Miller and Baker
Contrary to popular belief, sliced bread was not a good invention.
Okay, before you get mad at us for such an outlandish comment, let us explain.
When Otto Frederick Rohwedder of Davenport invented the first single loaf bread-slicing machine, he didn’t just make eating bread more convenient. He helped commercialise the entire industry. And if you know about food systems, you’ll also know that the commercialisation of baking led to the commercialisation of flour and farming wheat, too.
In an attempt to increase production, more businesses replaced traditional stone mills (which is what we have used to make flour for a long time) with a roller mill. With a roller mill, you can make a lot more flour. But you also strip away all the stuff that makes the product good for you. Plus, commercialising wheat farming meant you used only one type (or maybe two types) of wheat. Famers chose the types not necessarily based on taste or quality. But on how much yield they could get.
This made them smart businessmen.
But all this made bread pretty tasteless and not that good for you, or for the environment for that matter. The type of farming we just mentioned is what we call monocropping. And monocropping is, among other things, a major cause for climate change. (But we’ll save that discussion for another time).
The commercialisation of the bread-making industry was a shift that happened a long time ago. But these methods of farming and milling flour and baking predominates today.
If you lived in Perth in the early 2000s, there wasn’t much on offer as far as artisan bread went. There’s more now, of course, like Margaret River Woodfired Bread, however, there’s still very little stone-milled flour on offer. Most flour you find on the shelves is dead produce (which is why it has such a long shelf life, by the way). This is what Mark Taylor, founder of Miller and Baker, told us anyway. And, after having a virtual sit-down with Mark last week, we believe him. He knows a lot about wheat and flour and bread.
“I’ve always had a fascination with baking,” he said. “I bought my first bread maker when I was still a kid.”
He kept up the hobby into adulthood. But he only started pursuing the craft professionally when he moved to Denmark (the Nordic country, not the town in the Great Southern) with his wife. To learn the craft, he began volunteering his time at artisan bakeries, one of which was started by the team at NOMA.
“Bread was really different there. In the bakeries we went to, anyway. They sourced a variety of different kinds of wheat from local farmers and only ever used freshly stone-milled flour.”
“Also, Denmark is cold,” Mark added. “So you would ride down and pick up a warm loaf and put it down your jacket and ride home. There was something really nice about it. And you just couldn’t get that in Perth at the time.”
This is what inspired Mark to ultimately quit his career in Environmental Science and, upon returning to Perth with his family, start Miller and Baker, an artisan bakery that also stone-mills flour.
There were challenges, of course. Stone mills are rare. There are only a few bakeries in Australia that have one. So Mark had to get his custom made. Also, stone milling requires a lot of patience and care and manual labour. All that sounded like a lot of effort to us. So we asked why this method of making flour was so desirable.
“Most people haven’t tasted freshly stone-milled flour—ever. The smell is amazing,” he said. “Also, in wheat, there’s what we call germ, bran and endosperm. The germ and bran are what makes flour good for you. Stone milling is a slow and gentle process of crushing all that together. When you use a roller mill, you strip all that good stuff out and you’re effectively left with the crap.”
In short, stone milling allows you to retain key nutrients and high levels of prebiotic fibres for gut health.
Mark compares stone-milled flour to freshly roasted coffee. To get the best flavour as well as nutrients, you have to use it fresh. And if you keep it on the shelf for too long (5 weeks or thereabouts), it will go off. This is why, at Miller and Baker, the bakers use flour straight away.
Mark also gets all his grain from local farmers. He’s very hands-on with the growing-wheat side of things. He only buys from farms that use no pesticides or other nasties. And every month or so, he rents a ute and drives to these places to collect wheat.
He has also collaborated with a few farmers around the state to grow different varieties of wheat which aren’t available in WA yet.
“I came across an article that talked about the grain economy and the different varieties of wheat. There are over 1000 varieties but in WA we only have 4 or 5,” he said.
“In certain places in Europe and the States, there were farmers who are breeding wheat for taste, not just yield. So I started studying what different grains I could get and what would suit the climate here in Australia.”
At the moment, Mark has over 38 different wheat varieties which he aims to grow and sell, so more people can enjoy the nuanced flavours of the grain.
Ultimately, he said, the goal is for people to view bread and flour the same way you would with wine where the idiosyncrasies of the farming methods and the different varietals are celebrated and compared.
This is a vision which we, at Dirty Clean Food, want to support, of course. And that is why we’ve teamed up with Mark and the team at Miller and Baker to sell some of their flour through our online store.
If you have been following our movements over the last few months, you will know we have been supporting other local businesses to help them bring their product to market during this challenging time of isolation. And since we’ve been keeping a close eye on Miller and Baker after opening last December, we thought we’d reach out to them, too.
So now you, too, can improve the taste and nutrition of your baking at home by purchasing your own freshly, stone-milled flour
You can buy HERE.
You may want to know about the different kinds of flour before you buy one. So here’s a quick description on each:
Whole wheat (sifted): a finer flour that is ideal when making cookies, bread, pasta and pastries.
Whole Wheat: a courser flour that adds texture and flavour when baking things like bread, muffins, oatcakes, banana bread, pita, streusel & crumbles, wholesome tarts and pies.
P.S. Just to let you know, though, we only have a limited amount. And they’re selling like hotcakes. Probably because there are so many people wanting to use delicious flour to make more hotcakes.