Open a bag of flour from Baker's Field Flour & Bread or Sunrise Flour Mill, both freshly milled products. Note the aroma of toast and feel the light, creamy texture. Then bake oatmeal cookies or a loaf of bread.
When freshly milled, flour is lively and flavorful, a far different product from those standard 5-pound bags lingering on the supermarket shelves. Unbleached, without processed additives or preservatives, these flours are perishable and best stored in your refrigerator or freezer.
At Baker's Field Flour & Bread, the flour is milled from varieties of wheat that have been selected for flavor and baking qualities, and it has been grown on small organic farms in Minnesota, according to Joe Polzin, logistics and account manager for the milling company. This means the millers must adjust to differences in the grain's size, shape and moisture content.
"It takes a bit longer to mill these grains. We use grindstones that work the grains at a lower temperature. This protects the flavor and baking qualities. We have to pay attention to the process," said Polzin.
Baker's Field Flour & Bread mills different varieties of wheat for different uses.
"Harder, high-gluten wheat is great for sturdy yeasted breads. All-purpose flour is perfect for a range of uses — muffins, cookies and softer breads," Polzin said. "We also mill a soft winter wheat that's great for delicate pastries and pasta."
Recently, Baker's Field & Bread began milling Kernza, the perennial grain developed by the University of Minnesota. Because of this crop's deep (20-foot) tap roots, it does not require massive amounts of farm chemicals or the invasive tilling responsible for topsoil erosion. Kernza is still in the early phases of production and has great promise as an environmentally friendly and delicious grain.
"We are enjoying a wheat renaissance," Polzin said. "We're part of a network of small millers working closely with their local farmers across the country."
Sunrise Flour Mill of North Branch, Minn., mills the heirloom variety of wheat called Turkey Red, first grown in this region by early settlers. It is harvested on organic farms in Kansas, milled in Minnesota and delivered fresh to local food co-ops.
Flour from Baker's Field Flour & Bread is available in 2-pound bags for about $5 in local food co-ops, at Lowry Hill Meats and Broders' Cucina Italiana. bakersfieldflour.com.
Sunrise Flour Mill Turkey Red whole-wheat and white flour can be found in the bulk sections of local food co-ops for about $3 per pound and in 2½-pound bags at the Mill City Farmers Market for $10. Also available online at sunriseflourmill.com.