Bakers Journal

Wine flour bread

March 20, 2009
By Brian Hartz

You may be familiar with the Bible story about Jesus turning water into
wine, but a winemaker in Niagara is taking the next step and turning
wine into bread.

Richard Crossman, Stephen Lukawski and Joseph Pohorly with a sample of wine-flour breads.


You may be familiar with the Bible story about Jesus turning water into wine, but a winemaker in Niagara is taking the next step and turning wine into bread.

Nothing goes better with a freshly baked baguette and block of brie than a nice, smooth Chardonnay or Cabernet Sauvignon, but what becomes of the thousands of tons of pomace – grape skins and seeds – that are discarded during the winemaking process? Is this material just thrown out or composted?


Far from it. Dr. Joseph Pohorly, founder of Joseph’s Estate Wines and Joseph’s Natural Products in Niagara-on-the-Lake, has found several uses for these byproducts, and one of them stands to significantly affect the baking industry.

Pohorly, who is also the president of Vintage Flour Niagara, has begun milling grape skins and seeds into flour for use in breads, rolls, pretzel-style snacks and pizza crusts. He started researching the “wine flour,” as he calls it, in 1998, but didn’t get serious with it until 2004, when he earned the Christopher Newton Award for Extraordinary Vision in Business, awarded to the Niagara-on-the-Lake Businessperson of the Year.

Around that time, another Ontarian, Mark Walpole of Vinifera for Life, began to find success with wine-flour bread products, as reported in Bakers Journal’s December 2006 cover story.
Pohorly doesn’t seem to mind the competition. He and his son-in-law, Stephen Lukawski, vice-president of marketing and sales for Joseph’s Natural Products, are collaborating with Richard Crossman of Artisano Bakery Café on perfecting grape-skin flour formulations for
commercial bakery products.

In late January, the trio, along with Caroline Pohorly, Joseph’s daughter and executive vice-president of Joseph’s Estate Wines, unveiled their range of products, inviting Bakers Journal to the winery to sample the goods. Available for tasting were loaves and baguettes of sun-dried chili pepper, three-cheese and whole-grain grape-skin flour bread, as well as four different kinds of pizza – prosciutto Portobello, very veggie, Philly steak and cheese, and meat lover’s – made with multigrain grape-skin flour crust.

Joseph Pohorly has been in the winemaking business since the early 1970s, but he has balanced his commercial success with a healthy appetite for scientific research, earning a PhD in Environmental Engineering Management from Columbus University in the United States in 2002. He also is no stranger to introducing new, healthful products made from pomace: Dr. Joseph’s All Natural Cold Pressed Grape Seed Oil, which debuted in 2003, continues to be a strong seller and earn high praise for its ability to combat ailments such as hypertension, arthritis, varicose veins and high cholesterol.

“The flour is still in the experimental phase, but we progressed a lot with it in 2008 and now in 2009 you see what we’ve got here. Doing these new projects is really exciting, and best of all, it keeps me young,” Pohorly says with a smile.

Crossman clearly shares the excitement and enthusiasm, saying he and his head pizza maker at Artisano have “gone nuts” with the grape-skin flour.

“I got a phone call from Stephen saying we’ve got this new product and we’d like you to try it. I said sure, I’m game, and we came up with all these different pizza and bread recipes. We will also be looking at using Joseph’s flour in pastas and muffins.” Lukawski says grape-skin flour cereals and granola bars are also on the horizon.

Crossman says the grape-skin flour usually comprises only about five to six per cent of the formulation, and no more than 10 per cent, but its presence produces a hearty purple colour in addition to providing a multitude of beneficial nutrients including resveratrol, a super antioxidant, as well as Vitamin A, potassium, calcium, iron and healthful fatty acids omega-3 and -6.

“The grape flour is gluten-free, so if you put too much in it will affect the binding – you have to combine it with another flour to produce the necessary structure,” Crossman says.
“I’ve found that six per cent wine flour combined with a strong baker’s flour works well for the breads and pizza crusts. Joseph has been selling the wine flour to the public for a while now and we have heard of people not being able to bind the wine flour to their own flour – if the protein content of your flour is too low it won’t work because there’s no gluten at all in the wine flour.”

Crossman says although the wine flour brings many benefits to baked goods, more testing is needed to determine the full range of qualities it will bring to the commercial baker.

“We will be incorporating some of these items into the menu at Artisano over the next couple of months,” he says. “We don’t yet know how it will extend shelf life; however, there is a slight difference in texture and the crumb is very nice. When it comes out of the oven, it just exudes aroma, a wonderful grape smell. I used overnight fermentation for a higher rise in the dough and development of flavour, and as you can see you get a little more open crumb and spongy texture.”

Sounds like a vintage worth savouring. / BJ

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