Chef News

Marco Bianco of Pizzeria Bianco on Heirloom Wheat and What Makes Great Bread

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By that, he means that though he's been baking bread for 16 years, he just recently has begun to feel like a "real" baker. He's almost entirely self-taught, learning everything he knows from his brother, books, and the Internet. What he learned through trial and error he's now starting to understand scientifically. Most recently, he's into the reappearance of heirloom wheat.

If you're familiar with idea of heirloom tomatoes, then you might already have figured out that heirloom wheat refers to the hundreds of varieties of ancient grains that used to grow around the world. Modern farming has all but gotten rid of these varieties, in favor of two of three different types of wheat that are the most resilient, highest-yielding, or offering the best protein structure.

But farmers all over the country are starting to rediscover local varieties of wheat. In Arizona -- specifically, from the stone mill of Hayden Flour Mills -- Bianco now can get flour made from local White Sonora Wheat.

According to Bianco, Portugese and Spanish missionaries brought it to Arizona; it's one of the oldest surviving wheat varieties in North America. Bianco uses it (well, technically a mixture of the heirloom wheat flour and modern flour, for structure) to make bread and pasta for the Bianco restaurants, bringing a taste of Arizona history into the food.

"We're just a little pizzeria," he says. "But we want to go beyond where the average guy quits."

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Lauren Saria
Contact: Lauren Saria