Beyond the Grain: Sustainable Bakeries and the Bread Renaissance

Beyond the Grain: Sustainable Bakeries and the Bread Renaissance

This Earth Day, we’ve rounded up three pioneer bakeries that are changing the grain-game with local, sustainable, and high-quality ingredients. From hybrid ancient wheats to spent brewery grains, each golden loaf embodies the optimal healthfulness for humans and the environment. We are reminded by this baking community that small changes can make big impacts to keep our world healthy for this generation and the next. This is baking that your Mother Earth would be proud of.

Publican Quality Bread, Chicago, IL

Head Baker Greg Wade of Republican Quality Bread, Chicago, IL

In 2017 and 2018, head baker Greg Wade was nominated for the James Beard Award for Outstanding Baker; in 2019, he won. It’s the highest honor to be nominated once, let alone three years in a row and then to win. But Greg is not your average baker doing average things. He is extraordinary in his field as well as other, more literal fields. With an inherent passion for bread-baking, Greg is leading a renaissance in grain agriculture. By working closely with Spence Farm, Greg utilizes ancient grains like Einkorn and a hybrid of Turkey Red, Worthog, and Red Fife wheat. He is one to follow. Learn more about Greg’s goals by watching the documentary Sustainable (2017)—a film about the land, the people who work it, and what must be done to sustain it for future generations.

Instagram: @publicanqualitybread

Field & Fire Bakery and Café, Grand Rapids, MI

Field & Fire Bakery and Café, Grand Rapids, MI

Field & Fire burns with passion for fermentation, food, and farming. The bakery’s perfectly crusty sourdough breads undergo a lengthy proofing period, fermenting happily for up to three days. It’s worth the wait. This enhances the nutrient capacity, builds flavor, and allows the grains to become more digestible, ultimately leading to a healthier and extra-flavorful loaf. Did we mention that all the base ingredients are organically grown? Many of their grains and flours are sourced in Michigan within a 15-mile radius, nurturing a relationship with organic farming and keeping dollars in the community. The whole-grain wheat, rye, spelt, barley, and corn are all processed with a small-batch stone mill in house, which is something you don’t often find. Since 2013, this bakery has been a leader in sustainable bread-baking, narrowing the gap between field to fire.

Instagram: @fieldandfire

Demeter’s Kitchen, Denton, TX

Catie Cohen of Demeter’s Kitchen, Denton, TX

Catie Cohen wants to provide her community with locally inspired, whole-grain-focused breads that showcase local Texas-area growers, makers, and creators. Her sourdough bread is expertly crafted with whole grains and an extra-special ingredient—spent grains from Denton’s finest brewers. What exactly are spent grains? Malted grains, mainly barley and wheat, enter into the brewing process at a stage called mashing. The grains are gently crushed and steeped in hot water to extract the sugars needed for brewing beer. However, once the extraction process is over, the leftover spent grains need to find another use or else they’ll get tossed. This is where Catie comes in, making the high-fiber, flavorful, and nutritious brewing by-product into a porridge and adding it to her doughs to create artisanal loaves with a unique texture, flavor, and story.

Instagram: @demeterskitchen

Want to learn more? Check out our past feature: Farmer, Miller, Baker: The Innovators Behind the Heritage Grain Movement.

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