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It’s been nearly impossible to find flour, let alone organic flour, in Denver metro grocery stores as of late, echoing a national trend: During the last week of March, national sales of flour were up 155 percent and sales of baking yeast were up 457 percent. Even at the end of April, Trader Joe’s was enforcing a single five-pound bag limit on customers and instant yeast was scarce, due to a shortage of yeast nationally. All of this suggests a fact backed up by Instagram accounts everywhere: People are baking more bread than ever.
In response, there are myriad virtual baking tutorials online to help you master the skill. Grain Home School, a series from the nonprofit Colorado Grain Chain (CGC), stands out for its emphasis on whole, ancient, and heritage grains and for spotlighting experts that grow and bake with them. On select Wednesdays at 11 a.m., different grain gurus are leading hour-long discussions with host Dan Woldvogel, membership coordinator for the Rocky Mountain Farmers Union.
Prior to the pandemic, the CGC, which connect businesses and people who make up the local grain economy, had plans for a summer road show, during which the organization would partner with Colorado chefs and food producers to further education and outreach throughout the state. Come coronavirus, however, the CGC pivoted to hold a weekly Zoom series, drawing from its membership list of industry pros with wide-ranging areas of expertise.
“We were initially going to make it a members-only program,” says Andy Clark, CGC chair and baker and owner of Louisville’s Moxie Bread Co. “But it seemed obvious that now is the time to share knowledge, so we’ve made the series available to everybody for free.”
Members get priority on each session’s 100 spots (the $40 annual membership fee also comes with a five-pound sack of grain, the option to rent a Mockmill to mill grain at home, and an incredible Rolodex of consumers, producers, and marketers in the grain world). Non-members can opt to join the CGC’s mailing list to be alerted about upcoming classes, or can watch them retroactively via Andy Clark’s YouTube channel.
Past seminars include Heirloom Wheat Sourdough 101 with the Grain Lady herself, Mona Esposito; Gluten-Free Baking with Jake Rosenberger of Kim & Jake Cakes; and Growing Turkey Red Wheat with biodynamic Kansas farmers Demetria and Bryce Stephens. Clark says that more global and local celebrities are on the docket, too, including Audrey Sherman of Audrey Jane’s Pizza Garage in Boulder. Next week’s episode, airing May 20, will feature Apollonia Poilâne, who runs Poilâne in Paris—one of the world’s most renowned sourdough bakeries.
“Excitement is really high, so we’re just going to keep going,” says Clark, noting that there’s no predetermined end date for the Grain Home School. Especially now, the offering seems essential. “Among all of the pain and all of the suffering, the silver lining of this pandemic is that people are starting to spend time with one another,” says Clark. “They’re connecting with their local farmers and learning how to cook, garden, and bake bread again.”
Where to Purchase Local Flours and Grains
Aspen Moon Farm (Longmont)
Grains currently for sale include White Sonora flour, White Sonora berries, Blue Emmer berries, Blue Emmer flour, Turkey Red Winter Wheat berries, and Turkey Red Winter wheat flour.
Black Cat Farm (Boulder)
Flour freshly milled from Black Cat Farm’s organic wheat is available for pick up in Boulder or at the Black Cat Farm Stand on Jay Road for $6 a pound.
Dry Storage (Boulder)
Freshly-milled flours on offer include five-pound bags of Functional (a mix of Rouge de Bordeaux and White Sonora grain grown in Colorado), pastry (organic Colorado White Sonora mixed with an organic all-purpose), whole wheat (organic Colorado Yecora Rojo wheat flour), and rye. Sourdough starters and dry active yeast, as well as one-pound bags of organic heirloom grain bran, and Colorado quinoa and corn polenta are also for sale. Additionally, pantry items are also available at sister restaurants Basta and the Wolf’s Tailor (see below).
The Mill Site (Boulder)
In addition to breads and other baked treats, three-pound bags of Turkey Red T-65 flour, baker’s yeast, instant dry yeast, and free sourdough starters are available.
Moxie Bread Co. (Louisville)
Sister bakery to the Mill Site, Moxie is offering baker’s yeast, instant dry yeast, free sourdough starter, and Tibetan hull-less barley, as well as three-pound bags of Turkey Red T-65 flour and whole wheat flour.
The Wolf’s Tailor (Denver)
In addition to a limited menu of prepared dishes, chef Kelly Whitaker’s Japanese-Italian restaurant is offering larder items for pick-up, including house-made pastas and one-pound bags of Colorado corn polenta, as well as five-pound bags of Dry Storage’s Functional, pastry, whole wheat, and rye flours.