Northeast Minneapolis’ Food Building, already home to The Lone Grazer Creamery and Red Table Meat Co., now has another local, food-based operation that more than fits with these cheese and meat producers: It’s Baker’s Field Flour & Bread, a local flour mill and commercial bakery.
Baker’s Field is the result of a collaboration between Steve Horton, a founder, former owner, and baker at Rustica Bakery and Kieran Folliard, a restaurateur and founder of 2 Gingers. Horton is hands-on in the business, working as head miller and baker. He noted that going from baking to milling might seem kind of a reverse direction, but it was a decision rooted in the question, “How do we go back to controlling the sourcing and processing of what we need to bake?”
For Horton, that starts with procuring grains grown in Minnesota, Michigan, and North and South Dakota and milling them into flours — primarily a whole-grain wheat flour and a bread flour — half of which are supplied to restaurants including Restaurant Alma, The Bachelor Farmer, and Spoon and Stable. The rest is used for Baker’s Field’s own breads as well as retail sales. The miller also works with buckwheat, corn, rye, spelt, and oat flours.
“Flour is the first thing that matters in bread,” says Horton, “followed by temperatures and pH levels.” The milling and mixing room is kept at a constant 68 degrees, and Horton describes the resulting flour as “fresh” flour: “Working with fresh flour, it’s a little different than mass-produced flours. You need more water. We had to play with it. And each type of flour has its own personality.” That meant Horton spent considerable time developing sources for his single-origin approach and then working with each flour separately to better understand its properties and flavors. “Most flours remain separate,” he says of the varieties he mills. “Some flours do get blended, but each flour is tested separately first.”
For the breads, all of which are naturally leavened, the flour is milled one day before baking. At a recent tasting, different flours created loaves with wide-ranging textures and flavors, starting with the Filone (an Italian-style baguette) that has a wonderfully crusty exterior, with flavors reminiscent of sourdough, and a light, chewy interior. The Pan bread is a rich, cakey brioche, decadent and tangy. (We have to believe the Pan would make an excellent grilled cheese sandwich.) The Table bread is a good, basic everyday bread, faintly tangy but not off-puttingly so.
On the heavier side, the Hundred bread is a rye loaf that’s dense in heft and texture and full of a sour, tangy, grainy flavor that would serve well in a sandwich or with just cheese or butter. The Seeded bread is, as the name promises, full of seeds. It has a dense texture and would be great toasted for breakfast.
The bakery’s hamburger bun drew moans and raves; it’s light in texture and weight, and yet it has enough heft to hold up to a groan-worthy-sized burger, with an airiness when you bite into it and the faintest sweetness. (Twin Cities restaurants that serve burgers, here’s a tip: Get in touch with Horton about these buns.) The bagels are a joy: With their thick golden-brown crusts and chewy interiors, they toast beautifully and are sized for hearty appetites.
While Baker’s Field does not currently have a retail operation at the Food Building, it does sell its products (breads, bagels, and flours) at the Mill City Farmers Market and the Northeast Minneapolis Farmers Market. Horton and Folliard are also in talks with co-ops across the Twin Cities. They have bread on the shelves at the Eastside Food Co-op, and starting today, their breads will be available at the Seward Co-op. Suggested retail prices run about $4-$7 per loaf.
Baker’s Field Flour & Bread, 1401 Marshall St NE, #120, Minneapolis, MN; 612.545.5555. No retail at this location, but products for sale at locations including the Mill City and Northeast farmers markets, and the Eastside and Seward co-ops