You might say Community Grains has a now-typical California restaurant-to-home-kitchen story, one most often recounted whenever Nancy Silverton, Campanile and La Brea Bakery wind up in the same sentence. The small Woodland-based mill also sprang up earlier this year from a yeasty need. Only here, Oakland's Oliveto restaurant co-owner Bob Klein wanted to get to the heart of the California grain issue, so to speak.
Community Grains has just released a handful of whole wheat pastas and also offers stone-ground "semolina" (Semolina is technically a processed flour that results from removing the bran and germ from durum wheat; This "semolina" includes all of the bran, germ, endosperm; More on those later). But the crux of the business is focused on four stone ground whole-grain flours, all made from small batch grain grown in California. Community Grains defines "whole grain" as the grain in its entirety - 100% of the germ, bran, and endosperm found in the grain, meaning those three components are not separated at any point during the milling process.
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We are particularly enamored by the company's hard red winter wheat flour, also known on the baking streets as "bread flour" or "high-gluten flour" (a full-flavored, high-gluten wheat favored by bread bakers). The flavor is incredibly nutty compared to other commercially available bread flours that we have tried, and yet it has none of the harshness of some commercial whole wheat flours. This flour turns out a loaf of bread that truly deserves a really great olive oil splurge, or at least a stellar bread baking guide like Peter Reinhart's Artisan Breads Every Day.
As for the company, per the website their goal is to bring small-batch grain growing -- and baking -- back to California in less than 40 years, a refreshingly long-term approach in today's impatient Tweet scene. We'll bake to that.
Community Grains Hard Red Winter Wheat Flour is currently only available locally at Surfas in Culver City. The grains are already available at Whole Foods in Northern California, so pester your local specialty grocer to do the same.