Grist and Toll: Where Have You Been All My Life?

grist and toll

About three months ago a friend sent me a great article referencing a gluten free recipe from the ever-delicious Tartine bakery in San Francisco.  Back then I was only baking with gluten free flours; my favorites tending to be almond, brown rice, teff, millet, and sorghum flour, to name a handful.  But after I began my fascination with fermented sourdoughs and my belly went along for the ride (as long as I use my sourdough starter and let any dough rise for several hours, days often in order to lessen the gluten content), I came to discover a little but mighty place called Grist & Toll in Pasadena. They are an urban artisan grain mill, grinding and selling locally grown, mostly organic flour, with the help of their    2500 lb. Austrian mill. I’ve seen it for myself and it is quite a spectacle.  But what is that much more impressive is the flour itself. It is so soft, fine, and flavorful.  I didn’t really understand the depth of truth there is in the differences in flour.  It’s like they have their own heritage; after all, they do come from thriving, living grains.  And they have several different types — here, let me tell you about a few of my favorites…

Sonora, is a soft, white wheat and was perhaps the most popular flour in most of America until the 1950’s, when the advent of hybridization left it in the lurch. It grows taller than most wheat varieties, and thus, is less tackled by weeds and more difficult for pesticides to be sprayed upon…and thus, the reason for its near extinction.  But now, it is being brought back and is better than ever.  There are many organic farmers in Northern California who are helping Sonora make a comeback.  And I am a huge fan! I have made breads, muffins, cookies, and crackers with this soft wheat flour, and they have all left me (and other eaters) speechless! It has a nutty, full quality that leaves you questioning what the heck you have been eating all these years and makes you thank your lucky stars you can have access to this stuff.  Sounds dramatic, but it is oh, so true!

Hard Red,  is a winter wheat that is both local to G & T, and organic. It is fantastic as a stand alone bread flour, and has a sweet taste, smelling like barrels of fresh “hay and warm spices,” as the co-owner of Grist & Toll, the lovely Nan Kohler describes it.  It has a delicate texture and creates bread with plenty of crumb, is full of texture and can be used for all types of baking. I just bought a couple of pounds of it myself this past week and will let you know the details on its behavior in posts to come.

Spelt, is quickly becoming my personal favorite; mainly because it is incredibly low in gluten, but also because it just tastes so incredibly nutritious and good.  And the grain itself has been around for thousands of years. It is a relative to emmer wheat and was popular in Europe for hundreds of years, before it made it way into the spotlight in the US at the end of the 19th century.  In addition to naturally having less gluten, It has a lower glycemic index than most other grains, is easy to grow, and has a higher vitamin and mineral content.  Sign me up!  I made pancakes the other day with G & T’s spelt flour and my own ground oat flour and I could barely believe how incredible they turned out.  You have to experience a freshly ground flour for yourself folks, if you haven’t already.  There is more life in it.  It’s true! You can taste the difference.  Give it a try and let me know if you can taste it too!

I plan on finding out more about the nutritional breakdown of these whole grains in the near future, so stayed tuned! And in the meantime, if you are anywhere near Pasadena, I strongly suggest taking a trip to Grist & Toll and seeing the mill live in the flesh.  It is quite the experience. And on the way out, you can purchase your very own flour, which was just milled nearly hours before your visit! Amazing!

Be sure to check out their website for more info and for upcoming special events:



A little bit of honesty and Fermentation JOY!

A LITTLE NOTE: Lately I have begun telling people about this blog.  Which surprises me.  It hasn’t been easy for me.  I get self-conscious about my writing, I wonder how people will like it, or if I might be judged.  But the last week or so, I have been pushing myself a bit to talk about it. Because I feel like if you have a passion for something and live that passion, then eventually people will catch on; they will ultimately become interested, just because you are.  So — for any of you out there who feel similarly, I can honestly say that I totally empathize with you.  But at the end of the day, it is your voice and your self that will be heard, and that always yields positive results.  So whether it is bread, or art, or medicine, or love, or science, or whatever drives you, I say go for it!

Ok, now that my honesty is on the table, onto the post…

Fermentation JOY!

So many of us with a gluten allergy or sensitivity want to know how it is even possible for us to eat fermented sourdough bread. I mean, how can this be?! Well, take a look at this video to find out more information. It certainly helped me understand the science behind it all. What is most interesting is at the end of the day it really isn’t the gluten at all. It is more about the process by which the bread is made, and the longer the yield time, the less gluten and the more healthy bacterias are created.
Nadine keeps her starter at room temperature, whereas I refrigerate mine. It would be interesting to have a bake-off to see which seems more vital and healthy. As she explains in the video, various different bacterias are formed inside or outside the fridge, but that at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter where you store it.

Another section of the video explains phytic acid and how eating a sourdough bread neutralizes these acids and loads the body up with healthy vitamins and minerals. By eating these breads that have been fermenting for a long time, and that haven’t been leavened with baker’s yeast, the body to more readily willing to digest the good stuff.

Bread Revolution

In a moment, I am going to ask you to close your eyes.  But first, I ask for you to read this.  I have an idea.  What if we started a Bread Revolution.  And in this Revolution, we created a bakery every square mile that made fresh bread/baguettes every single day, 365 days of the year, from 6am to noon.  And then people could eat their four ingredient-based bread (flour, water, yeast, and salt) each day, fresh, without preservatives, just like they like to do in France.

Wouldn’t that be amazing?

Imagine how many people that would employ, how many thousands of miles that would save in shipping costs, how much gas it would save, helping our environment.  Most importantly (in my book), think of how much healthier we would all be, how much more appreciation and gratitude we would have for supporting our neighbors.

I just want you to close your eyes and see it.  See a bakery on your block or around the corner.  See people re-training themselves to become master bakers, perhaps a dream of theirs that they never thought would come true.

And the numbers are there.  It would benefit everyone, and the economy at the same time.  It would reduce waste and produce livelihood.  According to Reuters, Americans throw away half of their food per year, totaling 165 billion dollars lost annually.  If you do the numbers, that breaks down to about $2,000 per household.  Yikes!

So, let us be the change we see in the world! Let’s go back to the old world style of breadmaking.  Close those eyes tight now and just imagine it….and when you are finished, watch this pretty awesome video by Andrew Whitley, an inspiration in the world of Bread making!