By Amy Halloran
One of the happiest days this summer was getting 50 pounds of flour in a parking lot. This wasn’t an illicit swap, just tricky, and enabled by Facebook. Scrolling through that wall of personal facts, I found out one of my friends would be in Ithaca for a conference. I had just used up the last of my whole wheat pastry flour from my favorite mill, Farmer Ground Flour. What were the chances that friend could bring me some of the food that makes me most happy?
Very good. Through a series of emails and texts I arranged for my friend to pick up 25 pounds of whole wheat pastry flour and 25 pounds of rye.
I love this flour. It is stone ground, made from organic grains grown near Ithaca. You can buy some Farmer Ground Flour near me, but not the whole wheat pastry flour. Honest Weight Food Coop stocks their buckwheat, rye and sifted white bread flours. Chatham Real Food Market is another coop, and stocks some Farmer Ground flours, but that is really out of my way. Besides, I go through flour at such a clip that it makes sense to get a big bag.
That whole wheat pastry is really making some great food. Pancakes, of course, because mine is a pancake household and nary a day begins without them. Biscuits are practically perfect. My husband made a nice pear custard pie the other day, too. At this rate, we will need a refill on pastry flour wicked soon.
I love stone ground flours because they generally contain all of the grain: the wheat germ, bran and starchy endosperm are all in tact. In the sifted bread flour, some of the bran is removed to allow for better bread rising. The idea is that bran interferes with the structure of dough, acting like little knives.
I find no trouble in getting the grain, the whole grain, and nothing but the grain to rise in quick breads. I mean, look at these biscuits! I want more right now. Take a look here for my biscuit recipe.
Whole grain flours, I find, are very sweet – unless they weren’t milled recently and the oils in the germ have gone rancid. I don’t use any sweeteners in or on my pancakes; the whole wheat and other grains have enough sweetness to sail on their own. (I put yogurt, fruit and ricotta on top.)
There are not many mills in New York that grind New York grains. Farmer Ground Flour is one, and a few farms have small mills on site. Gianforte Farm is one of them, and they have a great guide to baking with local flours on their website. You can get their flours at their farm, and in locations around Central New York.
In Columbia County, Hawthorne Valley Farm also grows grains, mills flour and sells whole grains at their farm store and elsewhere.
Wild Hive Farm is a great mill, and another source of flour and grains in the Hudson Valley. They mill a variety of New York State grains and sell flours in a lot of places – look for a special flour in Eataly NYC’s ciabatta, and another very particular Wild Hive grind at Café Le Perche in Hudson.
Each miller makes unique flours, and each grain has their own flavor. I don’t know if I can actually taste New York soils in each pancake I make, but I do know I love knowing the area where my grains grow.