The revolution is fermenting. Right now, in a handful of bakeries around the country, there is a movement underway–stone mills are turning and fresh flour is turning into sourdough. For most everyone reading this article, flour has always been ghost-white, shelf stable, and flavorless. Fortunately for those of us who are gluten-tolerant, change is coming!
From California and Arizona to New York and North Carolina, bakeries are bringing tradition back. In a time that none of us can remember, bakeries were where people bought their flour–freshly milled, whole grain from bran to germ–and had their loaves baked. In the last 100 years or so, industrialization took over the process and bestowed upon us the wonderful white flour. Unfortunately, we didn’t totally understand what was happening when we stripped wheat of its perishable part, the germ, and replaced it with a selection of vitamins to ‘fortify’ the remnants, the starchy endosperm.
Dough heavy weights such as Chad Robertson of Tartine Bakery (San Francisco), Richard Bourdon of Berkshire Mountain Bakery, and Chris Bianco of Pizzeria Bianco are popularizing on-site milling. By milling the wheat whole, the oils, enzymes, and nutrients remain intact. “When you compare what’s removed from wheat to make commercial flour, it tracks pretty well with the nutrients that are most deficient in the U.S. population,” says Dr. David Killilea, a nutritional biochemist at the Children’s Hospital of Oakland Research Institute. In addition to the nutritional benefits, chefs are working directly with farmers and scientists–particularly those at Washington State University’s Bread Lab–to turn out loaves that maximize the flavor and texture profiles of different breeds.