Milling Saskatchewan grain | Couple enjoys personal contact with suppliers of wheat, rye and spelt
Fresh from the field takes on a whole new meaning at this Saskatoon bakery.
Bryn Rawlyk and his wife, Beth Côté, have been milling their own flour and producing artisan breads and pastries at the Night Oven Bakery since it opened in March.
The couple learned their skills by baking and working in kitchens and restaurants across Canada.
They learned about milling by talking to other millers and then jumping in, giving it a go themselves.
Rawlyk said they wanted to open the bakery-mill because he had the skills and because Saskatoon is right in the middle of farm land. It would be easy to design his operation to match his passion for producing food from local, wholesome ingredients.
“You drive 20 minutes in any direction from Saskatoon and you’re in the middle of a field. And so we should really focus on what we have around us,” said Rawlyk.
Talking to bakers in other cities, they heard that it was hard to get grain straight from a farmer.
Rawlyk wanted to know what was going in his flour and be able to control it.
The couple is also interested in organic and older grains — wheat varieties such as Red Fife and ancient grains such as spelt — which made having their own mill a must.
“Not all flours are the same, from a baker’s perspective,” he said.
“So, being able to control that product was important to me, and then also it was just exciting to call up farmers and use grain that’s from right here.”
The bakery mills grain purchased from farmers from within a two hour radius of Saskatoon.
They mill wheat, rye and spelt in their small stone mill, which is located in the bakery. There is also a larger mill, but they have not yet finished building all the parts.
Rawlyk buys his spelt from Joanie and Norman Bromm of Tisdale, Sask.
“We’re incredibly fortunate that I could call up 10 farmers and be like, ‘hey, could I get some grain,’ and they be like, ‘oh sure,’ ” Rawlyk said.
Joanie Bromm said they supplied Rawlyk with spelt to try before the bakery opened, and he wanted to continue the partnership after the opening.
Bromm said she and Norman are happy to supply the Saskatoon bakery because the more people who have the chance to try spelt, the better.
Bromm wants people to know about spelt so they can inform those who have gluten sensitivities that this might be an option for them.
Rawlyk said it took almost a year to fix up the warehouse in which the bakery is located. Rawlyk did most of the work in the bakery and on the brick and stone oven himself.
“We built this all kind of ourselves based on, ‘it’s an old idea, but figuring it out as we go,’ because there’s no school to ‘this is how you build a nine foot brick oven,’ ” he said.
“You know, you just have to figure it out.”
The bakery starts the fire in its brick oven at three in the morning each day.
Baking at night was part of the reason behind the name of the business, but a book their three children enjoy called In The Night Kitchen by Maurice Sendak also encouraged the name.
Rawlyk said he mills flour twice a week, but it doesn’t take long to mill more if it’s needed.
He said milling their own flour saves money, but for him it was more of an ideological motivation linked to his interest in whole grains, organic and local food.
Building a wood fire bakery and milling their own flour was a complicated business model to explain to investors, he added, which is why he and his wife took on the task alone.
The couple also buys 90 percent of their other ingredients from local suppliers.
Rawlyk said they are hustling to keep up to the demand, which they had not expected.
They hope to add sandwiches and soups in the future, as well as finish the larger mill and add a sifter so they can start milling their own white flour.