Freshly milled flour might not sound sexy, but Brodflour, a downtown Toronto flour mill, bakery and sandwich shop that opened at the tail-end of 2018 quickly turned into a hotspot with staying power. Thick slices of Brodflour’s tangy and perfectly chewy sourdough ($6) topped with butter and deep-red Saskatoon berry jam are all over Instagram (but the shop’s sweet and spicy cardamom buns, aptly named Cardi Bs, should really get the glory). All the baked goods are made with flour milled right in store—visitors can watch the milling process as they eat (and photograph) their food.
Brodflour is one of many small-scale mills popping up across Canada offering an alternative to mass produced grocery store flour. But what’s all the fuss about?
What is fresh, stone-milled flour and how does it taste?
“Fresh-milled flour from a stone mill is just like fresh-cracked pepper. It has more flavour to it,” says Melissa McKeown, who owns 1847 Stone Milling in Fergus, Ont. Think of it as flour milled the old-fashioned way. The process grinds the entire grain (including the oil-and-nutrient-filled germ and bran), which some say makes stone-milled flour more nutritious compared to the commercially produced stuff (which is ground into flour after the hard bran and germ is removed).
At 1847, McKeown and her team don’t bleach their flour. Conventionally, bleaching can be done slowly and naturally through oxidization (typically the type of flour marked as “unbleached” at the supermarket) or quickly with chemicals. Bleaching not only contributes to a lighter flour (in both colour and flavour) but it also helps with gluten development. This means supermarket flour creates stretchy, malleable dough and batters that yield breads and baked good with a high rise. With many fresh flours, your bread won’t rise to such great heights (but it might be tastier!). If rise is an issue, 1847 recommends adding one teaspoon of vital wheat gluten per cup of freshly milled flour.
What can I make with fresh flour?
Fresh flour has a denser texture and a darker colour than the all-purpose flour you might be used to, but you can bake with it just like you would the all-purpose stuff from the bright yellow bags. Like conventional flour, which comes in multiple varieties (think: bread flour, all-purpose and pastry), millers make fresh flour for all sorts of baking projects—from cupcakes to sourdough bread. Your toast and treats might taste a little different because fresh flour isn’t quite as neutral as the all-purpose stuff (fresh flour is slightly sweeter and nuttier), so play around and experiment.
How long does fresh flour last?
Fresh flour usually contains the naturally occurring oils found in wheat, which makes it less shelf-stable than all-purpose flour. At Brodflour, the in-store bakers use their fresh flour within 24 hours, but they recommend customers store its 1 kilogram to-go zip-top bags in the fridge and use it within a week.
McKeown says 1847 flour will stay fresh on your shelf for about six months. After that, she says to chuck it in the freezer and it’ll last for over a year.
If you’re unsure about how to store your flour, ask when you buy it! But many small mills advise you to keep it your fridge or freezer. You’ll know your flour has gone bad if it smells and tastes stale or rancid.
Where can I find fresh flour?
1847 Stone Milling (Fergus, Ont.)
This mill is all about sustainability, using solar panels to offset the electricity required to power it. Buy 1847 at the farm, at select retail locations around southern Ontario, or try it in the Spirit of York Distillery’s red fife vodka.
Arva Flour Mill (Arva, Ont.)
Buy flour on site or online from this mill that’s been in continuous operation since 1819! It’s among the oldest mills in North America.
K2 Milling (Beeton, Ont.)
Along with wheat, K2 mills all sorts of grains (including rice, quinoa and lentils).
Morningstar Mill* (St. Catharines, Ont.)
This mill is owned by the city of St. Catharines and acts as a historic site to show visitors how flour was made back in the 1800s using a natural water source. Tours (and flour!) are available from Victoria Day until just after Thanksgiving. *Temporarily closed due to Covid-19.
True Grain (B.C.)
Find three locations of this British Columbia-based bakery and mill (in Courtenay, Cochiwan Bay and Summerland). Only non-hybridized, heritage grains get milled and the flour’s used to make treats like bread, pretzels, croissants and cookies. You can also buy True Grain’s flour online.
Flourist (Vancouver, B.C.)
Flourist opened its Vancouver mill and bakery in 2019 (though it’s temporarily closed at the moment). If you’re not into baking, you can try treats made with Flourist Flour at a variety of bakeries and restaurants in B.C. (as well as one each in Alberta and Ontario).
Speerville Flour Mill (Speerville, N.B.)
This mill sells stone-ground flour made from locally grown grains. Some products are available in big grocery stores, including Sobeys.