In Mother Grains (Norton, Apr.), bakery owner Jullapat provides a history of eight grains and recipes using each.
Is all-purpose flour being displaced as the go-to baking flour?
All-purpose flour made us all able to cook and bake. That was a small miracle. If the public embraced the grain movement with so much passion that we started to ostracize white flour, that would be a huge miracle. We would have to adjust to the inconsistencies of whole-grain flours. Then we’d be incorporating a new set of variants: the time of year they were cultivated, how they were milled. There’s definitely an enormous learning curve.
Sorghum. I call it the grain of the future. It’s tough to decode, but it is delicious. Sorghum is high-nutrition, high in fiber, and a shorter plant, so it’s less susceptible to a harsh climate. It’s incredibly historically relevant, too. It is suspected that it came to America from Africa through the slave trade. We’ve barely scratched the surface.
Whole grains get a bad reputation for being heavy. Your response?
What we associate with “whole grain” is the bran-heavy flour we used to buy—wheat that is milled, separated into bran and starch, and then mixed after the fact in ratios that may not be accurate to how it is in the field. The results are very 1970s—macrobiotic and weird. Our flours now are far more sophisticated.
What are the health benefits of mother grains?
I don’t want to sound Californian, but there’s a holistic full-circle situation. You’re eating better, and you’re eating grains that are better for the environment. It’s milled closer to you, so it has less of a footprint. We’re talking about building a different kind of marketplace. There are lots of women working with grains and, since it’s agriculture, a lot of minority people, as well.
You grew up in Costa Rica. What impact did that have on you as a baker?
There’s a great appreciation for things that are good for baking, such as fruits with intense flavor and dairy products. And we are the civilization of corn. Tortillas were as common for breakfast as toast. Costa Ricans and Latin Americans in general have a sweet tooth. Nobody likes candy like my sister or my mom!