Baker & Miller Summit
A Visit to Ground Up flour in Holyoke, MA
While we had one whole-grain skeptic (who shall remain anonymous here) and for whom we still hold out hope that they will see the light, I was so happy to read the responses to my query on Monday asking everyone to share their experience and passion for whole grain, local/regional, and fresh-milled flour baking. It’s clearly a set of subjects that is near and dear to many of us here, myself included, and confirmation that the time is right to bring you more recipes and content along those lines.
In related news: Last month I spent a wonderful couple of days visiting Ground Up Flour at their brand-new, spacious facility in Holyoke, MA. Ground Up is my “local” mill—while it is in the western part of my state and I live in the east, it’s just a few hours away, in an area I tend to travel to or through often—and is the source of nearly all of my non-commodity flours and grains.
Ground Up’s Andrea Stanley invited me, my graniac pal Jess Wagoner, and her cool friend and Appleton Farm bakery colleague Kami Turgeon to come out to the mill to talk shop with her staff, many of whom, despite being expert millers, have limited experience using the flours they mill. The idea was to have bakers—two pros and one home baker (me)—talk about how we utilize their flours, and give them a quick primer on bread baking with whole grain and high-extraction flours. And also for the three of us to get a better sense of the work they do as millers on our behalf.
Ground Up owns two New American Stonemills 48-inch mills1. While we were there we also got to do some milling of our own. Ground Up is considering offering a cocoa-based “chocolate” flour, and we got to help mill and blend three possible ratios, a portion of each we got to take home to evaluate in our own recipes. (I used mine in that choco-cherry sourdough so many of you have made recently.) While I’ve been to many bakeries that use New American mills and have spent a bunch of time at New American itself, this was the first time I got to actually play with one. And it was loads of fun. I have neither the need nor the space for a mill like that, but I can’t say I didn’t fantasize just a little about having one someday, somewhere.
Big as it is, Ground Up is actually something of a side project for Andrea and her partner Christian. Their main gig is Valley Malt, one of the first artisan malt houses in the U.S., and the supplier of more than 350 tons of malt each year to the brewing industry. Once it is fully up and running, the Holyoke facility will produce around 10 thousand pounds of flour and as much as 30 thousand pounds of malt per week. (Those two brand-new silos can hold around a million pounds of grain in total.) And milling and malting is just the tip of the possible iceberg for their cavernous new space; the Stanleys hope to someday also build out classrooms, a community center, a biergarten, and maybe even a bakery.
While we were in town, Jess, Kami, and I took a trip to Hungry Ghost Bread, in Northampton, MA, one of Ground Up’s customers, and one of the best bakeries in the area. (I’ll share images from our behind-the-scenes visit there on another day.) Naturally, we brought loads of bread back to the mill to share and talk over with the millers.
In all, it was a wonderful, bread-filled few days, just the sort of thing we bread bakers live for. I returned home with a trunk full of flour and grains and a head full of new ideas for what to do with them. Thank you, Andrea, can’t wait until next time!