Carolina Ground — Maker Meet
Maker Meet: Conversations with area experts on their craft.
I’m going on the second year of using Carolina Ground flour in my baking business, Bossy Baker. Carolina Ground produces flour from organic local North Carolina wheat that they cold stone mill to produce an amazing flour that shines in my pastries. Read more about what distinguishes Carolina Ground flour and makes it superior here.
When I started this blog and committed to eating more locally, I picked up a few varieties of Carolina Ground flour I hadn’t tried from the French Broad Food Co-op and started experimenting. This flour is so far superior to any national brand flours that there is no comparison. Simply the best.
Jennifer Lapidus, the founder, kindly allowed me to interview her on my last trip to pick up flour from the Asheville, NC mill.
Jeannie Hall: What drew you to start your bakery? What made you get into these specific areas of food?
Jennifer Lapidus: I was drawn to baking — the specific type of baking that I did, which was an Old World, Flemish, naturally leavened bread called Desem — because I felt that the bread that was available (in the early 1990s) was just a shadow of its former self… bread had a history — this staff of Life.. but in its present form, it was not a life giving food. I felt moved to revive this craft in baking— whole grain natural leavened breads. I needed a mill to create the desem culture (leavening) because there was no access to fresh flour in the early 1990s. SO I milled all of my whole grain flours in-house. And I baked the bread in a wood-fired brick oven because I saw this as the most authentic approach to reviving this Old World bread (and it was A LOT more affordable than a steam injected multi deck french oven : )
JH: And that lead you to start the mill?
JL: I started the mill because it needed to happen… for my bakery, the most important pieces to me were the desem culture (or natural leavening), the stone burr grist mill, and the wood-fired oven. The farmer was not part of the equation. My grains were grown in Minnesota — 1000 miles from where I was baking my bread. Bread wheats were not grown in this part of the country. BUT Dr David Marshall from the USDA-ARS began a breeding program in 2002 and by 2008 we had some regionally adapted bread wheat varieties (old school breeding, no gmo grain) and I felt like someone needed to step in and organize the bakeries to become a formidable voice so that these seed varieties were not swept up by big Ag and corporate bakeries.. I wanted access for small to medium sized bakeries.. so I reached out the the USDA and started the conversation that eventually led to Carolina Ground…
JH: Do you have a dream or goal of where you see Carolina Ground going? Or something you want more people to know?
JL: I want people to know that by supporting our mill and other regional milling endeavors, they are supporting the rebuilding of a sustainable food system. Before we were doing this, most bakers in the South were completely disconnected from who grew their wheat. Even if they got their flour from a local mill, that grain was usually grown 1000 miles away. We grow more soft wheat in NC than any other souther state, though a goodly amount of that wheat is exported overseas and/or goes to the feed market. Mills like Carolina Ground create a market for our growers that sets them apart. And our growers are certified organic so it is a niche within a niche.. and other growers can witness this- and hopefully begin to see the benefit of organic and food-grade markets for southern grains...
JH: What are you most proud of with the business, or where has your flour gone that makes you proud?
JL: What am I most proud of? Hmmmm.. my millers work really hard (Lydia and Scott) and I am proud of their commitment to consistency and quality. I am proud of the bakers that have helped us make this mill possible.
Here is a little tour of the mill I got as I left with my flour:
JL: This is the mill. Two stones sit horizontally. The upper stone is the runner stone— the one that spins— and the bottom stone is the bed stone. Above the mill is a surge bin. We move grain into the hopper via a pneumatic system that pulls grain from those white one-ton totes into the surge bin, past magnets, into the hopper.
JL: This is the bolter— that is the sifting machine. The cone is the cyclone that pulls the flour from the mill to the bolter.
I picked up my bags of flour from the orders of flour for bakeries that the mill serves before I left the mill.
Looking at all this flour is always kind of a Charlie in the Chocolate Factory experience for this baker. So much goodness in one place!
I hope you try some amazing Carolina Ground flour or find a mill closer to you! Supporting local makers (and using their amazing products) gives us a role in changing the food in our nation.