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EdibWasa Winter 2014 : Page37

Fine Grain: loGan-bAsed ceNtral miLling prodUces Some oF The bEst fLour foR amErica’S besT bakerS by beNjamiN boMbard ■ photOgrapHs by daviD vogeL A couple months ago, my once respectable bread baking skills seemed to have dissi-pated. My loaves wouldn't rise during fer-mentation, they got little to no oven spring, and they had lost the subtle yet vital sour-floral tang I yearn for in fresh-baked bread. I needed help. A friend of mine, a chef, tried to coach me back into baking shape. We talked for hours about hydration percentages and cultivating natural yeasts; about fer-mentation times, the benefits of autolyse, and about the tech-niques and formulas of great bakers in the San Francisco Bay Area, the nexus of America's artisan bread renaissance. Eventually, inevitably, our conversation came around to flour. I wondered what flour he used in his delicious miche-style loaf. “We use this flour from a mill up in Logan,” he explained. “You know what your problem might be: your flour might be too old. A lot of the flour you buy off the shelf at the supermarket has been sitting around for months, and the proteins in it start to decay. This stuff from Central Milling is pretty darn fresh. And they mostly deal in organics. Even Chad Robertson uses it.” Chad Robertson is the bread genius behind Tartine Bakery in San Francisco. His stamp of approval was recommendation enough for me to buy a 50-pound bag of Central Milling's basic flour through my friend. I was hoping that I'd just found the cure for my bread baking ailments. What I had undoubtedly discovered was a local food success story, one whose influence can be felt and tasted here in Utah and around the country. Central Milling is Utah's oldest continuously operated business. It was born in 1867 as a farmer's co-op and a water-powered mill on the Little Logan River in Logan, Utah. In the first few decades of the 1900s, Cache Valley was home to sixteen mills, earning it a reputa-tion as “Utah's granary.” Herbert Weston, a farmer and stockman, bought out Central Milling's 50 co-founding shareholders in 1917, and the mill made its name under generations of Westons as the pro-ducer of Red Rose Pancake and Waffle Mix, a product the company still makes today. As Central Milling went about its pancake-mix business, Kent Perry, an early advocate of organic food in the region, cultivated organic wheat on his farms in Blackfoot, Idaho and Collinston, Utah. He ground the grain in his basement and sold fresh flour to friends and family. Seeking to expand his nascent grain operation, he bought the struggling Wheatland Seed Company in Brigham City in 1977. Perry was quick to recognize the growing popularity of organic foods in the 90s and decided to purchase the Central Milling facility and focus on processing organic grains there. Fifteen years ago, Central Milling partnered with James Beard-award winning baker Keith Giusto to refine its approach to grain production and produce the best flour for the country’s best bakers. Today, Central Milling is widely regarded as the best commer-cial flour available in America. Wheat and spelt grain for its flours are grown at farms throughout the West, with sizable crop acreage in northern and southeastern Utah. The majority of Utah's organic wheat ends up at one of the company's three Utah granaries, located in Logan, Richmond and Collinston. Central Milling refers to the umbrella company under which several product lines and a prolific variety of flours and grains are marketed, including Beehive Organic all-purpose flour, which consists of organic wheat grown exclusively in Utah. While you may have never knowingly purchased Central Milling flour, and although the company ships about 75 percent of its prod-ucts to California—it supplies flour to more than 100 Bay Area bak-eries—there's a good chance many Utahns have unknowingly baked with Central Milling flour or eaten bread baked with it. According to Central Milling's president, Lynn Perry, the company produces the “365” line of organic flour for Whole Foods Market and supplies conventional flour to Western Family. And if you’ve ever chowed down on an Amy's Kitchen bean and cheese burrito or any other W ASATCH .com 37

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