Flour Power

Grist & Toll's freshly milled flour is a baker's dream come true

At Grist & Toll–Los Angeles' first artisan grain mill–each bag of flour is labeled with a wry observation:

"This is not your mother's flour, but it very well may have been your great-great-grandmother's."

Based out of a small industrial park in Pasadena, Grist & Toll owners Nan Kohler and Marti Noxon (a well-known TV producer) are spreading the gospel of freshly-milled flour.

At the heart of their operation is a massive customized stone mill, designed in Austria and encased in a shiny layer of pine. Heritage whole grain goes in; aromatic and vibrantly hued flour comes out.

Varieties of flour

The burgeoning retail shop currently offers multiple "landrace" varietals: Hard Winter Wheat ($8 for 2.5 lbs), grown on an organic farm in Santa Ynez, and high-protein Red Fife Wheat ($7.50 for 2.5 lbs) are ideal for supple loaves of bread, while Soft White Sonora ($7.50 for 2.5 lbs), an ancient strain of wheat raised in Arizona, is suited for delicate pastries and fresh pasta.

Milling freshly harvested wheat preserves the grain's natural enzymes, making the final product easier to digest. For Kohler, though, the biggest selling point is the exceptional taste.

"The difference between this [flour] and what you buy in the grocery store is night and day," says Kohler. "The flavor and texture are so amplified, it's unbelievable."

Though Kohler is only just starting the process of expanding her wholesale business to supply area bakeries, she has already found massive support among L.A. Bread Bakers, a community of dedicated home bakers. One of its members, Joseph Abrakjian, even sells his home-baked breads at Grist & Toll on Saturdays. 

Of course, baking it yourself isn't a bad idea either.