I am becoming a regular at farmer’s markets around the city. There are so many great markets in Toronto and they are all a little bit different. My new favourite is the one at the Wychwood Barns at St. Clair and Christie.
I found it by accident when I was up there on another errand a few weeks ago. Since then I have been back a couple of times. It is a really unique market located on the site of an old streetcar terminal. The building is still there, reinvented as an art centre and used to house the market in the winter months. The market itself is run by a community food centre called The Stop.
In the warmer months the vendors are outside, ranged around the west and south sides of the building. There is a great variety of booths selling everything from fresh produce to baked goods to empanadas to coffee. There is music playing and a great playground on the east side of the building, so the kids really enjoy being there as well.
This past weekend I was amazed by the choice of local produce already available. I found Ontario strawberries (more on them in another post) and I found a very unique product; Red Fife Wheat Flour.
Red Fife Wheat is an heirloom variety that was first introduced into Canada in 1842 near Peterborough Ontario (which is not far from Campbellford, where my Grandfather’s bakeshop is located). I was familiar with the name and a bit of its history. There is a museum up there devoted to Red Fife Wheat and you can’t help but know a little bit about it if you live in that area.
I was very surprised to find the flour at the market and I stopped and spoke to Ed who was selling it (along with some very delicious crackers that go by the name of Evelyn’s Crackers). He explained that this variety of wheat was almost extinct, but the crop is now being revived. His flour, which I ended up buying, came from a farm in Madoc, another town in the Peterborough area.
I was anxious to try it, so I headed home with my treasure. I wanted something that would showcase the flavour of the flour so I went with my go-to biscuit recipe and I substituted in 1 cup of the Red Fife Wheat flour.
In truth, I really did not expect the flour to be much different from the whole wheat flours I have used in the past. It turned out I was wrong. The flour was very soft and delicate and my biscuit dough handled beautifully. But the best part was the taste. It had a wonderful whole wheat flavour that was milder and sweeter than my usual brand.
I served the biscuits with some strawberry jam (remember those strawberries I found), and they quickly disappeared. I have to say, it was fun to bake with an ingredient that is part of Ontaro's history. It was like making a link to the past. It is not often you experience something like that, but I am beginning to discover that there are all kinds of surprises to be found at the farmer's market.
Red Fife Wheat Buttermilk Biscuits
adapted from the Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook
If you want to make them without using whole wheat flour, the original recipe calls for 2 cups of all purpose flour.
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup all purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
4 teaspoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup cold butter
3/4 cup buttermilk
additional milk for glaze
demerara sugar (optional)
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment or a silicone mat.
Mix all dry ingredients together in a medium bowl. Cut or rub the butter into the dry ingredients until the mixture resembles course crumbs. Add the buttermilk and stir together with a fork until just combined.
Liberally dust a work surface with flour and knead the dough for 10 to 12 strokes to bring it together into a smooth ball. Roll or press flat to 1/2 inch thickness and cut out biscuits with a 2 inch round biscuit cutter.
Transfer cut biscuits to the cookie sheet and brush tops with milk. If desired, sprinkle the top with a small amount of demerara sugar.
Bake in the centre of the oven for 10 to 12 minutes or until the biscuits are lightly browned. Cool on a baking rack. Serve with butter and jam.
Next post: Strawberry Freezer Jam and Strawberry Shortcake