Our Talk with Paul Lebeau of Wolfgang Mock’s Mockmills
“Make what you eat today different than what you ate yesterday. Because, why not?!” Of all the benefits of home milling that our guest speaker Paul Lebeau, Managing Director of Wolfgang Mock’s Mockmills, posed to us, this one really resonated. So much so, that I knocked on the table, a German custom when someone makes a good point that Paul encouraged us to take part in during his talk. Eating, baking, and cooking with a sense of adventure sounded inspiring to me. Aside from all the information coming at us about health and environmental considerations, food should be fun and it should taste really good. Bakehouse co-owner Amy Emberling agrees, “That’s mainly what brought all of us at the bakery into the professional food world, after all, we want to make delicious food and enjoy the process of learning while we create it. If a new approach doesn’t serve these desires, it won’t last with practitioners.” The food that simply keeps us all alive can also nourish our spirit.
On an icy February night, a room full of milling-curious home bakers, BAKE! class fans, and Zingerman’s Bakehouse staff—including bread and pastry bakers, millers, writers, and retail shop staffers—all gathered over a love of learning and baking. Paul presented the history of grain milling, its crucial role in civilization, the compelling reasons to bring fresh milling back to bakeries and homes, and all the positive benefits we can reap from that.
At Zingerman’s, we are always seeking out the history of where our food came from, and mills have a long and complex story to tell. Here’s a mini version: A method for grinding grain was an early tool humankind invented, manually passing a handheld stone over grain kernels on a stone slab. Throughout history, people have put a lot of energy into developing new milling technology. Stone mills powered by people, animals, wind, and water allowed milling to become the first industrialized household activity. Fast forward to the creation of industrial roller mills in the late 1800s, and we saw 24,000 stone mills eliminated in the U.S. in just 10 years because of this faster, more efficient technology.
The change over to centralized milling caused us to lose touch with whole grain kernels and the entire milling process. Grains came into the home as flour, and very white flour at that, with the introduction of roller mills. The new heavily processed flour won people over with its easy accessibility, shelf stability, and attractive appearance. Little did Americans know that consuming nothing but white bread, with most of the nutrition sifted away, was causing malnutrition, which led to diseases like pellagra. This nutritional deficiency prompted the switch to enriched flour, which had the backing of the U.S. government.
Today, we can turn back the industrial clock and return to eating more whole grains (in tandem with those scrumptious pastries and breads we love that still benefit from some level of white flour), mill flour in our local bakeries (like we are beginning to do here), and also in our home kitchens. In Paul’s words, “You can take back the privilege of milling your own grain.”
Mockmill manufactures tabletop mills designed for consumers to mill grains at home. Paul went on to present five compelling reasons why we should be milling our own flour:
1. Good for you—know what you’re eating and gain more nutrients
2. You’re in charge—you decide what grain, where it was grown, and how fine or coarse to mill it
3. Flavor—fresher always means it tastes better
4. Our living culture—grains have been a part of us since prehistoric hunters and gatherers and it takes a community to plan, produce and process the harvest
5. Adventure—discovering the variety of foods that can be milled and enjoyed is full of tasty possibilities
After his presentation, Paul passed around samples of bread he had baked that day with Hazim, one of our bakers and millers. They guided us through the tasting, proudly sharing what they had created together, from milling the flours, to mixing and fermenting the doughs, and shaping the loaves. “Break it open. Smell it. Give it a taste. Let it work on you,” Paul offered with a warm grin.
He’s dubbed the recipe “Paul’s 75+ Sourdough Whole Food Sandwich Loaf.” Yes, that’s more than a mouthful in more ways than one. He uses the same recipe with 75% freshly milled whole wheat flour, water, salt, and sourdough starter, but the 25% can be just about any other milled grain, legume, or even dried fruits and vegetables. Using the same formula and subbing out one ingredient is a very scientific approach, a constant and variable model, no doubt due to Paul’s first career in medical testing and biotech startups. We enjoyed his tasty experiments when we tasted two loaves, and the only difference between them was 25% freshly milled malted barley flour in one loaf and 25% freshly milled red lentil flour in the other. There was a marked difference in texture between the two loaves. The malted barley-wheat sourdough had a more tender texture with a rich nutty flavor. The red lentil-wheat sourdough was chewier and had an earthy, almost vegetal and spicy flavor. Both were delicious in their own way. And that red lentil bread certainly checks off that box of eating with adventure in mind!
By Sara Hudson
Zingerman’s Bakehouse Marketing Manager
-Purchase a Mockmill here in our shop
Sara grew up in metro Detroit making her own birthday cakes and dreaming of a career in baking. At age 17 her path began with the Schoolcraft College Culinary Arts program, and at 18 she got her first job in the field right here in the pastry kitchen of Zingerman's Bakehouse. That work evolved over a couple of decades to include baking, customer service, cooking, project management, copywriting, and much more. She even helped to create BAKE! and this blog! Today, Sara leads the creative team at Zingerman's Service Network, supporting the blogs, websites, copywriting, packaging, and other marketing for Zingerman's Community of Businesses. Sara remains a die-hard fan of Pecan Pie, Pavlova, Paris Brest, Patti Pockets, and other desserts that start with 'P.'