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Properties of Freshly Milled Whole Wheat Flour and Why

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BakersAndBest's picture
BakersAndBest

Properties of Freshly Milled Whole Wheat Flour and Why

Good Morning!  

While I've been baking bread for about 3 years now, this is my first post to TFL.  I was recently gifted a hand powered grain mill and purchased a few pounds of hard red winter wheat at the food co-op down the street.  Last weekend I milled some to make a few loaves. I have a few questions regarding the properties of this flour I'm hoping you can shed some light on.  I've been able to find a great deal of information about how fresh milled whole wheat flour behaves, but not why it does.

1) I've read that freshly milled flour generally needs more water and absorbs it slowly, why is this?

2) Supposedly fresh milled whole wheat flour will go rancid within a few days because of oils released from the germ, yet I can buy whole wheat flour on the shelf at the supermarket that has been sitting for weeks. What's the difference?

3) I know that the shards of bran in fresh whole wheat flour can hinder gluten development by tearing it. Yet when I made Reinhart's Light Whole Wheat bread the one with fresh milled flour rose significantly more, all other factors being equal. In contrast, I made a 100% whole wheat loaf (proofing in the fridge overnight)which rose little and had non existent oven spring.

If there is other general information you have I'd appreciate it!

suave's picture
suave

1. Commercial flour usually has higher moisture content.  The main reason is that millers condition the grain by adding water to it.  This aids milling process and allows to mill flour to exact specs.

2. For the most part it's just a less than honest marketing by grain mill sellers. It takes much longer for the ww flour to go rancid, home milled or not.  "Commercial flour is overheated" myth belongs in the same pile of junk.

3. That's not what happens - at least one study has shown that bran does damage gluten, but the cause is chemical not mechanical, that is bran does not really "cut" the gluten in the dough, it releases gluten-weakening compounds.

BakersAndBest's picture
BakersAndBest

Fascinating, thank you very much for the response!  I did notice there were many differing takes on the subject of flour going rancid, so it was tough to distill the truth from everything I read.  

clazar123's picture
clazar123

Besides asking here,just working with a "new" ingredient over time will give you a real feel for it.

I loved the taste difference between the home milled flour and the storebought flour. The freshly ground has a more grassy, less bitter flavor to me. I actually consider this in the flavor profile I am trying to attain in a loaf.

The most important thing to remember about using WW flour is to allow a long/longer soaking period somewhere in the technique. The bran bits take a lot longer to absorb the water completely and if you don't allow to do this, then they absorb the water from the crumb after the bake and that is why people experience crumbling WW bread.

Another important concept is to start the knead process with a dough that is wetter than you are used to feeling if the dough was made with AP flour. As you mix/knead/stretch"n"fold it will use the extra water to develop the starch into gel and be absorbed so at the time you shape, it will feel more normal.

I keep my home-milled wheat in the kitchen cupboard for 2-3 weeks. No problems with it.

BakersAndBest's picture
BakersAndBest

All very helpful! 

One of the things I was taken aback by when shaping the 100% WW loaf from home milled flour was how wet it was.  I'll keep in mind in the future to allow ample time to hydrate the flour.  

Given how long it took me to get a feel for making a basic sandwich loaf, I know you're correct in that experience will pay dividend.  Thanks again!

dabrownman's picture
dabrownman

milling you will be hard pressed to go back to store bought flour.  today I made a loaf that is in long retard that was made from retail flour.  I haven't made a loaf like that for a while and was immediate struck by how different the flour smelled, felt, handled and came together. Hope it does something to redeem itself in the oven.  Before I started grinding, I though it was great flour though.    Amazing how things change,

When you autolyse home milled flour,  try it for 2 hours, 4 hours and overnight for 8 hours ans see what you find out,

Joyofgluten's picture
Joyofgluten

regarding your second question; the germ has been removed in the supermarket "whole-wheat flour"

ananda's picture
ananda

Hi BakersAndBest, and welcome to TFL,

For "roller-milled" [industrially-produced] 100% Wholewheat Flour, or, 100% Wholemeal, Joyofgluten is making an important differential.   Actually the germ oil is removed, with the sole purpose of increasing the shelf life of the flour.   This is achieved by milling the flour to white flour, then adding everything back except the germ oil.   I'm left wondering how this can be called 100% wholemeal, as the term is quite specific in bread baking.   For instance, millers are not allowed to add anything to wholewheat flour, except for enzymes which they will not tell you about anyway.

I buy stoneground wholemeal, which is a genuine wholewheat.   The fact that the miller gives a 6 month shelf-life to this flour means I agree with suave about the rancidity claims.   Of course using freshly-milled flour will bring a host of different characteristics to your bread; a good number of bakers here on TFL write well about their experiences of freshly-milled flour.   But I don't accept that freshly-milled is the only way to ensure non rancid germ oil is present within the flour.

Best wishes

Andy

BakersAndBest's picture
BakersAndBest

Thank you for the detailed information!  It's amazing (and a bit disconcerting) to see how precise commercial millers can be when extracting parts of the wheat.  I had seen the term wholemeal flour but didn't realize there was a clear cut difference between that and wholewheat that I might buy, good to know.

Janetcook's picture
Janetcook

Here is a post by Debra Wink that explains your question about bran and it's effects on doughs made with freshly milled ww flour.

Janet

 

 

 

cjjjdeck's picture
cjjjdeck

Isn't it fascinating that there are now "generations" of Americans that have never eaten real "100% from the entire kernel" Wheat bread (or benefited from its additional nutritional and blood sugar value)?  Or the lack of outcry on the detrimental long term effects on the human body of the processed flour secrets (it actually was starting to get exposed back in the 1940's)?  Don't get me started........;-)

Actually, I want to applaud and welcome you on starting on this great journey and adventure into milling and baking with real whole grains!

BBQinMaineiac's picture
BBQinMaineiac

1) I've read that freshly milled flour generally needs more water and absorbs it slowly, why is this?

Some of the components of freshly milled flour take a lot of time to absorb water. I find that with my Ankarsrum mixer I must have a wetter dough, but that's not a problem because after the gluten is developed it works just fine. I'm comparing a planetary mixer recipe to one for the Ankarsrum. Typically less flour is used for a wetter dough anyway. I adjust based on the way the mixer functions and it all works out.

2) Supposedly fresh milled whole wheat flour will go rancid within a few days because of oils released from the germ, yet I can buy whole wheat flour on the shelf at the supermarket that has been sitting for weeks. What's the difference?

Commercial "whole wheat" isn't whole wheat at all. Commercial millers separate the wheat berry components , mill the endosperm, and add back only some of what they removed to gain shelf life. They do this with USDA approval and still get to call it whole wheat. It isn't whole wheat at all. Real whole wheat is found in the refrigerator section of a natural food market and has a shelf life, or is freshly ground at home, and I by far suggest the latter. Real whole wheat can go rancid because of the naturally occurring oils contained in the germ.

3) I know that the shards of bran in fresh whole wheat flour can hinder gluten development by tearing it. Yet when I made Reinhart's Light Whole Wheat bread the one with fresh milled flour rose significantly more, all other factors being equal. In contrast, I made a 100% whole wheat loaf (proofing in the fridge overnight)which rose little and had non existent oven spring.

I can't explain the why of what you experienced and I know about the naturally occuring chemicals that retard and destroy the gluten, but too large bran can also cut the gluten and make a loaf fall. I recently developed a recipe using freshly ground hard white wheat and falling loaves nearly drove me bonkers until I decided to grind my flour finer. Of course the bran went along for the ride. Since I can't remove fractions of the flour, all the natural chemicals contained in the wheat berry remained. The only difference was the grind of the flour and bran. That made all the difference with no more falling loaves. I suspect that low gluten flour is more susceptable to bran affecting the rise (falling loaves) since my fine ground flour also made more gluten available to the loaf. After fine grinding everything the problem disappeared.

If there is other general information you have I'd appreciate it!

The book Flour Power may possibly supply you with far more information that you want about fresh ground (real) whole wheat, but it's  quite good. If you have an interest it's a quick read, if not, it's good to read before bed. I found it to be a quick read. There are a few recipes but it's by far geared more toward a complete understanding of real whole wheat; how to use it, pitfalls, the why of using it. It's a good book to understand fresh ground whole wheat. Oh, other grains as well, not only  wheat.

Flour Power corroborated what I found with problems with my 100% fresh ground whole wheat loaf and suggested helps to make it better. It saved me a great deal of time and failed loaves. If you want to really understand flour I highly recommend this book.