The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

My visit to Central Milling

ApplePie's picture
ApplePie

My visit to Central Milling

I'm a compulsive baker.  When I'm in a grocery store, sometimes I walk down the baking ingredients aisle, even if I don't need anything, just to look.  Pulling a freshly baked apple pie or loaf of bread from the oven, with its aroma wafting through the house with the promise of deliciousness to come, is one of the most enjoyable experiences in life, in my opinion.


I'm also an engineer who needs to understand how things work.  Baking fascinates me.  The transformation of simple ingredients - flour, water, yeast and salt - into a living piece of dough, and then nourishing loaf of bread that feeds the soul as well as the body is the fascinating intersection of science, the senses, and the spiritual.


Lest anyone think I'm an expert baker, let me assure you I've had plenty of duds:  gloppy underdone pies, bricks for bread, sourdough cinnamon rolls that were so sour they made my mouth pucker - and not in a good way.


So I'm here, and you're probably reading this, because I want to understand and apply the secrets of good baking, one of which is quality ingredients.  Now you can make a decent loaf a bread from store bought flour; I've used King Arthur and Gold Medal Better for Bread in the past.  But in an effort to bake healthier breads, I wanted to find a full-flavored whole wheat flour that wasn't bitter.  That's challenging since whole wheat flour is more perishable due to the oil in the germ.  References from the Fresh Loaf and from Artisan I and Artisan II classes at SFBI point to Central Milling, who produces Whole Foods' 365 Organic Unbleached All Purpose flour.  They also sell unbleached white flour at Costco, under the Central Milling label.


I contacted Nicky Giusto at Central Milling to ask about ordering whole wheat flour directly from the Utah mill.  To my surprise, he said I could swing by Petaluma (in the SF bay area) and buy directly from their warehouse!  I met Nicky yesterday just after he returned from delivering some flour to the Culinary Institute of America in Napa.


Nicky Giusto


Nicky, 4th generation in the flour/baking business, set up and is running this west coast warehouse, which has been in existence for less than a year.  Nicky was very helpful, freely sharing information about the different flours and which ones to use for what you want to bake.  We talked about the business, the wheat market, and the quality of their flour, starting from the seeds they supply to the farmers.


Although the Petaluma warehouse doesn't stock every type of Central Milling flour, they still have quite a selection. This picture shows a depleted supply, deliveries having been made throughout the week.


Central Milling Petaluma warehouse


 


It was good to hear how Central Milling keeps a close connection to the farmers who grow the grain.  In fact, the photo in the Central Milling logo is of Farmer Brown, the great great grandfather of the Washington farmer who now grows grain for their Organic Whole Wheat Acme Hi-Pro Fine flour.


Central Milling logo


And they do sell a lot of flour to Acme:


Flour for Acme


I ended up w/ 2 50lb bags of flour plus a little extra:



  • 50 lbs Organic Whole Wheat Acme Hi-Pro Fine: High protein, especially good for pan breads. Although you can make a 100% whole wheat loaf with it, Nicky suggested mixing it with some white flour, I think for some softness.



  • 50 lbs Artisan Bakers Craft white flour w/ malted barley flour. This bag he threw in for free, since the bag had gotten a tear (which they taped up) and so couldn't be sold commercially.



  • 2 bags of pancake mix, regular buttermilk and whole wheat buttermilk, just to try.  You may notice that the pictures used on these packages of pancake mix are the same pictures to be found on Whole Foods 365 brand of pancake mix.


Central Milling pancake mix


In the future, I'll probably be coordinating with others to split 50 lb bags of flour.


If you are interested in buying flour from the Petaluma warehouse, contact Nicky via phone - his number is shown at the top of the Central Milling products webpage - to arrange your visit.  Although they aren't set up to sell to a high volume of people, Nicky is quite happy to sell to enthusiasts on an occasional basis.  Just be prepared to take your flour in 50 lb increments.  If there's a bag already opened, he is willing to sell a smaller quantity.  Working on the website is on Nicky's To Do list.


I have no affiliation with Central Milling - just an enthusiast looking for quality flour.


-Alison


 

Comments

dmsnyder's picture
dmsnyder

Great information and nice photos!


David

dstroy's picture
dstroy

great post! That wall-of-flour photo almost looks like art! :)

Floydm's picture
Floydm

Great post. 


My sister lives in Petaluma. The next time I'm down there I should check it out.  Do you think I could carry a 50lb. bag of flour on the flight back and count it as my "personal item"?

dmsnyder's picture
dmsnyder

I see two ways this would work: You could get a serious mountaineering pack and carry the flour sack in that. I don't know about fitting it into the overhead compartment.


Alternatively, you could turn the flour into bread and carry that. In general, airlines are fairly permissive regarding carrying food on board. I often carry a large tote bag full of breads when going to visit family.


You might have difficulty convincing the airline personnel 100 loaves of bread was your in-flight snack. Hmmmm ... Maybe if you tell them about your increased caloric requirments due to your tapeworm being hyperthyroid and all.


David

dstroy's picture
dstroy

I've gotten used to Facebook and keep looking for the "like" button for this comment haha

jannrn's picture
jannrn

I swear....yall just crack me up!! Lonnie keeps looking over at me to see what I am laughing at!!! Now....correct me if I'm wrong...but even buying this flour at Costco, it only comes in 50 pound bags? I bake ALOT and have just opened my 2nd 10lb pound bag this week.....but that is ALOT of flour to store!! Anyway, if it is the best, then I am game to try it!!


I too am used to Facebook and would LOVE to click the "Like" button for these comments!!!


Jannrn

ApplePie's picture
ApplePie

If you buy Central Milling flour from their Petaluma warehouse, you will get a 50 lb bag *unless* the flour you want is available in an already opened bag.  In that case, they will be able to scale out a smaller amount of flour for you. 


The Central Milling flour from Costco comes in two 10 lb bags wrapped together in plastic (check for the Central Milling logo - it isn't rebranded). Although it feels like alot if you're used to buying 5 lb bags at least there's only one 10 lb bag open at a time.  The Costco flour is the same type of flour as the Whole Foods 365 organic unbleached all purpose.  It isn't the same as their Artisan Craft flour.


I don't think there's enough flour left to give to you right now (sorry :-( ), but since there are a bunch of us interested, perhaps we can coordinate so the next time someone goes to the warehouse, he/she can notify the rest.


-Alison

farina22's picture
farina22

Hi Alison, I live in Kenwood and would love to share some 50# bags. If you let me know when you (or others) are going to be buying again, I could meet you in Petaluma with my big plastic container. I'd love to support Central Milling. I spoke to Nicky on the phone and he seems like such a good guy.

ApplePie's picture
ApplePie

Farina22,


I still have a bit left even after my Christmas baking, but will need more soon (maybe February?).  I'll let you know before I make another trip.  There are others who also are interested in sharing, so perhaps we can all coordinate.


-Alison

CarlSF's picture
CarlSF

Hi Alison,


I am curious to know how much did you paid for the 50lb bag of Artisan Craft white flour?

ApplePie's picture
ApplePie

Because the bag had gotten ripped (and was taped up) Nicky gave the bag to me for free. He wouldn't be able to sell it.  Check your Fresh Loaf email for a bit more info about prices.


-Alison

joyfulbaker's picture
joyfulbaker

Hi Alison,


I live in Santa Rosa and bake sourdough levain regularly (have been doing so for about 5 years).  I just bought flour in bulk from Community Market in S.R. labeled Giusto's.  It made a real difference in taste.  I am a little confused as to whether this Giusto's flour is actually Central Milling.  The flour I bought was an organic baker's choice (bread) flour.  I would be interested in splitting the Central Milling flour and could easily get to Petaluma.


--Joyful

ApplePie's picture
ApplePie

Joyful,


Although Nicky Giusto runs the Petaluma warehouse for Central Milling, Central Milling and Giusto's are separate companies.


At my bread classes at SFBI, we used both Giusto's and Central Milling flour.  When trying to find a cost effective way to buy whole wheat flour for home, I went to Whole Foods and got Giusto's organic whole wheat flour from the bulk bins (I think it was labelled as a coarse grind).  The first time, the flour was finely milled enough for the bread I was making.  But the second time, it was more coarse.  Still tasted fine, but I wanted a consistently finer flour. I just couldn't find a good local source for Giusto's fine grind whole wheat.


That's why I started pursuing Central Milling, got in touch with Nicky Giusto and was really happy to learn I could buy directly from the warehouse. I figure the only thing fresher than that would be to grind my own wheat berries.


For white bread flour, you might try looking for Central Milling's organic unbleached all purpose flour at Costco, in two 10 lb bags (available in San Jose - don't know about Santa Rosa). I've been pretty happy with it.  But for fresh whole wheat, I'm still planning (very soon) to buy another big bag and split it.


-Alison

joyfulbaker's picture
joyfulbaker

Thanks, Alison, for the information.  I have not recently looked at Costco or Whole Foods for flour and will do so.  I have been getting a "medium coarse" whole wheat at Community Market here, which works well in my basic sourdough recipe (1 oz. rye, 1 oz. coarse whole wheat, 2.5 oz. fine whole wheat, 14.5 oz. bread flour plus the levain--2 oz. starter, 5 oz. bread flour and 5 oz. water).  I formerly bought a coarse whole wheat at Whole Foods, but they stopped carrying it and I made the switch to the lovely little Community Market.  All that being said, I'd be interested in coming to Petaluma if you want to split a big bag of C.M. whole wheat, just so long as I don't have to buy more than 10 lbs.   Keep me in the loop.  I'm a home baker, but I don't sell bread or teach other than periodically for organizations and friends (and currently am offering a month's worth of bread to an auction supporting a local candidate).


--Joyful