Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Learning bread basics at Westwind Milling Company!

Cultivating Community members clearly love food: we grow and eat a lot of it together. While fruits and vegetables are great, we also enjoy the occasional (or more than occasional) baked good...especially if it includes herbs or fruits from the garden! Unfortunately, flour is one of those essential ingredients that we just can't really get from our garden (yet...?), and it turns out that we really don't even know how exactly flour gets from the fields to our focaccia breads. Lucky for us, Linda and Lee Purdy, owners and operators of Westwind Milling Company, were willing to take us through the milling process step by step. We emerged from their mill tour as more educated bakers, and came home with some Westwind Milling organic flour to test out our newly acquired baking knowledge!

Linda demonstrated how milling works on a small scale, giving us each handfuls of different kinds of wheat kernels and flours that came out from the mill. We peeled apart wheat grains to see the bran, the germ, and the endosperm, comparing the hard red spring wheat to a winter wheat and to spelt. She also enlightened us on which kinds of flours are best for certain kinds of baking. Hopefully we can come back and join Linda for one of her baking classes during the school year so we can further refine our flour knowledge and baking skills!

After the science lesson with Linda, Lee took us into the mill for our history and engineering lessons, highlighting the original structures and techniques still in place since the mill was built in 1836. While some things have changed since then, including the source of power that runs the mill, the history in that place is as rich as the chocolate mint brownies for sale in the bake shop!

We came home from Westwind Milling with bellies full of homemade sourdough bread and cherry dessert bars, 50lbs of flour for baked good to serve at our Garden Bites party, and perhaps at least a small dream of becoming the Purdy's miller and baker apprentices (maybe just for a few of us!). It's clear that Linda and Lee care about quality products, which means they take the time to care for the grains they grow on their own farm, for the farmers they are working with to source grains and other ingredients, and for the people and the planet they are serving through their work.

Here are a few flour tidbits we walked away with:
  • Whole wheat flour we typically eat is not actually "whole wheat" -- it's missing the outer bran part of the kernel! If you want to truly eat "whole" wheat, go for graham flour.
  • Bread flour has a higher protein content and is great for light, fluffy breads.
  • Pastry flour has a lower protein content... but makes delicious cookies :)
  • Looking to eat a bit of history? Kamut grains are now being commercialized, compliments of an ancient Egyptian tomb that stored the grain perfectly for thousands of years until it was dug up and sown in the ground once again (or so the story goes...).

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