A month or two ago, the Shepherd’s Grain farmers were just finishing their harvest, climbing off their combines after a long season. This year in the Pacific Northwest, we may have had a disappointing late spring and mild summer for beach-goers, but it was just cool and rainy enough to pamper the wheat fields. And a high yielding season is not only great for the farmers, but also for all of us.
Our relationship is not bran deep. Bon Appétit Management Company throughout the Pacific Northwest partners with Shepherd’s Grain to create our from-scratch pizza dough, bread, and pastries. Bon Appétit at Seattle University, for example, goes through 1,550 pounds of Shepherd’s Grain flour a week to feed lunch-going students, faculty, and staff!
Every year, Bon Appétit’s Pacific Northwest chefs make a pilgrimage to Eastern Washington to meet the Shepherd’s Grain farmers, thank them for their hard work to feed us, learn about their approach to agriculture, and break bread together, literally. These visits are inspiring – if, for no other reason, to put faces to the people behind our food. Wanting to share this experience with our diners this year, we brought Shepherd’s Grain to the city. It was a delight to have Shepherd’s Grain Farmer and Founder Fred Fleming and marketing representatives Debbie Danekas and Kelly Blume come visit us Seattle. The trio first said hello to guests at Bon Appétit’s Seattle University Cherry Street Market and next continued their tour to visit our Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center’s Double Helix Café.
In honor of Fred’s visit, Bon Appétit at Seattle University Executive Chef Shannon Wilson made an amazing flatbread with Shepherd’s Grain flour, topped with heirloom tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, and arugula and white balsamic reduction for our guests to sample. It was utterly delicious and a huge hit! At the Fred Hutchinson café, Bon Appétit Sous Chef Drew Rodriguez made chocolate chip cashew cookies using Hawaiian sea salt and Shepherd’s Grain flour, which were well loved by all! If you’re looking for baking inspiration, I’ve included Drew’s recipe below. Whether you’re a first-time baker or expert, this is a recipe sure to impress.
A self-described “recovering conventional farmer,” Fred is a great person from whom newbies and the agricultural savvy alike can learn firsthand about the differences between conventional and sustainable agriculture. Shepherd’s Grain practices “no till” agriculture, which means that the plants are seeded directly into the residue of the crop that came before it, so the soil is not being inverted with a plow, as it is in conventional agriculture. (During a rain storm several years ago, Fred said, his neighbor’s topsoil got completely washed away, while his remained intact thanks to him having switched practices.) These were educational and delicious events!
And if you’re interested in having Shepherd’s Grain visit your Pacific Northwest Bon Appétit campus, let us know and we’ll see what we can do!
Drew’s Chocolate Chip Cashew Cookies with Sea Salt
- 2 1/2 cups Shepherd Grain all-purpose flour
- 3/4 tsp baking soda
- Pinch of table salt
- 1 cup softened, unsalted butter
- 1 cup packed brown sugar
- 3/4 cup granulated white sugar
- 1 tsp pure Madagascar vanilla
- 2 eggs
- 2 cup raw cashew pieces
- 14 oz semisweet chocolate chips
- 1 oz Hawaiian pink sea salt (medium coarse grind)
Heat a heavy, dry skillet over medium heat. Add cashews, stirring constantly, for about 6 minutes, or just until you see a bit of color on them, remove from pan.
In an electric mixer with paddle attachment, combine butter and both sugars. Beat on medium speed for two minutes, scrape bowl, then beat five more minutes, until smooth and creamy. With mixer running, add vanilla and eggs, one at a time, scrape bowl, beat another five minutes.
In large bowl, combine flour, baking soda, and table salt. Gradually add flour to mixer, on low setting, until well combined. Scrape bowl, add chocolate chips and toasted cashews, mix on low to distribute and give dough an even texture.
Place dough in cooler for at least 2 hours, preferably over night. This will help the flour absorb the moisture in the dough. The addition of butter slows this process by sealing moisture out. If you bake immediately you will have flat runny cookies, so it’s worth the wait!
After the cooling period, place rounded spoonfuls of dough on ungreased, parchment lined, baking sheet. Top each cookie with a pinch of pink sea salt.
Note: Every oven and every chef is different, so don’t bake these by the book! For a chewier cookie, bake at 400°F for roughly 6 -8 minutes. Crispier cookies will prefer 325°F for roughly 12 minutes. These times are approximate, and you should always make a “tester” cookie before baking the whole batch. Make sure you let your “tester” cool completely before deciding it is perfect, as cookies crisp up quite a bit as they cool. Also, always turn the baking sheet around halfway through baking.
To check out what the Seattle University Spectator had to say about Shepherd’s Grain’s visit to campus, see here.