A strong, resilient food economy is one that is localized and accountable to all its participants. Bakers who know their millers are inherently tied to the farmers who supply the mill with wheat. A baker connected to their miller can give feedback to the grower when one season’s Hard Red crop produces a superb loaf of bread or when their tender Spelt bakes a more tender cake. A more direct food economy means that the wheat has only touched a couple of hands- the farmer, seed cleaner, miller and baker before it reaches your sweet lips. The result of this shorter food chain means the farmer earns more money for their higher quality wheat, encouraging a higher quality variety grown rather than high-yielding ones dependent on market rates.
Grist & Toll is a stone mill located in Pasadena that sources its wheat directly from farmers growing specialty heirloom and modern wheats in California and nearby states. All the flours milled by G&T are entirely whole grain, with all the flavorful bran, nutritious germ and starchy endosperm kept intact and never separated. Every variety of wheat has a different strength and flavor profile, from intensely-flavored Hard Red we use in our sourdough boules to the soft, delicate and nutty Spelt we use for cookies and muffins in place of all-purpose flour.
Soft wheats have, as their name states, are a softer grain. They are lower in protein and their gluten strands aren’t as effective at binding together to create a web-like structure that breads require to rise efficiently. Sonora is a soft wheat flour and a great replacement for all-purpose flour. The little bran it does have is light in color and flavor, so unlike a Hard Red, it’s not going to require you to add more liquid to your pancake batters and cookie doughs. Spelt is similar- though we use it in our croissants and sourdough loaves, it is tender enough for your favorite cookies and brownies without making any adjustments. Spelt’s nutty flavor profile makes it our very favorite. Einkorn is a very low protein flour- the most tender of them all- and wonderful for shortbread cookies, poundcakes and, yes, pancakes!
Hard wheats are milled from wheat berries that have more efficient gluten-binding proteins. This web traps gasses that yeast gives off, allowing your bread doughs to rise beautifully. Hard wheats, like soft ones, come in various colors and flavor profiles. The average “whole wheat” flour at the supermarket is always a hard red, but you’ll notice that we also carry Hard White, a strong wheat that has a milder flavor due to its naturally lighter colored bran.
RYE- THE OUTLIER
The flavor flour! Rye, even in small amounts, will give your bakes an intense, hardy and grassy flavor. Rye isn’t technically wheat, and it lacks the second protein that helps create the webbing you need to trap the gas and steam that makes your bread rise. Use rye for dense, dark loaves or replace 10% of your whole wheat with this flavor super power without too many changes. We love making 100% rye chocolate chip cookies and brownies.