A field trip to Central Milling’s outpost in Petaluma is always a favorite amongst our pastry students. With a long heritage in farming, milling, and baking, Central Milling supplies some of the country’s best bakers with their premium blends of organic flours and grains.
Today we chat with Nicky Giusto, fourth generation miller and baker, baguette whisperer, Coupe du Monde competitor, and our guest instructor at Central Milling.
What does the day looks like when the students come to visit? What is it you hope they learn and take away from the day?
When the group arrives we talk about the different types of baguettes we will be making, the formulation, the preferments, and dive a little deeper into the flour we are using and how the flour is made. I like to show the little things I look for in each step that contributes to baguettes coming out consistent every time. This includes characteristics of the dough while mixing, gas trapping during bulk fermentation, shaping techniques, and scoring. We tend to work on shaping the most — after all, that tends to be the most exciting part of the process. I hope the class takes away an awareness of the little things that help make a baguette stand out in the crowd. I really enjoy the workshops with San Francisco Cooking School; they always go by too fast.
What makes Central Milling so unique amongst other flour producers/millers?
Central Milling is a bit different from other mills because we are super hands-on in the bakery. We not only know the technical bits about the flour and how it’s made. We know and can show best practice applications so the flavor of the grain becomes the star of the show.
You come from a long line of millers and bakers. Did you always know you’d end up in the family business?
I didn’t. My family wanted me to do something else … to not feel trapped in the family business. Baking and milling is in our blood and I had a hard time ignoring it. So, I caved and I couldn’t be a happier person.
What’s the most gratifying part of your work?
By far the most gratifying part of my job is receiving an exciting call or a letter from someone I’ve helped. I enjoy being a resource for people finding their way to their perfect bread.
What’s the most challenging?
The most challenging part of my work is dealing with not having enough time to devote to a project. It’s frustrating not giving 100% to everything I do.
You are currently training for the Coupe du Monde de la Boulangerie in Paris next February as a member of the Bread Bakers Guild Team USA. Can you tell us about the competition and how you’re preparing for it?
Practice, practice, practice. The competition is rather tough because of the timing during the bake day. I’m constantly working on my schedule and maximizing flavor in a very short period of time. It’s an incredible honor to be a part of the team and will stand out as the greatest achievement in my life.
What advice do you have for aspiring bakers?
Bread is humbling and if you don’t pay close attention to the details you’ll drive yourself nuts. Be 100% present when you’re baking.
Thank you, Nicky, for being such an inspiration to our aspiring bakers! We’ll be following you on your journey to the Coupe de Monde — best of luck to you and Team USA!