Welsh grain workshop
On the 11th November I will be attending a Welsh grain workshop, I will be bringing some loaves made with tybalt wheat and discussing the merits of baking bread with Welsh grown and milled flour. The purpose of the workshop is to ‘Reinvigorating local grain economies’, bringing together growers, millers, bakers, maltsters and brewers. The organisers of the event are Tony Little and Anne Parry.
Anne was inspired by the idea of bringing grain producers and users together after coming across the Kneading Conference West. The US event is an inspiring one where the public are also encouraged to attend something which Anne says, “It would be great if after this inaugural meeting we could open the event to everyone next year, our version of the Kneading Conference West.” You can read more about Anne’s aspiration for the event here.
This type of event is one that plays at my baker’s heart strings. For two years now I have been quietly shouting from here all about using British grown wheat, trying in vain for the most part to convince how it’s worth seeking artisan flour for its flavour, its story, sporting British farmers and artisan mills. I have had to listen to staff at large mills tell me how they don’t produce white stoneground flour because it makes bad bread (ermm…have you seen my photos?). And not to mention comments from bakers how British flour makes poor quality bread. I have at times felt like the mad man on the mountain shouting “It’s not true. It’s not true! It can make good bread we just need to adapt our skills” What my experiments have shown is how it needs a different approach from the baker, at times it needs different treatment to the generic flour. The baker needs to work around the flour but it’s worth the effort because it has flavour and using farm-to-table flour is a great story to attach to the loaf for an artisan baker, I believe.
In the beginning of 2012 I wrote on The broken relationship between farmer, miller and baker, how disjointed and fragmented this relationship is. Professional bakers on the whole go to a large mill and get told what flour to buy by the miller. The miller will have a choice of say a strong flour that withstands mixers and poor skill, a flour that is in the style of the French, a flour so white aspiring to the Italian 00, a more artisan style flour and so on. The miller decides what his grist is, and this variety of wheats are mixed based on factors such as cost and protein percentages. This process is fine but is more suited to the faceless and characterless large bakeries. I believe this broken link is a truly missed opportunity for the authentic artisan bakery. In every artisan bakery there is room for at least one loaf that contains artisan flour.
Artisan bakeries desperately need to be cost effective in the production of their bread. It’s a struggle to survive against the mock-artisan multi-chain bakeries and the generic flour is very competitively priced but there is room for one loaf made with flour that carries a story. We are use to knowing the name of our beef farmers but why is it as bakers we don’t know our wheat/rye farmers? For the most part bakers don’t even know what varieties they’re using.
After two years of continuously writing on here, tweeting, facebook, instagraming my endless experiments on artisan flour I would love to see one loaf in every artisan bakery that has a story of the farmer, the miller and baker. It’s my baker’s dream.
A small amount of what I’ve been ‘shouting’ from the mountain top:
More to be found in this category: flour talk