During this moment in history when there is a shortage of national flour brands on the grocery shelves, it is an amazing time to learn about the smaller wheat growers and to try their flour. Below is a Flour and Grain Resource Guide to Upper Midwest growers, millers, and some of the bakeries who use them. I have personally baked with Baker’s Field and Sunrise Mill flours and I’m excited to try many of the others.
For more information about the benefits of baking with flour from small scale growers, both from a personal health and for the health of our planet visit the Artisan Grain Collaborative website. In these strange times, this is a moment for us to change the way we eat and we may end up supporting our farmers at the same time.
Flour Shopping Guide
Upper Midwest mills and grain farms with online sales and nationwide shipping:
- Baker’s Field Flour and Bread – Minneapolis, MN
- Brian Severson Farms – Dwight, IL
- Doubting Thomas Farms – Moorhead, MN
- Funks Grove Heritage Fruit & Grains/Funks Grove Pure Maple Sirup – Funks Grove, IL
- Hazzard Free Farm – Pecatonica, IL
- Janie’s Mill – Ashkum, IL
- Lonesome Stone Milling – Lone Rock, WI
- Meadowlark Organics – Ridegway, WI – Monthly grain subscriptions coming soon. Sign up here.
- Meuer Farm – Chilton, WI
- Sunrise Flour Mill – North Branch, MN
- Challenger Breadware’s Ingredient Directory – USA and Worldwide
- Amy Halloran’s Mill List for national and Canadian mill resources.
Upper Midwest bakeries that source grain from local farms and are offering delivery or curbside pickup:
- Baker Miller – Chicago, IL
- Brake Bread – St. Paul, MN
- Hewn – Evanston, IL
- Madison Sourdough – Madison, WI
- Middle Brow Bungalow – Chicago, IL
- Muddy Fork Farm and Bakery – Bloomington, IN
- ORIGIN Breads – Madison, WI
- Sun Street Breads – Minneapolis, MN
FAQs about Flour
Can whole wheat pastry flour be used in place of all-purpose flour for breads, crusts, cakes? What are the differences between bread flour and normal flour? Wheat flour comes in varying amounts of protein (which is what creates gluten when mixed with liquids) and each one has its place in a recipe, so it is best to use the type of flour called for by the author. For the purpose of this explanation, I am only discussing white wheat flour, not whole wheat. If you make substitutions with one for the other, you have entered the experimental phase of baking and it is no longer the same recipe, so keep in mind you may have a different texture than the author has in mind.
- Cake flour – has the least amount of protein and creates a very tender crumb, which is why it is best used in cakes and some quick breads. It has little structure or strength, so not to be used in breads unless called for to lighten a loaf’s density.
- Pastry flour – this is a flour you don’t see outside of professional kitchens very often and when you do, it is usually whole wheat pastry flour. It is between cake and all-purpose in its amount of gluten forming protein. Great for muffins and pound cake, but hard to find and you can’t use the whole wheat version as a substitute without other adjustments or you will end up with a tough baked good.
- All-purpose flour – as the name suggests, this is the flour smack dab in middle of the protein scale and most often called for in all kinds of cakes and breads. If you are going to outfit your pantry, this is where you will start and I recommend unbleached all-purpose. King Arthur Baking Company and some others have slightly more protein than Gold Medal, so if your cakes or cookies are coming out tough, just reduce the flour by a couple of tablespoons.
- Bread flour – the highest protein flour you can easily find in a grocery store and as the name suggests, best for making bread because it has so much protein. Used in a cake and you will have a dense and chewy texture, which is rarely what you want in cake.
Do you ever use almond flour or any non-wheat alternative flours? Yes, I am a big fan of nut flours, also called meal. The nut flour adds both richness and flavor, but is naturally gluten free. Because it has none of the proteins that create gluten, it won’t add any structure to your recipes. In other words you can’t replace it for the other flour called for in a recipe without making other adjustments. I tend to use them in cakes and muffins, where I want a tender crumb and the gluten content tends to be lower anyway.
Is sifting flour essential? I never do unless the recipes insists and gives a compelling reason. Usually when working with cake flour, which tends to clump. I do always whisk the dry ingredients together to make sure they are well combined before adding to a recipe.
How do you convert flour measurements (humidity, etc.) seems like a wide range. Flour really does change from season to season and from one year’s crop to the next. It also changes by brand. It is somewhat of an experiment with each brand of flour. The easiest way to get the most consistency is to use a scale. The way that it packs into a cup is less unpredictable.
My dough seems to always be too wet or too dry. What is the best proportion of flour, fat water? The best way to avoid this is to use a scale when measuring the flour. Unless the author of a recipe says they “scoop & sweep” or “spoon & Sweep” the flour, you could end up with too little or too much and the results are too wet or too dry.