Why Freshly milled / My Mockmill story
Why Freshly milled / My Mockmill story
I have to admit that even though I have worked with freshly milled flour (from mills I would go to ) almost since the beginning of my baking life, and even made some brave attempts to mill some myself using an old school hand mill, I have not given it much weight in my baking for many years.
My focus finally shifted because of two people – first my beloved brother-of-the-heart Guy frenkel, and second – a man who became a dear friend and brother - Mr Paul Lebau.
Now Guy is well known. He is, to my eyes, one of the finest and most creative bakers out there. He also happens to live in the current Mecca of grain – the great state of California. Talking to him about grain rekindled my passion and curiosity (mixed with a small portion of envy at what he had accessible) to milling my own flours. For a while, I had an old home mill generously given to me by a major mill owner, and though it was interesting, it did not provide what I was looking for…mainly from the practical ease of use. Then came the other half of the equation – Guy introduced me to the Mockmill and Paul, and my life improved
Having an easy to use, great quality and comfortable home mill added several dimensions to my baking. I once described it to Paul as going from black & white to color TV. Sometimes- a tool comes along that enables new creations. I have had a knife or two that changed my cooking, baking for years in a wood-fired masonry oven was another, and so was the Mockmill. Suddenly I could mill all sorts of grain. Ancient, local heritage, modern from different countries. I could mix, I could compare, I could mill different tastes into my flour (ever tried toasted sesame flour? Or dried, malted and toasted rye added into flour?). I am not much of a color-in-bread person, but being able to mill black forbidden rice created one of the best breads I have ever made, and definitely the most purple one!. A lot of culinary creativity found a new way of expression… And we haven’t even discussed the nutritional value, or the scent of freshly milled grain.
So I began talking about it to people, and so did others, and a lot of people in my country bought Mockmills and a movement began. All of a sudden more suppliers are willing to sell grain, and now more people are growing wheat. Is it just the home milling? Of course not…but I feel it has a part in it, and here’s why:
You see, to my eyes we are re-discovering something we have almost lost. It’s not the art of making bread or the old methods…Though I use a lot of old methods in my baking (I was trained that way) I am a firm believer that we are now baking the finest breads ever made by Humans. What I feel we did lose is a certain sense of connection, a context…
People used to know the miller, and often the farmer, the baker, the butcher and so on. Buying flour from the shelf, even wonderful flour made by great millers, is still a step removed. Now, when you mill your own flour, some part of this connection rekindles. You begin asking yourself questions like- where did this grain come from? Who grew it? It connects back to a very basic fact –That bread is an agricultural product. It connects all the way from Earth to Man. So this very small act- milling your own flour - serves, to my eyes, as one of those bridging thoughts that brings back to life a consciousness to a part of this craft that was neglected. From this point of view, it is like Farm to Table, or Gathering. It is part of a culinary movement that strives to a more holistic view of the culinary art and craft.
So- do I mill all my flour? No…I don’t. I still love many flours from many mills, and as much it has improved dramatically, grain accessibility still leaves something to be desired in my part of the world. I also want to support local millers, and even foreign ones, so I do use both local and imported flours.
However – I mill A lot, and I love it and I try to tell every friend I have in the culinary business (not just bakers, Chefs too!) that they have to get into this too. That it would be a game changer for them - For their breads, for their pastas, for their pastries…for all the reasons – Culinary expression, Creativity, Taste, Nutrition and most importantly for me- connection to the earth that gave the seed and the farmer that grew it.
All the best and bake your heart out!