My running debate with myself over whether to buy a mill or do without came to an abrupt end the week before last when I saw a post about a KoMo Fidibus Classic for sale at an attractive price. The new-to-me mill arrived early last week but I wasn’t able to play with it until I purchased some wheat this weekend.
My first thought had been to make a 100% whole wheat bread. After some further thinking, I realized that would be more of a test of my baking ability than a real experiment with home milled flour. Happily, I noticed some buttermilk in the refrigerator and thus was born a buttermilk whole wheat bread. And not just one bread but two: one using flour I milled and one using some Pillsbury whole wheat flour that was in the pantry. To the best of my ability, they would be identical in all ways except for the flour. Which means, in real life, that they are exactly similar.
Knowing that 800 grams of dough would fit well in my 8 inch by 4 inch loaf pans, I worked backward to specific quantities using bakers percentages. The initial formula looked like this:
- Whole wheat flour 75%
- Bread flour 25%
- Buttermilk 80%
- Active dry yeast 1%
- Diastatic wheat malt 1%
- Salt 2%
The mill worked flawlessly, turning the hard red winter wheat into a steady stream of fine flour that was only slightly more coarse than the Pillsbury flour. Ambient temperature in my kitchen was about 78F and the temperature of the flour exiting the mill was about 117F.
The initial mix of the flours, malt, and buttermilk felt quite dry and stiff, so I decided to add enough water to bring the hydration up to 90%. Naturally, I overdosed the bread made with the home milled flour, making it very loose and only just barely manageable. After a short initial mix, each dough was left to autolyse for an hour.
When the autolyse was complete, the yeast was added along with approximately a tablespoon of water to make a slurry. The yeast slurry was then mixed in, followed by the salt. Then each dough received 10 minutes of slap and folds. The slap and folds, along with salt, tightened the dough nicely but it was still very wet and sticky. The Pillsbury loaf, having received the correct amount of water, was slightly less sticky.
Each dough was allowed to double during bulk fermentation, which took about an hour. Then they were shaped into loaves and allowed to ferment until the dough crested about 3/4 inch above the rim of the pans.
The breads were baked at 375F for 45 minutes. When checked with a thermometer, their internal temperature registered 205F, so I deemed them to be done.
There is an appreciable difference in crust color (Pillsbury loaf on the left, home milled loaf on the right):
I'm not sure what caused the difference in oven spring for each loaf, seeing how each had the same bake. Maybe the extra water in the home milled loaf was a contributing factor.
This next view shows that the particle size of the home milled flour is just slightly coarser than the Pillsbury flour:
Updated with crumb photos. First up, homemilled loaf:
And the Pillsbury loaf:
When sliced last evening, both breads were slightly gummy. Oddly, the Pillsbury loaf with the lower hydration seemed gummier, contrary to my preconceptions. As of this morning, the bread is extremely moist but no longer gummy. Apparently it just needed more time for the crumb to stabilize.
The flavor differences were more subtle than I expected. The Pillsbury loaf had a faintly bitter flavor note. It could have been the tannins or perhaps it’s an early indication of impending rancidness. The home milled loaf is slightly sweeter and the grain flavor is more rounded. It's possible that the germ in the home milled flour contributes some additional flavors that are missing from the Pillsbury flour. All in all, I didn’t experience a profound change in flavor that some people report but it was an improvement.
If I were to repeat this bread, I would dial back on the hydration; perhaps to 85%. Although the dough seemed rather dry during the initial mix, 90% was rather wet for a panned loaf. Or, keeping the hydration, bake as a hearth loaf instead.
Looking forward, I plan to use the mill frequently. It may help the bread texture if I drop the malt content to 0.5% of the home milled flour. If I can locate a local farmer with grain for sale, that would be a plus. There are a whole lot of new possibilities and new learnings to explore. I think it will be fun.