The King Arthur Flour Company: The 4 in 1 Baker’s Resource
There are an abundance of schools, supply stores, bakeries/cafes, and on-line resources dedicated to baking throughout the United States but there is only one place that combines all four: The King Arthur Flour Company. Located in Norwich, Vermont, a small town in central-eastern Vermont close to the New Hampshire border – the King Arthur store, bakery, cafe, and education center are easily accessible by car from the following major cities/towns:
- Boston, MA: 130 miles
- Springfield, MA: 125 miles
- Albany, NY: 140 miles
- Warrensburg, NY: 110 miles
- Concord, NH: 70 miles
- Rutland, VT: 50 miles
The King Arthur Flour Company was established more than 200 years ago in Boston as an importer of flour from Great Britain. Once the United States began growing wheat in abundance, the company changed from an importing business to a manufacturer and distributer of high quality flour and can now claim to be the oldest flour company in America. In 1984, King Arthur Flour relocated to Norwich, Vermont and focused their distribution on the northeast. Within a decade, the company expanded their distribution nationally and by 1992, the company opened “The Baker’s Store” at the urging of their catalogue customers. By 2000, King Arthur Baking Company also opened a bakery/cafe, education center and started a website to sell and promote their products and classes. Each section deserves description:
Upon entering The Baker’s Store, most visitors are overwhelmed with the variety of baking products, supplies, and tools offered. Flour, the mainstay of bakers is available in more than 30 varieties along with pans, tools, mixes, decorations, and ingredients. One of my favorite products is called “fiori di sicilia” – a citrus vanilla flavoring with a floral aroma that I add to pound cake batter and sugar cookie dough. The store also sells almond flour, which is excellent for fruit cobblers and a non-melting sugar topping I use instead of confectionary sugar on bundt cakes because it won’t melt or disappear after a few hours.
The first time I walked in the store, I was grateful to be alone as this is not a store where you want to multitask (i.e. watch kids and shop) or be rushed (by someone who does not share the same enthusiasm for baking). The best way to fully experience the store is to turn your phone off and spend 2 hours looking at the myriad of products that all fall under the category of “baking.” This is a store like Costco in that you may walk in with the purpose of buying one or two things but leave with a cart full of goodies. Not to worry about lugging the purchases home if traveling, as the staff at King Arthur will happily wrap and ship the products to your home.
The Baking Education Center:
The King Arthur Education Center provides classes to professional, home, and kid bakers. Classes are offered every day of the week and include short classes (2-4 hours), daily, and multi-day classes on breads, glutton free baking, crafting croissants, pastries, cakes, pies, and more. Most Friday afternoons are dedicated to a 3:30-6:00 class called “Family Night” where the attendees make a dinner to bring home at the culmination of the class. In addition, nationally renowned bakers are brought in to teach instructional classes. The Education Center even offers a 3 day class on “How to Set Up a Successful Bakery” which is sold out months in advance. For a complete list of classes offered, go to: http://www.kingarthurflour.com/baking/baking-education-center-calendar. There are an abundance of local hotels listed on the website for those that attend multi-day classes.
My husband and daughter took an afternoon class called “Icing on the Cake” which entailed making a cake from scratch along with the icing and simple decoration. Although my husband was the only man in the class (and the only one who mistook corn syrup for canola oil in measuring the ingredients out) he had a blast and his cake tasted pretty good, even with the syrup-oil error. The teacher and the women of the class looked upon him the way most women look upon a man with a toddler at a playground: they all kept an extra eye on his charge (the cake in this instance) to make sure all turns out well.
The Bakery and Cafe
Norwich Vermonters have the good fortune of having a world-class bakery in their backyard. The bakery offers more than 32 types of artisanal breads, pastries, croissants, cakes, pies, and more. Special order cakes and cupcakes are also available. The cafe menu provides a range of soups, salads, spreads, and sandwiches that can be enjoyed inside or at outdoor tables on a nice day.
King Arthur On-Line
The King Arthur website is the saviour for bakers. Most supermarkets carry the King Arthur flour but hard to find ingredients – malt powder, high quality powdered milk, unique decorative sugar products and grain blends – are just a few clicks away on the company website. In addition, special pans and tools are also sold. Products are always shipped promptly and include a 10% off coupon for the next order. For those that sign up for e-mails, the company runs periodical specials that range from 15% to 25% off an order to free shipping.
A final note: Last summer the company broke ground to expand their facilities. The existing store, bakery and cafe, and education center are open during construction but expect facilities three times as large by July, 2012. A Baker’s Paradise for sure.
King Arthur Flour Company
135 US Route 5, South
Norwich, Vermont 05055