Category Archives: bread making tips

Using Freshly Milled Flour

Komo flour mill

The photo shows my Komo flour mill in action. Using freshly milled flour makes a huge difference to the taste of your bread, cakes, scones and biscuits. When you mill fresh flour the flour smells of wheat. That may sound obvious but I am yet to open a bag of flour and smell the wheat in the same way that you smell it when it is freshly ground. Using freshly milled flour in your baking will lead to your bread and cakes etc tasting and smelling sweet and delicious. Freshly ground wholemeal flour is as nutritious as flour can get. As flour ages it loses its nutritional value. If you are grinding the flour minutes before using it, you get the full nutritional benefit.

Using freshly milled flour in bread making is not without its challenges however. As flour ages the gluten stabilises. It takes two weeks for gluten to stabilise fully. This is why flour from large mills tends to be aged artificially by oxidising the flour before being sent out to retail. Most flour that you buy has been sitting in warehouses and on the shop shelf for longer than two weeks since milling. Using freshly milled flour means that you are working with weaker gluten. The flour is stickier to work with, it takes a while to absorb the water as you add it and it can seem to be able to take a lot more water than normal but then will leach the water back out after allowing the dough to rest. It takes some getting used to when working with freshly milled flour for bread, but the benefits far outweigh the negatives. The taste and fragrance more than compensates for the slightly denser loaf.

When using freshly milled flour in cakes, biscuits or scones the less stable gluten can work in your favour adding a tenderness and lightness to the finished bake that you can’t get when working with an aged wholemeal flour. Using freshly milled wholemeal flour in a Victoria sponge results in an incredibly light and tasty cake. The biscuits and scones will taste better than any you have ever tasted before.

If you would like to learn more about using freshly milled flour in your baking you can join me for a full day class where we will use freshly milled flour to make bread, biscuits and scones. I will also be talking about the benefits of freshly milled flour at this year’s Ludlow Food Festival. This year’s festival promises to be better than ever as they celebrate 25 years. I am doing a Talk and Tasting at 11am on Friday 13th September all about freshly milled flour and you can also catch me later the same day at 3.15pm in the Bake in Time tent talking about bread making.

http://www.ludlowfoodfestival.co.uk/whats-on-at-ludlow-food-festival

Learning more about bread

Whilst I am working I sometimes like to listen to podcasts.  There is a wealth of information out there that you can just absorb as you go about your daily business. If you want to learn more about bread – whether that’s making it, the history of it or how grain gets from the farmer into your loaf, there is plenty to listen to out there.

Here are just some of the podcasts that I have enjoyed listening to and learned from. If you know of any more please add a comment below. As I come across new ones I will list them here.

Heritage Radio have recorded a comprehensive series of podcasts with the authors of Modernist Bread. The first episode, and all the subsequent ones, can be found at http://heritageradionetwork.org/podcast/pre-ferment/. It’s full of interesting information about bread making and the use of grains.

If you are interested in hearing about life from the baker’s perspective the Rise Up podcast from Mark Dyck in Canada is an interesting listen.

Stella Culinary have some really interesting podcasts and videos about bread making available at https://stellaculinary.com/cooking-videos/stella-bread

Eat This Podcast has done a series of podcasts around the subject of wheat and bread that are interesting to listen to. You can find the first one at https://www.eatthispodcast.com/our-daily-bread-00/

Flour absorbency

One of the things I bang on about during my bread classes is how different flour can be. Even using the same brand of flour can be different from bag to bag. It will depend on so many factors: where the grain was grown – country and even county can make a difference; the soil health and type; weather conditions the grain was grown in; whether it’s spring or winter wheat; the variety of grain; how long it has been since harvest; how long since the flour was milled; how it was milled – roller and stone grinding produce very different flour texture and flour composition; whether the grain was tempered before milling; the moisture content of the grain at the time of milling; the protein content of the grain; the gliadin/glutenin ratio of the grain etc.

See what I mean? There are a lot of variables even if you are considering what may seem at first the same type of flour, i.e strong white.  All of these factors will make a difference to how the dough absorbs water. Then if you bring in the difference between using white flour, wholemeal flour, adding in rye, einkorn, spelt, emmer, kamut the absorbency of the flour changes again.

This morning I have been preparing starters ready for my sourdough class on Saturday. I have used my wholemeal starter as a basis for making a white, rye and spelt to show how it is possible to have flexibility with your starters without maintaining four different starters all the time.  I take my wholemeal starter and refresh it about four times in the next two days. By then, it has changed its appearance, its aroma and its flora. When I mixed them up this morning I used 20g of my wholemeal starter, 50g of flour and 50g of water.  Here is how they all look:

Using wholemeal spelt (20g of fairly stiff wholemeal starter, 50g wholemeal spelt, 50g water)

Making a white starter using 20g fairly stiff wholemeal starter, 50g white flour (roller milled, organic), 50g water

Making a rye starter using 20g fairly stiff wholemeal starter, 50g wholemeal rye (aka dark rye), 50g water

I hope this illustrates that these different flours have very different absorbency rates.  The rye will take a lot more water than the white and the spelt. Whilst the spelt needs a little more water to get to the same consistency as the white.

When you are making bread use your senses – touch, sight and smell, to adapt your recipe. Don’t follow a bread recipe word for word. If it asks for 325g of water, add 300g and then splash more in as you mix. Use your sense to tell you when your dough has had enough water. Let your dough sit for at least ten minutes and then see if it needs a bit more water. If you think it does, wet your hands and use the remaining water on your hands to mix the dough a bit more. Keep doing this until the dough feels right.  Bread making is all about your senses and getting used to how the dough feels in your hands and adapting to each batch of flour and each loaf by learning from experience.