Sunrise Flour Mill’s Search for Better Flour
Based in Marty and Darrold Glanville’s home, Sunrise Flour Mill is located forty-five minutes north of the Twin Cities. Their home has been expanded to accommodate their office, testing kitchen, and spaces for teaching and baking. There is no real separation between the flour operation and their lives.
Their home is shared with pizza ovens in the backyard, a countertop proof box, and a baker’s table in the school area. Their friendly, middle-aged Golden Retriever roams, and his presence reminds you that all spaces are one. Flour and baking are who the Glanville’s are, and their space reflects that oneness.
At his core, Darrold is a baker and bakers are the scientists of the cooking world. They experiment, they observe, and they taste. They have patience and aren’t foiled by one under proofed or over-baked loaf.
In the quest to be the best baker possible, Darrold naturally wanted to use the best flour he could find. It turns out that in order to find the flour he wanted, he had to make it himself. One of the reasons Sunrise was born.
After using Sunrise Flour for several months, exploring their website, and learning about the Glanville’s story, I asked to sit down with them. Instead of a formal interview, Marty suggested I join one of their bread baking classes.
It’s clear from the beginning of your time with the Glanville’s that they are serious about what they’re doing. They have studied, learned, and grown their network to find out as much as possible about wheat, flour, and baking.
History of Milling and Flour
Flour mills started Minneapolis. If you live here you cannot miss the influence of the industry that built this city. The ruins from the mills in downtown sit right beside the Mississippi River that powered them. A few of the big companies that started milling in Minneapolis, including General Mills, are still here.
In the mid-1800s massive technological advances helped increase flour production. The changes mostly had to do with how the wheat was processed and ground.
A wheat berry is the part of the wheat plant used for whole grain flour. It’s made up of three parts: the germ, endosperm, and bran. The bran is the outside protective shell of the berry and a primary source of fiber, the endosperm provides food for the germ and the germ is where most of the vitamins and minerals in the plant are held.
When milling began all parts of the wheat berry were used for flour. This flour is what we would consider true whole wheat flour, where 100 percent of the wheat berry is used to make it.
As demand for flour increased, developments were made to the grinding process that separated the bran and the germ from the endosperm. The endosperm is what white flour is made of today. By taking the germ, which contains trace amounts of fat out of the flour, the flour’s shelf life increased.
Flour milled in this way could travel around the world without spoiling. As shelf life increased and spoilage decreased, the mills also worked on creating uniformity of taste and appearance.
What some would call progress, but there was a problem. The problem was sickness. Sickness caused by vitamin and fiber deficiency, because this new method of milling took out all the vitamins in the germ and the fiber in the bran, that millions of people had consumed to keep them healthy.
All of a sudden those vitamins and fiber were gone and the population had health problems. So instead of looking at milling processes and figuring out how to make flour with the germ and bran still in it, in 1940 the government stepped in and told the millers to enrich the flour. They added back (enriched) laboratory created, synthetic B vitamins and fiber and to replace the germ and bran, to create what most of us use today and what most baked products are made of – enriched, all-purpose white flour.
The problem with enriching is simple to understand. Instead of using every part of the wheat berry to benefit from its natural minerals and fiber, synthetic chemicals are used instead. Yes, those chemicals solved some health issues (that wouldn’t have happened if the wheat berry was left intact) and extended shelf life so flour companies ultimately could sell their products around the globe. But like most things we have found out about food, when it is left in its most simple form, without a lot of processing and additives, it not only tastes better but it is better for your body too. Flour is no exception to this understanding.
Going Whole Grain
This unadulterated, whole grain flour is what Sunrise Flour Mill creates. And while using and producing the best, organic, not artificially enriched, stone ground flour is extremely important to Darrold and Marty, the bread it produces and the art of baking are equally important. As Darrold says “If you apply the right energy and use some sound judgment you will be rewarded. There is great satisfaction from baking a good loaf of bread.”
Darrold and Marty want you to bake. They want you to set aside time once a week to bake bread. They want you to understand that almost all of the bread you buy has stuff in it that your body doesn’t like or need. They want you to find the satisfaction of feeding yourself and your family with the best food you possibly can, starting with good bread.
Throughout my time at Sunrise, Darrold explained sourdough starters, conventional yeast, stone milling versus roller milling, weighing, food marketing, and a whole bunch of very convincing evidence about the health effects of enriched flour and the huge gluten-free movement. You can read more about this on their website.
Darrold made us pizzas in his impressive, handmade wood-fired pizza oven with light snow falling all around. He has perfected heat control and pizza making like a good pizzaiolo in Italy. The chewy crust, thicker than Neapolitan style was the perfect vehicle for San Marzano tomatoes and whole milk mozzarella.
The pizzas are made with very few ingredients, this simplicity allowing the goodness of the ingredients and the perfect crust to be the stars. We ate the pizza right out of the oven, family-style, with a glass of wine. They were also nice enough to share some recipes as a part of the class, including this Sourdough Bread recipe.
That pizza crust and my experience at Sunrise Flour Mill with the Glanville’s remains in my mind and has inspired homemade pizzas and weekly baking in my own kitchen. No special equipment needed just really good flour, time on the calendar, and a strong desire to feed my family the best food I can, starting with bread.
You can buy flour from Sunrise online or at many co-ops in the Twin Cities and around Minnesota.