By Sara Ward
I run a weekly micro bakery from home in Brentford, where locals can order bread, buns, honey and preserves to collect on a Friday afternoon, so 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.
Most people don’t keep flour in that quantity in their kitchen cupboard, but when the lockdown started suddenly everyone wanted to bake.
I’ve been chatting to a miller that I know, the lovely Emily at Wessex Mill in Wantage near Oxford, and she explained why the millers have found it hard to keep up with the demand.
Many of us eat wheat, in some form or another, every day, or even every meal. Toast in the morning, sandwiches for lunch and pizza for supper all rely on millers grinding grain into flour before bakers and chefs can create the convenient food that’s so comforting, and I haven’t even mentioned all the pies, pasta and cake that we love so much.
When you look at the huge volume of shelf space that the supermarkets surrendered to cakes and bakes, biscuits and pasta, then compare it to the small selection of flour they stock, it’s obvious that we would usually much rather pick up something ready to eat than grab an apron and mixing bowl.
So why the shortage of flour? The industry just isn’t geared up to supplying it in small bags. 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.
We’ve started running our bread courses online using Zoom. If you have got flour, please join us, and if you haven’t got flour and would like to join in, I’m sure I could bag you some up for collecting locally.
All new virtual courses can be found on our website.
Sara Ward runs Hen Corner from her home in Brentford
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See also: Flower Market opening 6 September