Saturday, December 20, 2008

White Lily

We interrupt our holiday schedule for some gritty realism. Because, honestly, as much as I love sparkly lights, I need a refreshing dose of black and white to cleanse my photographer's palate.

So here's a closeup of the industrial end of the Old City. The White Lily Food Company's flour mill and plant has been in Knoxville since 1883. This was its most recent incarnation.

Did you notice that I used the past tense? Sigh.

The J.M. Smucker company bought out the White Lily brand and closed the venerable Knoxville plant in June of 2008, laying off all the plant employees.

What's a Southern baker to do? White Lily Flour was the secret to those lighter-than-air Southern biscuits. Sold almost exclusively in the South, White Lily's secret was in the wheat: a lighter, low-protein, low-gluten red winter wheat grown in the South. The softness of the flour was perfect for biscuits, cakes, and pie crusts, but less effective for yeast breads which need higher protein content to succeed. Low protein flours absorb less liquid, resulting in lighter biscuits. Biscuits made with higher protein flours, which absorb lots of liquid, will have the density of hockey pucks. Hockey is popular in the North, but hockey puck biscuits less so.

Smucker swears that the process to make White Lily at its Midwestern plants will be the same, but some local bakers contend that the wheat was milled to a finer consistency at the Knoxville plant. We still have Martha White Flour made from Southern wheat, but many long time bakers still think White Lily was the top of the line and lament its passing.

10 comments:

Tanya said...

What a shame. I hate to see a company that has been around for so long like White Lily has, shut down. So sad for all those employees too.

I'm a White Lily brand buyer too. I lol'd at the comparison of hockey puck biscuits,lol...funny tie-in!

Oh, and no, I'm not totally done with my Christmas things yet, ugh!

George said...

I didn't realize that White Lily was no longer made in the South. How can it possibly be the same?
Unfortunately I've had my share of hockey puck biscuits!

Hilda said...

I don't think White Lily ever reached our shores and I don't bake, but I think this is sad news as well. I hope the workers found/will find new jobs.

Laurie said...

I needed this monochrome shot, too! White Lily is iconic. Wow.

I have discovered by happy accident that biscuits made with rice flour are the fluffiest and lightest of all because there is no gluten. (Sometimes an allergy turns out to be a bonus!)

roentarre said...

What an industrial look. Great shot in deed

I will do that style of shooting soon myself

babooshka said...

White Lily of course does not translate this side of the pond but the sense of loss does. More my image today stark, bold, geometric and of course monochrome. I force myself to comply to the nemes to stop me filling my blog with this kind of image, which I would prefer to do.

Bob Crowe said...

That's quite interesting, since I barely have the skill to toast a bagel. Love the photo. If I ever got to Knoxville I'd probably shoot this place.

Tash said...

So clever of you to do a good gritty industrial building! All the better in B&W. It really is sad about it closing down. Most of the old McDonnell Douglas plant in Long Beach has been flattened - no more commercial airplanes are being build in LB any more, and a 261-acre Douglas Park (business & residential) is starting to sprout.

Tash said...

PS - Maxwell Parrish - I looked him up & then knew, we have Treasure Island & a couple of others he illustrated.

Saretta said...

Too bad! I just hate it when large national chains buy out smaller local companies. We lose our uniqueness that way.