A few years ago, Tom Edwards’ efforts were channeled into opening MozzaPi, a Neapolitan-style wood-fired pizzeria in the Highlands. You also may even have eaten some of those pizzas from his mobile wood-fired pizza truck at local events.
Long story short, that brick-and-mortar plan crumbled, but the truck still caters private events, and Edwards still teaches artisan baking classes in the city. Oh, and MozzaPi is back on the board, only it will take shape next year in Anchorage (more on that below).
Today, however, his focus is, literally, more granular. With the help of his sister, Lori Himmelsbach, Edwards is focused on Louismill, a grain-milling and baking operation catering to consumers and chefs. But despite its micro-mill status, Edwards believes it can have a macro impact by creating enough demand to lead farmers to grow the specific organic grains he wants.
“There’s no shortage of farmers who say they’d like to do that, but they have to have sufficient demand to commit to setting aside the necessary acreage to grow enough and then make a profit from it,” Edwards said. Achieving that critical mass isn’t far off, he added. “We’re small, but we’re growing steadily.”
His customers include a mix of local restaurants and consumers who buy Louismill’s grits and flour online and at three pickup points where Edwards’ bread-share customers get their weekly allotments.
Yes, bread shares, much like CSA customers pay for a weekly share of vegetables during the growing season, Louismill offers an 18-week program that costs $126 and provides customers a loaf weighing about a pound and a half each week. (For reference, a loaf of store-bought sliced bread weighs about a pound and one-quarter.)
Sound pricey? All I can base my opinion on is what I’ve tasted, and Edwards’ bread is extraordinary. He mills his own grain, makes his immediately afterward using sourdough fermentation and bakes those loaves in a 900-degree wood-fired oven.
His wheat loaves are soft, chewy and aromatic like nothing I’ve ever smelled. The bread doesn’t need help from butter, peanut butter or olive oil either (though I’m far from opposed to that); it’s outstanding on its own.
Edwards credits that texture firstly to the organic Heritage Turkey Red wheat he sources from Berea College’s student farm, and secondly to milling it and taking it straight to the mixer. That lack of shelf time yields flour that still contains active enzymes that promote natural leavening and aid in digestion. By the time we use our store-bought flour at home, much of that’s gone.
“A seed is designed to give life, and when it’s ground and gets wet, chemical reactions happen,” Edwards said. Grinding grain and baking it quickly afterward produces loaves that rise better and are far more flavorful, Edwards said. “When you don’t put it on the shelf somewhere forever, it maintains enzymes that create chemical reactions that naturally convert that grain into food.”
And when they’re subjected to sourdough fermentation, those products are more easily digested.
“Long fermentation converts the complex sugars in flour into simple sugars, which is like pre-digesting those starches for you,” he said.
So what types of loaves can bread-share customers expect? Favorites so far include his smoked rye bread, a walnut country loaf, a rosemary loaf and an olive loaf.
“Sometimes we’ll mix our corn product in to make a polenta loaf, and we’ve done English muffins also,” Edwards said. “A lot of loaves are just seasonal, and I like to be kind of whimsical and artistic as I go along.”
He caps the bread share at 100 customers partly because his goal isn’t to have a wholesale baking operation. The bread share is used to market Louismill’s milled grain sales to restaurant chefs and home cooks.
“That’s the point, to create demand for farmers,” he said.
The share starts Jan. 8 and will feature three pickup points: the future site of MozzaPi restaurant in Anchorage, (12102 LaGrange Road), the Highlands Rainbow Blossom (3046 Bardstown Road), and in Norton Commons at Cale & Cole (9428 Norton Commons Blvd. #101). If interested, click here to join.
And about MozzaPi, the future brick-and-mortar pizzeria. Expect that to open as early as Derby Week. Edwards, a self-taught wood-worker who built his family’s last two homes, “will be pretty involved, very hands on” in the pizzeria’s construction. The structure will be all brick and resemble an old train engine house.
“I love old firehouses, and I want that artistic flair to be in the design,” said Edwards, whose own woodwork is as extraordinary as his bread. “It’ll have four sets of doors 13 feet wide and 18 feet tall, and we’ll be able to open them all the way. I think it’ll be beautiful.”