Back to the Grindstone

The toasty, yeasty scent of bread baking catapults me right back to my grandmother’s kitchen. There, as a child, I’d stand on a step and help her twist dough into a braided loaf or shape fist sized dinner rolls.  These days I find baking bread, actually, baking anything, to be as relaxing as it is rewarding. The ancient practice of turning flour, water, yeast and salt and sugar into something delicious is pure magic and far easier than most books might have one believe. I’ve realized lately the most important factor in making bread, or any baked good, is the one most often ignored. Flour.

It wasn’t until I experienced freshly milled flour from Baker’s Field that I understood the difference good flour makes in the flavor and texture of my home baked goods. Milled in Minneapolis with a grindstone,  Baker’s Field’s whole wheat flours are loaded with nutrients and all of the flavor.

Just as important, Baker’s Field sources heritage variety of wheat from local farmers, grown for flavor and baking qualities. Just opening a bag of Bakers Field’s flour releases a lovely toasty wheaty scent. Because it’s freshly ground and delivered to the Co-op right away, the flour is a little moister and so softer than most commercial products. What’s more each bag is printed with the name of the wheat variety and date it was milled.

The bread dough I make with Baker’s Field’s Elgin Wheat, is distinctively supple and easy to handle. When I knead this dough, it becomes pliable, elastic and  “as soft as a baby’s bottom”.  And when that shaped, risen loaf goes into the oven, it springs to life, lifting quickly, and responding to the heat immediately. The finished loaves have a sturdy crust and lovely, light but toothy interior.

I didn’t realize that flour has flavor until I baked up my grandmother’s recipe for her shortbread-pear bars. The nutty flavor of wheat shines and the bars emerge from the oven, tender and moist, perfectly matched to the lush pears and spicy ginger. No longer do I think of flour as a staple, a cheap commodity; the variety of the wheat and freshness make a huge impact on taste and performance.

Wheat is grown on more acreage than any other commercial crop in the world and continues to be the most important grain source for humans, more so than rice, maize and potatoes. Given its flavor, its role in our diets and its place in our history, heritage wheat flour is worth my attention; the proof is in good bread.

Pear-Ginger Shortbread Bars

Pear Bars | Heritage Flour

Beth Dooley

Makes about 24 to 32 bars

These are rich and moist, great with coffee.


1 cup unsalted butter, softened

1 cup packed dark brown sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 large egg yolk

2 cups whole grain Baker’s Field Flour

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 cup fresh pear slices, about 1/4 –inch x 1-inch

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. In a large bowl, beat together the butter, brown sugar, vanilla and egg yolk. Work in the flour and salt. Press the dough into an ungreased 13 x 9-inch baking pan. Arrange the pear slices on top and scatter the crystallized ginger overall.

Bake until the crust is lightly browned and firm, about 25 to 30 minutes. Cool in the pan on a wire rack then cut while still warm.