I’ve been chatting to a miller that I know, the lovely Emily at Wessex Mill in Wantage near Oxford, and she explained what’s been happening to all the flour recently.
Many of us eat wheat, in some form or another, every day, or even every meal. Our toast in the morning, sandwiches for lunch and pizza for supper all rely on millers grinding grain before bakers and chefs can transform the fine powder into the convenient food that’s so comforting, and I haven’t even mentioned all the pies, pasta and cake that we love so much as well.
Whether we buy our bread from the baker’s, the deli or the supermarket, someone has had their fingers in a really big sack of flour to work the dough into something so good. Most of us rely on the experienced professionals to take the lead in this magical transformation and, when you look at the huge volume of shelf space that the supermarkets surrender to cakes and bakes, biscuits and pasta, then compare it to the small selection of flour that they stock, it’s obvious that we would usually pick up something ready to eat than grab an apron and the mixing bowl.
Back in March, along with most of the nation, we took stock of what food we had in the house and what we could grow in the garden.
We were more than thankful for our regular toilet paper delivery, we subscribe to Who Gives A Crap?, and decided to put a big order in at the mill to keep us in flour.
As I run a weekly micro bakery from home, where locals can order bread, buns, honey and preserves to collect on a Friday afternoon, I’m used to buying flour in 25kg sacks, and if I’m stocking a few different varieties, it’s not uncommon for me to have 100kg in the house.
So why the shortage of flour?
As we’ve seen, people usually choose to buy ready made baked goods and the supermarkets order in, and allow shelf space, for the usual levels of flour that is bought by its customers, this year, the entire nation has had to change how it feeds itself overnight, no restaurants, no pub dining rooms and new protocols when we shop is making it all slightly more inconvenient, and tempting us to try and bake it ourselves…
So the challenge is found, not with a shortage of food or more mouths to feed. The mills, factories and food producers are working round the clock, adapting to work safely and feed as many people as possible, whilst the delivery drivers are doing a sterling job.
The challenge with buying flour is quite simply around bag size.
It’s much easier for mills to fill big sacks of flour for customers ordering in bulk, this is where their main sales are and it’s a system that’s worked well for decades. The small bags for sale via shops are just that, small bags. Even with increased demand, the mill can only fill so many per hour and as we all hope things will go back to normal, investing in expensive new packaging equipment for a short term challenge, isn’t cost effective. So for now, we can either take the plug and order a big sack or hold out until the backlog of orders have been fulfilled and flour is available for all again.
A few mills are doing their best to get flour out to households, check out Matthews Cotswold Flour and a home baking package with Doves Farm Organic Flour Box.
If you are struggling to get hold of yeast, I’m buying this from eBay and am very pleased with it.
‘Thanks so much Sara! Really enjoyed this morning…trying desperately hard to let them cool before tucking in!!’Kara – Virtual Course Guest
‘What a great morning and my results were a triumph.’Guthrie – Virtual Course Guest
If you have got some flour, we’ve started running our bread courses online using Zoom and they’ve been really popular – with guests booking in for further sessions. We’ve also now developed a Sourdough Stages Course, and within minutes of it being published, guests were booking in – We’d love you to join us!
- We’re sad to say that our beloved Pekin Bantam, Nandos, passed away in the nest box… She was a real favourite and even made it to the front page of a magazine
- The allotment, Plot Nine, is coming along nicely – we’ve got trees, bees and dirty knees from digging up the brambles to plant up the veg beds
- I was delighted to be interviewed by radio presenter Josh Carter for his Good News podcasts, I’ve been tipped off that it’s coming soon…
Jobs for the week:
- Print out some new labels for this year’s Elderflower Cordial
- Bottle up some Spring honey – especially good for hayfever
- Plant a new lavender hedge to feed our beloved bees
Have a good week yourself, enjoy the sushine