Blog

Baker seeds change with better bread

March 7, 2017

Hewn Bread’s Ellen King leads revival of locally grown heritage grains

When she opened Hewn Bread in Evanston, Ill., in 2013, Ellen King set out to make better bread the way Midwestern bakers did a century ago: hand-forged artisanal loaves made with seasonal ingredients sourced from small, local farmers.

But in the process of trying to source only the best ingredients for her bakery, King has grown into a leader in the growing movement to revive heritage wheat varieties, types of wheat that were grown throughout the U.S. before grain began to be hybridized for maximum yield and resistance to pests and diseases, a shift that starting around the 1940s.

“For me, as a baker, I like working with different varieties,” said King, who is a classically trained chef with a passion for — and a master’s degree in — history. “The varieties have more diversity, are healthier for consumers, and sustainable for the environment.”

On any given day, Hewn turns out 300 to 500 hand-formed loaves made from 100-percent organic ingredients, naturally fermented without any preservatives, chemicals or additives and baked in a German oven with a stone hearth and steam injection designed to create the ideal crust.

Currently, about 15 to 20 percent of the grains being used at Hewn are heritage varieties. Whether heritage or not, 75 percent of all wheat used at Hewn is certified organic; the rest comes from farms using organic practices that are either too small to certify or are working toward becoming certified.

Among the heritage wheat varieties King is experimenting with are Turkey Red and Orleans for breads, and White Sonora for pastries.

King describes bread made with Turkey Red, for example, as “heartier and earthier” with a good amount of protein and less gluten than the more traditional mass-produced loaves.

She said her customers notice and prefer the “silkier taste, gentler taste” of bread made from the Orleans. The White Sonora has small yellow flecks that give a mild corn taste to the flour, which works well with pastries.

King also believes heritage grains are less likely to impact people with gluten sensitivity.

In gluten-sensitive circles, a growing number of people say they are able to eat foods made with heritage wheats without experiencing their typical symptoms.

But accessing grains like these hasn’t been easy.

King had originally hoped to source most of her flour locally, but she couldn’t find enough local famers growing organic, or find the heritage varieties that were once so prevalent in the region. Instead she has had to scour the country for farmers willing to grow organically or to do the painstaking work of cultivating near-extinct varieties.

Like a starter that is fed and maintained daily, King’s diligence to the cause has cultivated a culture of farmers, millers and distributors, both local and across the country, that now produce organic and heritage grains for Hewn.

“I believe it’s an obligation as a baker to be deeply concerned about how things are grown,” said King. “I’m in this because I’m passionate about it and I believe things should change about how we grow and buy our grain.”

King is indeed effecting change, however small, in the grain industry.

Most recently she began a partnership with Andy Hazzard of Hazzard Free Farm in Pecatonica, Ill., which was already providing some wheat for Hewn, to cultivate and rebuild the seed stock of Marquis, a now-rare variety of wheat that was grown throughout the Midwest in the early 1900s.

King and Hazzard started in 2015 planting just a few pounds of seed, then harvested that for more seed, then planted again and harvested that for even more seed. If all goes well, King said this spring’s plantings will yield 3,000 pounds of seed that can then be shared with other farmers willing to grow it. Then King can have some of the wheat milled into flour before transforming it into loaves.

“To bring this to the masses we need to grow local,” said King. “I’m working from the ground up.”

Hewn’s better bread also has benefits for local restaurants.

In addition to selling her loaves from the retail location, Hewn supplies bread to 31 local restaurants in Chicago and the surrounding suburbs.

“Restaurants that work with us have a passion for the ingredients they are cooking,” said King. “[It’s] restaurants that want a unique experience, and our bread is unique.”

As more unique varieties of wheat become more widely available, Kings said restaurants could find a bakery to partner with that can produce different flavors that could become the restaurant’s signature flour.

“That is one way restaurants can really support farmers and set themselves apart,” added King.

Trend watchers and food pundits are predicting heritage varieties will be the next big trend. But King doesn’t see it that way.

“I like to think this isn’t a trend. Bread has been with us. It’s the river that connects all of us,” she said. “I don’t think it’s going to take over, but I think it’s going to be enough of a movement to be impactful. It’s going to complement the wheat industry, also going to [make us] think about mass industrialization and why we have gluten sensitivity.”

Read the original article on Restaurant Hospitality »

Comments are closed.

Find Us

Address

810 Dempster St. Evanston, IL 60202
Directions

Phone

847-869-HEWN(4396)

Current Job Openings:

We are hiring an Assistant Pastry Chef.

Click here for a full description of the position.

We are hiring additional baristas.  Please email your cover letter and resume to julie@hewnbread.com

Wholesale Inquiries: Email julie@hewnbread.com

Sign up for our Newsletter

Hours

Monday Closed
Tuesday – Friday 7:00am – 5:00pm
Saturday – Sunday 8:00am – 1:00pm


Limited Supply

Hewn will close early if we sell-out of breads and pastries. Customers can reserve bread and/or pastry items by calling ahead at 847-869-HEWN(4396). We cannot accept reservations left on our answering machine.  All reserved bread must be picked up by 12 pm on Saturdays and Sundays.

Looking to purchase a Hewn gift card? Click here.

Looking for a donation for your charitable event?

Download our donation form, fill it out and email it back to Hewn.

Latest Hewn News


08/02/2017

FEAST ON THE FARM WITH A BAKER, BREWER, CHEF AND FARMER

Join us at the 2nd Annual Feast on the Farm taking place Saturday, August 5. Combining the crafts of a farmer, a baker, a brewer and a chef, guests will be treated to a one of a kind, educational experience. Guests will meet at Hewn Bakery in Evanston and travel via coach bus to Hazzard […]

07/16/2017

Croissants Gone Wild: 9 Creative Twists From Lobster Benedict to Fruity Pebbles

Chicagoans are living in the golden age of croissants. As if the buttery, flaky pastries weren’t rich enough, they’re now being elevated to new levels at restaurants, cafes and bakeries all over the city, as pastry chefs infuse unique textures and flavors into all the nooks and crannies. From baklava-inspired versions to nostalgic varieties flavored […]

Chefs’ Picks: Kid Friendly Food: Chicago

Chefs may have a reputation for being choosy when it comes to dining out, but it seems the pickiest palates actually belong to their children. Luckily in a city like Chicago, there are plenty of places that cater to those tiniest of food critics. Read on to find out where the pros go to score […]

07/12/2017

Sell-out crowd raises funds for Evanston work programs

More than 350 persons—officially a sell-out—graced the grounds of the Charles Gates Dawes mansion Sunday for the third annual Taste of Evanston, sponsored by the Rotary Club of Evanston Lighthouse, to raise funds for three employment-oriented community programs. The afternoon program featured food and beverages provided by some 30 local restaurants, breweries, and wine shops, […]


Blog archive >>


Hewn on Instagram



Love this pic of Anton and Sam celebrating Anton's birthday while showing support of their… https://t.co/wvL21sjKss

07:58 AM Sep 24

#Turnovers are back! Come and get them before they are gone! #infatuationchi #chicagofoodgirlhttps://t.co/L8RNY65eMP

08:44 AM Sep 15

Folding in our seeds for the whole wheat seeded bread that will be baked tomorrow morning!… https://t.co/wMBYYlZ6yT

08:40 AM Sep 14

Hewn is a proud member of: Evanston Chamber of Commerce