Sweet Memories is a new blog series on Good Food where Chloe Chappe talks to local chefs and bakers about the flavors and memories that inspired their food.
This week Chloe interviewed Nan Kohler of Grist & Toll, L.A.’s first urban flour mill.
Nan Kohler opened her flour mill, Grist & Toll at the end of 2013. Now she supplies bakeries and cafés from all around Los Angeles with her hand-milled flours, including local bakery Red Bread.
Kohler mills her grains on a 2,500-pound grain mill shipped from Austria. She is a passionate baker and specializes in flour to share with fellow bakers. Grist & Toll is located at 990 S. Arroyo Parkway, No. 1, Pasadena, CA.
Chloe Chappe: Is there any dish from your childhood or past that you make today that you serve at events or make for your recipe features?
Nan Kohler: Yes, the very first pie I ever baked all by myself is still one of my favorites. Its call Cheese Pie, and I believe it’s an old Pennsylvania Dutch recipe. It is similar to a traditional custard pie, but made with ricotta cheese, which makes it slightly richer and creamier. Served chilled, it is well-suited for just about any season of the year.
CC: Are there any specific smells or ingredients from your past that have influenced your current creations?
NK: For someone who loves to bake, as a child I did not have a tremendous sweet tooth. I was your best friend when eating a bowl of Lucky Charms, because I always gave away all of my marshmallows! I loved anything tart and tangy and I sill do, so I enjoy working with citrus and use it quite regularly to keep flavors bright and interesting.
CC: If you could eat one meal from your past over again, what would that meal be? Why?
NK: For a period of time when I was growing up, there was a small but highly regarded Mediterranean restaurant in Kansas City, MO called Nabil’s. We would go there on special occasions. The food was delicious and definitely exotic for that time and place, so I remember feeling very fancy and in-the-know when we went there. I would love to sit down to one of those meals again.
CC: What advice would you give to bakers about picking the perfect flour?
NK: My advice is to start at the finish: think about what you’d like your baked good to look like and taste like and work backwards from there. You can make something dark, light, nutty, creamy, malty, earthy or ethereal – all based on the flour or combinations of flour you choose. Use your imagination! And, of course, use freshly milled flour; it makes everything taste better.