I hope you all have had the time to read the conversation I published last week with Amy Halloran and Alicia Kennedy, with or without the helpful/distracting pull quotes that I removed a few days later. It’s a long one, but I think it is an important addition to my ongoing exploration into the notion of quote-unquote ethical flours. I’m working on a follow-up essay of my own this week, as an attempt to dig a little deeper into my complicated relationship with whole grain flours and bread baking, but I thought it might be useful to hear from all of you too. (I am also working on a recipe for a 100% whole wheat sandwich loaf, though that won’t be ready for awhile still.)
Do you bake 100% whole grain breads?
Do you want more recipes that are 100% whole grain?
If you haven’t made the jump or aren’t interested in doing so, why not?
Do you think that the use of refined flours in breads is something we need to abandon? Or is there a place for both white flour baking and whole grain?
Is white flour “junk food”?
Such a complicated subject! I love whole grains because they can be challenging to work with and the flavor is incredible. That being said, I don’t think we should call white flour “junk food”. As someone who has struggled with an eating disorder for 20 years, I am trying to raise my kids in a house where no food is called “junk”, it’s just food. I think there is a place for all foods; so many happy memories revolve around Dairy Queen Blizzards, Cinnamon Toast Crunch while camping and Gushers fruit snacks with friends.
As discussed in the interview, there is also the problem with access. It doesn’t sit right to call what most people can afford, and easily attain and use, junk. It feels like another way to blame individuals for “choosing” to be unhealthy, when there really isn’t a lot of actual choice.
I would love to see more local, whole grains because accessible to more people. I would love to help facilitate the delicious and fun exploration that baking with whole grain can be. But I don’t think we need to demonize a other food to do it. My goal is to be an all-inclusive baker, to be otherwise closes doors before people even know they’re there.
No, white flour is not junk food. Yes, in a modern, sedentary lifestyle, our serving sizes may need to shift to maintain a balanced diet, but like white rice, whole food cultures are built upon white flour based recipes as staples, and for many, is an important source of affordable caloric intake. Culturally, these recipes, or special occasion recipes using refined flours, maybe a source of family tradition, holidays, and rich food heritage. Like many bakers, much of my baking frequency does spike up around holidays and special occasions, and these are for the most part not going to be whole wheat recipes. So from that standpoint, yes you can call many of these recipes “sometimes food”, but I guess it’s a whole other topic all together to talk about how with increasing wealth, many items that people could only afford to make and eat for holidays are now available year round.
But on the subject of staple grains, I think refined flour products still have relevance and importance for food security, and in a busy household, with picky eaters, it has approachability. It can be part of a balanced diet. Among my recipe hoarding piles, I have a range of recipes, everything from basic all white bread to books focusing on whole wheat and high extraction flour. What do I bake mostly? I use 10-20%WW, either by design (as written in the recipe) or I spike in about 10% in a 1:1 sub to sneak in a bit of whole grain. It works for my family, and I don’t have the time to play around with formulas or try new recipes out (any recipe too high in WW that my family doesn’t like the texture or taste means I have to eat it all, and then I have to make more that they would eat).
Yes I’d be interested to have more whole wheat recipes if Andrew is interested to develop them. I like the idea of the “WW option” of a master recipe, although sounds like double work for Andrew, but would be interesting as a comparison and understanding flours. I understand the challenges in writing universal recipes with a very heterogeneous regional milling menu, but I feel like I deal with that with all recipes that don’t specify a specific brand or %protein in the flour. Just takes a bit of tweaking and that is how breadmaking experience helps so much in building instinct of look and feel and going with how it looks rather than the recipe times.
Question - has anyone come across any bulk section or natural food store with a grain mill? I was thinking it would be nice to have that as a store service (like how stores have a peanut butter grinder) for people to come and buy bulk grains and grind fresh in store, and then you don’t need to buy your own mill and can get freshly milled flour when you want some and then throw it in the freezer. Just a random thought!