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Learn Before You Bake at The Mill City Museum

Before you start your holiday baking, learn about the history behind some of your favorite recipes and the ingredients that go into them.


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Photo courtesy of Minnesota Historical Society

As the holidays approach, it’s likely a fair number of you will be doing some baking—or at least some eating of baked goods. But have you ever thought about the history behind the flour that’s in your festively decorated sugar cookies? Probably not; but it’s a fascinating story. And if you’re in or visiting Minneapolis, it’s one you should learn. The city was, after all, once known as the “flour milling capitol of the world.” This nicknamed was given because Washburn A Mill, which held a 50-year reign as the world’s largest flourmill, sat in its borders. It was devastating when the Mill was nearly destroyed by a fire in 1991, but that made way for Mill City Museum to be built, and the stories of the flour industry to live on.

Now there’s plenty to be learned at the museum no matter when you visit, but November is particularly intriguing, as a number of baking-themed programs will be held. See which one sounds most interesting, and then gain an anecdote to talk about when you bite into this year’s treat.

Washburn A Mill Tour
Nov. 1 & 15, 1 p.m.
This isn’t baking-themed per se, but it is the only chance you might get to take a guided tour through the entire museum building, including non-public spaces. One of the museum’s interpreters will take you through all of the nooks and crannies, along the way discussing the people who worked there, how the building functioned at its peak, and what’s changed over time. The tour includes admission to the museum, so when you’re done you can visit the Baking Lab and take the Flour Tower elevator ride. Tickets: $14 adults, $12 seniors and college students, $10 children ages 6-17 and MNHS members. Reservations required.

Baking Memories: White vs. Whole Wheat
Nov. 8, 2 p.m.
The big debate: white or wheat? Learn the stories behind both types of flour, including the popularity of white flour in the 19th century and how Minneapolis millers perfected making it, plus the effect it had on nutrition and why you see “enriched” on your food labels. You’ll hear the pros and cons of both, so you can make an educated choice next time you’re at the store. Plus, there will be baked goods to sample. Included with museum admission: $11 adults, $9 seniors and college students, $6 children ages 6-17, free for MNHS members.

Pie School with Author Kate Lebo
Nov. 15, 12:30 p.m. & 2 p.m.
Kate Lebo, Seattle’s “pie poet” and author of the new book Pie School: Lessons in Fruit, Flower, and Butter, will lead a demonstration in the Baking Lab on all things pie. Great knowledge to obtain before you attempt your Thanksgiving pie. Included with museum admission.  

Baking Memories: Tunnel of Fudge Cake
Nov. 23, 2 p.m.
In 1966, the Tunnel of Fudge Cake took second place in the Pillsbury Bake-Off. Not only will you be able to sample this cake, but also learn about the history of this popular recipe, its connection to local company Nordic Ware, and baker’s fascination with it. Then take home the recipe and test it out over the holidays. Included with museum admission.    

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