I’m still recovering from the factoid barrage that is a baking class with Craig Ponsford. It felt like my brain had been tossed into the spiral mixer along with the hazelnut bread, danishes, English muffins, chocolate croissants, challah and pretzels doughs he showed us how to make in one action packed day. In between mixing and shaping Ponsford told us his theories about the wheat allergies that everyone seems to have.
What’s sets Ponsford apart from most other bakers is his commitment to the health of his customers. You will find no white flour at his Northern California bakery Ponsford’s Place. All of the breads and pastries he showed us how to make were made with whole wheat flour. While he does use some white sugar, he uses it very sparingly.
Like most bakers he’s in a difficult position in our anti-gluten era. While acknowledging gluten sensitivities, Ponsford believes the problem is more complex and that the solution may be in looking at older forms of wheat as well as the way wheat is milled and baked. The “whole wheat” breads one finds at the supermarket are made with flour that has had most of the best parts of the wheat kernel removed. Millers then throw in vitamins to make up what they’ve taken out. The flours Ponsford works with are what are called high-extraction–they contain most or all of the parts of the kernel. Ponsford claims that many people who have wheat allergies have been able to eat his baked goods due to the use of whole wheat flours.
Ponsford, through his bakery and his classes for amateur bakers, is showing how tasty baked goods can be that are made from real whole wheat flour. But it’s tricky. High extraction whole wheat flours are a lot less uniform than white flours. And they suck up a lot of water when you use them for making bread.
As the co-founder of the Los Angeles Bread Bakers I get the gluten sensitivity question a lot which is why I’m interested in hearing from readers. Do you have a wheat or gluten allergy? Have you tried whole wheat breads? Fermented breads? Have they worked for you? Leave a comment . . .