Way back yonder, let us say, somewhere in the Darker Ages and earlier, before all the other things that happened, it is said that white flour was coveted by all, and consumed by the few, the rich. Among the ancient Romans, different bread 'qualities' corresponded to social hierarchy. Slaves and the poor ate coarse loaves of mixed grain bread, fabricated out of whole meal stretched with bran.The middle classes got bread made with less-processed wheat flour, often cut with milling waste. The whitest, softest loaves of labour intense sifted wheat flour were reserved for the upper classes. Even if I had invented these facts, we know that there is truth to them in every society, because the history of bread and flour is really a history invention, greed, scientific discovery and survival which pretty much amounts to the history of humankind.
During the Middle Ages, white flour was seen as
being healthier than dark flours. The fact for this benefit was that by processing the flour, the mold and fungus in the grains, which led to several diseases, were eliminated. Processed white flour could be kept for much longer having lost much of the fatty acid of the germ which would quickly oxidize and give that distinctive rancid taste and smell.
Let us move to Canada where it is now mandatory to enrich white flour. Through scientific evidence it was realized that highly processed and industrial overheating of wheat created flour practically devoid of any nutrition. And for most humans, no nutrients equals useless.
"The standard for flour (also known as "white flour", "enriched flour" or "enriched white
flour") in the FDR requires the mandatory addition of thiamin,
riboflavin, niacin, folic acid and iron. The addition of vitamin B6, pantothenic acid, magnesium and calcium is optional.
All white flour sold in Canada for food use, whether for use in further manufacturing or for sale directly to the consumer,
must be enriched. Consequently, all foods sold in Canada that contain white flour must be made with enriched white flour.
The sale of unenriched white flour or its use is not permitted in Canada. The only exception to this requirement is white
flour sold for the production of gluten or starch." Candian Food Inspection Agency.
Let us move to Moulin La Pierre, St-Norbert-d'Arthabaska,Quebec, one of the last privately owned old water mills which is run year round. In operation since 1845, moulin La Pierre reminds me of the many churches a little outside of Rome...where there are less banal tourists, and a little more faith and integrity. The setting is beautiful, but I cared for that less than the WAY they transform their organic wheat and grains.
Rene Simard and Daniele Huberdeau are the 20th owners. They took over in 1996 from LaPierre who decided to retire. Rene was already working in a boulangerie, bought LaPierre's flour which was already certified organic, they knew each other well, and....the rest is...now. They kept the name but added a space to La Pierre.
The method. Ground on Sylex of about 4 feet in diameter, a heavy Siliceous rock with a 100-125 rpm grind which is slower than say granite at maybe 300rpms and the much faster metal rolls of industrial method but by not overheating the grains, the resulting flour retains much of its nutrients. This has always been the case for many artisans and the organic, bio dynamic and the slow food process...time. This kind of common sense backed with a quality product, backed by an inherit respect for others seems to me the values most people seek.
AND we love the taste of their flour in our homemade bread and pastry shells at Renard Artisan Bistro, and love even more the comforting fact that again we have met people who care, not only for their product, but for general well being of the rest of us, and that is something the history of humankind has always had trouble dealing with.