The reason King Arthur Flour is preferred by so many bakers is because of its quality and consistency.
I learned this first as a home baker on a passionate search for the best ingredients to bake the perfect cake. Now I’m deeply committed, after going on a trip with fellow King Arthur Flour employee-owners to one of the birthplaces of our flour – straight into the amber waves of Kansas grain.
On our week-long journey from Kansas City, Missouri, to Denver, Colorado, we met some of the farmers who grow wheat for King Arthur Flour. Bill Mai in Sharon Springs, Kansas, is one of those farmers.
Bill and Kansas State University (KSU) Extension Agent Jeanne Falk took us to a wheat test plot on the Mais' land. These test plots help farmers see the varieties of wheat available to them, and specialists such as Jeanne can give details about the wheat’s characteristics. For instance, for King Arthur Flour, the farmer will want a high grade of wheat that's known for its good baking properties.
John Griffith of Griffith Farms in Hill City, Kansas, shared details of the harvest with us. The wheat must be ripe and dry before harvesting. Normally our visit in mid-June would have been at the height of the harvest; but with an early spring and drought conditions, the harvest took place much earlier than usual, and we missed most of the action.
Luckily for us, there was still some wheat left on the field – so we got a chance to ride in the combine.
Unfortunately the drought has been particularly harsh in Colorado. We saw very short wheat stalks during our visit to Sayles Farm in Seibert. You'll notice the stalks barely reach fellow King Arthur Flour employee Mark Tecca's knees.
I can’t imagine the stress uncontrollable factors such as weather can cause a farmer. If you have the chance to thank a farmer today for their hard work and hardship, please do so.
After the harvest, the wheat journeys to the grain elevator, then to the mill.
We learned more about this during a visit to KSU for a course on milling.
Following the lecture, which was halted several times for questions from the ever-inquisitive King Arthur Flour employees, our aptly named instructor, Chris Miller, took us into a lab, where we did hands-on work with small versions of the equipment found in a mill.
Here Chris is showing KAFers Duncan Giddens, Judy Hurd, and Sue Gray how to grind the wheat into flour.
Next step is to put the flour through the sifter and weigh the now separated components: bran, germ, shorts, red dog, and flour. There are several cycles of grinding, sifting, and separating.
In the KSU mill we were able to see the many pipes that allow this cycling to happen. The miller collects flour from each step in the cycle and tests it to determine ash and protein content. King Arthur Flour has the most precise specifications in the milling industry. Any given type of King Arthur Flour allows a protein and ash variance of only .2%. In order to achieve these results, multiple flour streams may be blended.
We not only got to see the mill process, but we also experienced the heat, the stairs, and the hairnets. It made me very thankful for the air conditioning and comfy seating back at the King Arthur Flour office in Vermont. When you get a chance, thank a miller, too.
By the end of our trip I had a much deeper understanding of the journey flour takes from the field to my pantry, and why each step is important to the quality of the flour. While I haven't been able to share every detail of the trip with you, I hope that you now have a better understanding as well.
The quality of the wheat, the knowledge and hard work of the people involved from farmer, to miller, and everyone in between and beyond, is exceptionally important. King Arthur Flour takes pride in knowing the processes and the people that help us bring our flour to you. Learn more by visiting kingarthurflour.com/ourfarmers.