April Flours

A bouquet of cookbooks

Dear bread friends,

What a season we are in! My son and I chased lilacs down the street on a moonlight walk the other night, sniffing tree blossoms until we found the scent that caught him and which I’d forgotten. Is that the magic of spring, that we forget how pretty plants are and how wonderful their perfume is? I know it is more magic too, that idea of potential I wrote about last time, of possibilities.

Beyond the flowers, the baking flours are really giving us beauty now, as ever. What I’m thrilled about is that two new cookbooks dedicated to nonmainstream flour are in the world. Last week, Roxana Jullapat gave us “Mother Grains” and we have been given a beautiful gift this week, Jennifer Lapidus’ cookbook “Southern Ground.” These cookbooks are celebrating the flavor of flour and drawing attention to our capacity to support nondominant grain systems. The flavors of these ingredients will get you in the door, and once you are in the room, enjoying stunning tastes, you can learn about the social and economic benefits of supporting off-grid grains and more sustainable farming practices.

When I learned of Jen and Roxana’s book proposals getting accepted, I was delighted! I had no idea that the two books would arrive so near to each other, but I think the timing is wonderful. After Covid related supply chain shortages and the popularity of home baking introduced so many people to fresh flour last year, the need for information geared specifically to stone ground flour is serious. These books really answer the call for understanding what is going on in the bowl and beyond when you choose alternatives to the standard, and I’m grateful they’re here.

The chocolate chip cookies from “Mother Grains” are now my standard, and I haven’t even gotten beyond rye flour to experiment with all the other flour suggestions. This book’s title is so very fitting. Roxana Jullapat has a wonderful atmosphere, and I was lucky enough to meet her at a soba noodle class with Sonoko Sakai in Los Angeles as I was researching my book. When Roxana saw me struggling with how to approach the dough, she encouraged me with a few words and showed me, with her hands, how to drop my fear. What a beautiful manner she has, and that caring, careful sense is alive in this great book.

Ever since I’ve been curious about flour I’ve known of Jen Lapidus, and her project in North Carolina, Carolina Ground. I went to the Asheville Bread Festival twice and got to see the mill and meet the community of bakers in and around that area. I really fell in love with the energy people gave to fresh milling and baking. These enterprises are so nourishing, not simply in a calorie sense, but representing our imagination and desires for connection. From Tara Jensen’s baking classes to the decidedly feminine bakery OWL, for starts, there are lots of heart-filled approaches to work in the region. (Of course, this is true in general in bakeries of a certain stripe, but there is a wicked concentration of them in this state!)

Yesterday I talked to Jen on Instagram live about the mill, and our conversation is a great introduction to what the heck it means to make a flour mill happen. (Unfortunately, you have an account to view it.) I’ve been making bread and pie and cookies from “Southern Ground” and am totally in love with reading the baker profiles! What wonderful portraits, and really tremendous recipes. The Piedmont Loaf is taking over my steady use of Adrian Hales communal loaf recipe, and my family has fallen for Brennan Bryce’s Swedish gingersnaps. Just as soon as I get enough chocolate, I’m going to make Joe Bowie’s rye brownies!

If it sounds like I’m trying to convince you to get this book, I am! This will take you from field to mill to kitchen and help you understand what is so very different about these very different flours, not just from this particular mill, but from this kind of community-rooted stone milling operation. The story of Carolina Ground is the story of regional milling and the collaborations required to pull this off. This book is about us, flour fans!

I have copies of “Southern Ground” for giveaways to my personal Instagram channel, @flourambassador — but if you are not on Instagram and want to earn a chance to win a copy, please let me know in the comments below & I will enter your name.

Your flour pal,