Archive for June, 2008


The Southern Biscuit is in Trouble – White Lily Flour Moving North

John sent me a link to this article in the New York Times. Actually, he just put the URL in the subject line, no message in the body. I had to figure out that he meant for me to copy and paste the URL into my browser, but since he hardly EVER sends personal e-mail messages from work (he is quite the company man), I knew it had to be important.

And it sho ’nuff is! White Lily is leaving it’s home for the last 125 years, a plant in Knoxville, TN, and moving to two plants in the midwest. The problem isn’t that it won’t be made in the same plant (though the notion of “place” is of great importance to southerners), they are using a different process! Is that “New Coke” I smell?

A blind test by two bakers, who were sent bags of the old and new product marked only A and B, underscored Ms. Corriher’s concern.

Zoellyn Smith, who worked in both quality control and research and development at the Knoxville plant, accurately identified the new product before she began to bake. Sample A, the new product, had “a grayish color” and made a “dense and chewy” cake, while Sample B, the old, made for silky, rather than stiff, dough and a “light and airy” cake.

“When I looked at just the flour I thought that Sample B was milled in Knoxville,” she said. “After performing the bakes there was no doubt.”

But it did not take a specialist in food technology and plant sciences to guess right. Ms. Hilton, the amateur baker, said, “There wasn’t a big difference, but I could tell the difference.” Even her family knew which batch was made with flour milled in the Midwest. “The biscuits came out just a little more dense, and the texture wasn’t quite as smooth.”

Told of the results, Ms. Badertscher said, “White Lily flour continues to be made from the same quality ingredients and processes as when it was produced in Tennessee.”

Keep saying it and you might start believing it, Ms. Badertscher, but bakers are a picky bunch.

This could be very bad. I called my mom at work today and told her to buy every bag she could find, asap, but she said for the last few weeks she’s had a hard time finding it on the shelves. Hey, M. Night Shyamalan, this is what you should be making movies about!

If any of my Arkansas readers are tuning in, I’ll happily pay for bags you find still milled in TN (should say on the package) and pick them up on my next trip home (sometime later this summer).