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September 10, 2012

Grazing at King Arthur Flour's Airy New Digs

Ace_outsideIf you're the kind of person who loses all sense of time and self control whenever you visit King Arthur Flour, you might want to carefully plan your next visit. As in, set both a monetary and caloric budget and tell a friend where you're going, lest you get lost.

A few weeks ago, the baking giant unveiled the fruits of its yearlong, $10-million expansion. Though the building sprawls along the same hillside it's occupied for years, it feels like an entirely different place. And the complex looks like a wood-and-steel mothership. Which it is, of course, for thousands of bakers all over the world.

CafeThe iconic King Arthur throne is still inside, but it's dwarfed by interior improvements: huge windows that let visitors watch the baking in action; a larger, airy, polished retail space, with a Warholesque wall of flour; and most enticing of all (for me, at least), the new café, a roomy space filled with wooden tables and inviting leather chairs, plus a massive stone patio.

On a visit earlier this week, I tucked into an intense espresso tart and mulled which of the myriad pastries and breads to take home — a peanut-butter-and-marshmallow sandwich? A raspberry-topped cheesecake, or creamy Napoleon? In the end, I grabbed two chocolate-dipped macaroons and some 100-percent-Vermont-grains bread, a rich and nutty loaf that inspires instant bread lust. (You have to catch it on the right day, though; it's baked Tuesday and Friday). It was too hot of a day to stock up from the refrigerator, whose shelves are piled with sausages, bean salads, cheeses, pre-made sandwiches, sourdough starter, cultured butter...

CheesecakeAs bakers well know, KAF's retail store can be like crack. Wandering its nooks, you can convice yourself that you absolutely need some Vietnamese cinnamon, panettone papers, and flour especially milled for "mellow" pastry, as well as a cupcake corer and baker's special dry milk. As much as I tried to stick to photo taking and avoid dollar spending, it was futile to resist a bag of feathery hazelnut flour. (I fried some flounder in it later that night; recipe below.)

KAF's official grand opening begins September 21, with a weekend of bread giveaways, demos from Gesine Bullock-Prado and Dede Wilson, and lots of fattening free samples. Are you brave enough?

Hazenut-Lemon Flounder
this quick and easy recipe serves 2

6 small or 4 large flounder filets (about 3/4 pound)
2 eggs
1 cup King Arthur Flour Hazelnut Flour
1 tbsp. lemon zest
punch each of sea salt, black pepper and dried oregano
2 tbsp. butter and  1 tbsp. oil, for frying 

Rinse and pat dry fish filets. Crack eggs into a bowl and whip. In another bowl, add hazelnut flour, spices, herbs and lemon zest, and blend with hands. Put a fry pan on medium-high heat, and bring butter and oil to a froth. Coat each filet in egg, then roll in flour mixture and carefully lay in pan. Cook until golden brown, about 2-3 minutes each side. Plate, spritz with lemon, and serve. 

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