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In a deeply beige conference room at the Hyatt Regency San Francisco, baker Craig Ponsford, founder of Artisan Bakers in Sonoma, pauses dramatically to survey the remarkably rapt group before him. His audience is members of the International Association of Culinary Professionals (IACP) attending a panel discussion called “The Revolution in Local Grains,” and he’s talking about the ingredients he uses at his two-year-old San Rafael bakery, Ponsford’s Place.
But he could just as well be testifying at an AA meeting, so passionate is his fervor for a new, but actually very old, flour-processing technique. “Now I get energy from what I’m baking, instead of a sugar rush and crash,” he continues, sounding for all the world like he’s talking about that other addictive white powder. The attendees bite into buttery, toasty-tasting shortbread cookies from Ponsford’s homey smidge of a bakery, which has become cultish because it’s open only on Fridays and Saturdays. The room vibrates with a collective mmmmm. From the back, Corby Kummer, the famous food writer for the Atlantic, shouts out, “How much white flour is in this?” Ponsford proudly proclaims it white-flour free. “No way!” exclaims Kummer incredulously, as if he’s just tasted a miracle. And in some ways, maybe he has.