my dad (Wayne), my mom (Susan), Taïsha, my partner (Liz), Yamiley.

Warehoused by sarah kavage

The flour is here!  With the heat and humidity, the mill tends to get gummed up.  The flour gets a little bit sticky and they have to keep stopping the machinery and cleaning things out.  So things have taken a little bit longer than expected.  But the milling was finally completed last night and the truck was on its way bright and early this morning.  The destination:  a refrigerated warehouse in the West Loop (not only do I not have enough room to store 20 tons of flour in my apartment, whole wheat flour will quickly go rancid if it’s not refrigerated).  Even though the driver left before 8 AM, he still didn’t pull up at the receiving dock of Fulton Market Cold Storage until after noon, well past the “scheduled” delivery time of 11 AM (traffic in this town is no joke).  Which gave me time to sit in the main office and participate in most of a conference call for the day job.

In the warehouse, things move pretty fast – forklifts and pallets and big stacks of meat and oil and apple juice concentrate.  One must be careful to avoid being the cause of an industrial catastrophe.  I managed to stay out of the way and take a few shots of the unloading process here.

Oh, and I left with 20 lbs. of all-purpose flour to take home.  It fell off the truck, if you know what I mean…

Giving, Taking, Lots of Baking by sarah kavage

It’s been in the back of my head for awhile, this nagging doubt:  “What if no one wants flour?”

I mean, do people really bake anymore?  Some of my friends do, and I’ve certainly met plenty of dedicated bakers in the last few months, but really, I was somewhat apprehensive and feeling like baking might be a little bit of a lost art.  But I’ve been surprised and delighted at the response at the last couple of events!  After last week’s Hull House talk, almost 30 folks lined up for a few cups of flour to take home and use.  People were taking flour for friends, neighbors, relatives – the highlight being one woman who picked up some flour for herself, her son and her 90-year old father, who still bakes a few times a week.

The very next morning, I got the first report-back from one of the recipients, who said: “”I used 2 cups of your flour to make 12 large buttermilk biscuits this morning, and I brought them over to my neighbor’s. They were delicious!”

And then today, I took a train / bike jaunt out to North Chicago / Waukegan to give a little lunchtime talk to the youth and staff at the Chicago Botanic Garden’s Green Youth Farm

And again, was not really sure what to expect.  These are kids, and I know when I was a kid I pretty much sat around and ate junk food and waited for Mom to call me to the table.  But after an hour of helping in the garden in the heat of the day, it was pretty clear that these kids were different.  I did not hear one complaint, with the exception of the little voice in my own head that kept repeating “hot…tired…hungry…”

We stopped for lunch, I gave my little talk and thought I’d be pretty much able to relax, except then the whole crew started lining up to take home flour!  I was totally impressed and again, delighted that they accepted this somewhat strange gift with such enthusiasm.  Between the youth and the staff, they took at least as much flour as folks did at the Hull House talk.

For those who have protested the lack of pictures, I am waiting on pictures that other folks took of these events, and will post them as soon as I get ’em, unless I’m making awful faces or something.  In the meantime, please enjoy this recipe for whole-wheat-pizza that I wrote up for the Green Youth youth.  Also good on a stovetop or grill.

Hot weather recipes by sarah kavage
July 5, 2010, 9:53 pm
Filed under: baking | Tags: , , , , , ,

Yet another thing I did not really think about when I planned this whole adventure was that I’d be taking on a project that involves a great deal of baking in the summertime.  We’ve had a few days of 90 degree heat already, and the mere thought of turning on a 450 degree oven on top of that makes me start sweating (well, we’re always sweating these days so nothing’s really different, and not that I’m complaining, but it still doesn’t really make for good cooking weather).  Then last week, as if he’d heard my plight through the psychic friends network, Industrial Harvest fan Mike Glodo sent along an email with a few recipes for stovetop breadmaking.   Three variations on non-yeasted, fast and easy flatbreads that require no oven time, just a hot griddle –  which I pass along to you now, pretty much verbatim:


Base Dough

About 1 cup all-purpose flour

Add 1/2 t kosher/pickling salt (no iodine)

Olive oil 2t to 1T

Water about 1T

Flour close by for your hands (this gets sticky)

Put flour and salt into wide flat bowl.  Have big metal spoon handy.

Form a well in the middle.

Pour a little water and oil into the well.

Use spoon to gather in flour from outside well.

It clumps. Good. Mix it around a bit, add more water and oil, continue gathering until the dry ingredients are pretty much gone. Form into a ball, cover with plastic (I use a recycled tortilla wrapper, just rinse it off after use and it’s already food-grade). Stick it in the fridge for 20-30 mins (not essential, but improves texture)

Then:  Take about 1T of dough, drop it into some flour (de-stickys it) and roll it into a ball.  Roll out thin on a floured surface into ~4-5″ diameter disc.


For stove top pizza – plop into a moderately hot small cast iron (preferred) pan.  Make sure all ingredients (garlic/cheese/sausage/whatever) all ready to go before you drop the disc.  This moves fast.  Flip over and add ingredients (dried basil, diced garlic, olive oil, parm, ricotta, f’r instance).  Cover loosely with a pot lid to drive heat to surface (but you don’t want to steam it)

In the oven:  Add topping, put the pan in oven and git ‘er done. Takes about 8 mins in oven.
Bake at 500 degrees or so; put disc into a warm cast iron pan (as above) but don’t flip and add ingredients to the surface.


The difference here is that with the same dough, you’re going to roll it out *thicker* and put it onto a much hotter pan. This seals the bottom of the bread, and drives steam (usually!) and starts to bubble up the top.  Once you see the top clearly start to separate in a couple of places, flip it.


Use the same dough, thin or thick or even thinner.  Once dough is rolled out into the disc, sprinkle on red pepper flakes or garlic or dried basil or caraway seeds or fennel seeds or coarse black pepper. Mix and match is cool. Roll into surface of the dough, flip, roll in some more.  These can be dry fried (remember, there’s some olive oil in the bread) or in a little butter or oil.

They are great with anything that looks like raita or tzadziki etc. Drain whole milk yoghurt, add some salt, cumin, lemon juice, mashed garlic, olive oil. Bash it about, let it rest in the fridge to tighten up. Great also for scooping up curried whatevers.

Main thing – the dough preparation takes maybe five minutes.  Stick it in the fridge, and the cooking goes pretty fast after rolling them out. You can also iterate proportions of cake (pastry) flour.  I jack up that in this same recipe to about 1/3 soft flour to 2/3 bread when I use almost the same recipe to make flour tortillas.  Soft flour makes ’em a little more foldable.

I haven’t tried these exact formulas yet, but the same night I received Mike’s missive I was making up some pita dough using this recipe expressly for the purpose of stovetop flatbread, with the whole wheat pastry flour.  We topped them with a fava bean / tomato / onion /olive oil mixture, pesto, some arugula and cheese here and there.  Once I got the skillet temperature worked out, they were absolutely delicious.  The pastry flour did make them deliciously soft and pliable and not too tough / chewy/grainy tasting, despite using 100% whole wheat flour.  With Mike’s recipe we could have saved ourselves a bunch of time by not worrying about the yeast or  rising the dough, so take his advice if you want to have more time for summer things and less time and fuss in the kitchen.  Enjoy!

Round the Homefront by sarah kavage
July 3, 2010, 10:51 am
Filed under: baking, Uncategorized

Paradoxically, the last few days have found me both a little homesick and extra appreciative of my new (temporary) home in Chicago.  Even though it’s not yet sunny there, I miss my Seattle family.  But folks here in Chicago, and especially my housemate, have been wonderfully welcoming.  We’ve taken on about a bazillion small projects related to food, many of them things which have included the collection of berries, the collection of herbs, the collection of flowers, the collection of a chair in the alley, making mayonnaise, making kombucha, planting a community garden plot, playing “Pit”  after our inaugural dinner party (check these folks out, too – but turn the volume down on your computer first!), finding a modern version of “Pit” in the thrift store, and the making of lots and lots of bread products…

This bread, a test of the all-purpose (white, unbleached) flour, was unattractive but very tasty.  Since the artisan bread baking class with George DePasquale I’ve had more successes than failures.  A little light reading for the summer.  The vintage scale is a recent purchase.