Bake Day at Bonneyville Mill a real grind

Mill manager Courtney Franke shows participants at Bonneyville Mill on Saturday how the Little Elkhart River turns rye grain into flour. 

BRISTOL — Things are simple at Bonneyville Mill.

Water flows through, millstones grind, grain goes in, flour comes out.

That continues almost 200 years after the mill was established in 1832. What is newer are Bake Days, established in 2018, where locals and tourists have a chance to learn about different flours from the mill and how they can be used in baking.

On Saturday, rye flour was the focus of such an event, with about 15 people in attendance. Mill manager Courtney Franke said perhaps the heat was keeping the number low this time, as 40 people had completely filled up the mill at last month’s Bake Day.

Bake Days give adults and children a chance to see the grain and watch how the mill, powered by the Little Elkhart River, turns it into flour.

“And generally I have at least a couple of things made that you can sample our product baked in,” Franke said. 

Saturday that meant visitors could enjoy fresh rye bread and rye chocolate chip cookies.

“I made the cookies to show you how versatile rye is. It can be put in just about anything,” Franke said.

The mill manager explained that the taste many associate with rye actually comes from caraway seeds, which he had put in the bread, but not the cookies.

According to Franke, a good general rule when baking with rye flour is to substitute half the wheat flour that bakers might normally use. Using all rye could make bread denser than what is ideal.

One of the bake day participants was Michele Klota from South Bend, who vouched for the quality of the bread and cookies and wanted to go further than Franke.

“Instead of half white and half rye, I’d be curious to try all rye and see if they get a little bit more rye flavor to them. I’m curious to taste it,” she said.

She and her husband were camping nearby, specifically to be near Bonneyville Mill County Park, she said. When they learned about Bake Day, there was little doubt they would go.

“My husband is a great baker. He loves baking bread, and so I thought this would be something he would enjoy, and myself as well,” Klota said.

The two had visited the mill before, but never during a demonstration. Klota said getting to see how it works was fascinating and educational.

Bonneyville Mill seeks to use local resources, Franke said. That is going particularly well with the rye.

“The rye that we have here is our most local product,” he said.

The organic rye grain comes from a Middlebury farmer. According to Franke, the mill is exploring the option of buying wheat from the same farmer as well.

Bonneyville Mill’s flour can be bought at the mill, but bakers should be aware that it might behave in different ways than flour they buy at the store.

“You might have to add a little more liquid, because it may end up being too dry if you don’t do that,” Franke said.

According to Franke, the Bonneyville flour, which is whole grain, is better for people’s health than what can usually be bought in grocery stores.

“Whole grain has been proven to be better for your digestion, better for your system in general, just a better way to go,” he said.

Follow Rasmus S. Jorgensen on Twitter @ReadRasmus

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