Chicago enjoys an embarrassment of riches when it comes to our celebrated culinary scene. From Emily Nejad to Sarah Grueneberg, we spoke with 10 of the city’s influential food stars to find out what drives them…
Ellen King, Co-owner and Head Baker, Hewn
On why she employs traditional methods and why we need to focus on what is in our food: Not only do breads made from local, stone ground flour taste better, but they are better for you, too. Making bread the old fashioned way means using four ingredients – stone ground flour, water, sourdough starter and salt. Therefore, it is vital to have flour that is fresh and full of flavor.
Throughout history, bread has been a uniting force to bring people together, and it is critical that we support local farmers who grow their grains organically and sustainably. Growing grain this way is not an easy way to make a living, so supporting these local farmers is key to the revitalizing of the grain economy. The less chemicals that go into growing and harvesting grain translates into less chemicals we consume. When you eat a loaf of bread or pastry from wheat that has been recently milled, the taste is impossible to ignore. Most people aren’t aware of how many synthetic inputs are added to grain fields. Chemicals that are used to grow and harvest wheat don’t just disappear when the grain is milled and baked into something. In addition to what happens in the field, a lot of store bought bread has oils, sugars, and additives that are meant to prolong the shelf life of the breads. Not only does the bread lack flavor, it is also not good for us.
A loaf of bread at our store has four ingredients: organic flour, water, sourdough starter and salt. Our pastries all use organic flour, european butter (higher fat percentage), cane sugar, and local eggs. We don’t ever add any oils or stabilizers to our pastries. Honestly, we aren’t making anything revolutionary – we are just relying on flour, butter and eggs to make our pastries. But I think our palettes have forgotten what things should taste like with simple, natural ingredients.
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