The Fresh Loaf

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Home milled flour & stoneground flour

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marieJ's picture
marieJ

Home milled flour & stoneground flour

I've been using store bought stoneground wholemeal flour to feed my starters and to bake with.  The baking has been a great succes and I will never use anything else.  However, I have had trouble with my last 3 starters.  My first starter was incredible and behaved as though it were practically bullet proof.  During the existence of my first starter, I had not yet begun using stoneground flour - complete with all it's lovely vitamins, minerals and oils from the germ.  This first starter was healthy, robust and lived for well over a year. I was using organic flours which didn't state the exact milling process.


With the volatility of flour that has been milled without any of the grain's components being removed in the process, I'm aware it can go rancid.


What are the signs/symptoms of a flour that has gone bad? Or, is at least turning.


I've been wodering lately if this is the problem with my starters.  I've already switched to feeding them plain old organic rye flour or organic wholemeal flour, organic bakers flour.  All processes invloved in creating and caring for the starters have been equally hygenic, appropriate feeding practices/time schedules, etc,etc


Help!


Cheers  Marie

Yerffej's picture
Yerffej

Your title refers to home milled flour but your question does not so I am a bit uncertain of what has changed in your procedures.


What happend to your first starter which apparently died?


Any flour that is going "bad" will smell rancid.  With home milled flour I would expect this to take months to occur at room temperature.


I feed my rye starter with only home milled whole grain rye and it has not presented any problems.  I generally mill flour right before using it but the rye for the starter gets stored in an airtight jar and may be a week or so old before I use it.


Jeff

marieJ's picture
marieJ

Thanks for your reply, Jeff.  I'm sorry to have confused the issue with alot of background information. 


To narrow it down, I've been purchasing stoneground flours from a reputable shop that has a high turnover of product.  Recently I've been wondereing if I've placed too much trust in the supply of these flours and consequently realised I don't actually know what characteristics  'bad' or rancid/corrupt flour possess.


A lot of care goes into the creation and maintenance of my starters and I'd hate to ruin them through ignorance of product.


I always assumed  corupt or rancid flour would be obviously/overtly corrupt or rancid in appearance and smell.


The problem is I don't actually know.  So 've decided to stop assuming and find out the facts.


Regarding my first ever starter - it was truly great!  It raised any loaf, had a wonderful flavour and possessed a lovely balance of organisms that kept it in this wonderful condition.  I abandoned the poor creature to the depths of the fridge while I worked out if I was gluten intolerant or not.  It turned out I'm not gluten intolerant but the poor starter had remained abandoned and unfed. Even after months of neglect, it still had incredible activity but had lost that lovely balance and sweet apple cider aroma.  Hence its retirement to the compost bin.  Sigh!


Cheers


Marie

Yerffej's picture
Yerffej

Marie,


I would say that the important element in all of this is that you correctly learn the smell of rancid.  Oils, nuts, grains, and flour all pretty much smell the same when they are rancid and rancid is something that you do not want in your diet.  Learn the smell and then trust your nose.  Most foods that are rancid look fine so appearance is not much of an indicator.


Jeff

marieJ's picture
marieJ

Thanks Jeff!


It's true there is nothing worse than anything that's off/rancid.  The common thread in this issue is clearly that of oil degradation & corruption.  Indeed I am familiar with this issue thanks to a bad walnut! 


Thanks to the information provided here I can now see that the stoneground flour I've been purchasing has indeed been up to standard.  (It's made some beautiful, sweet, aromatic pancakes as well - flour, milk, eggs, sautee'd in fruity fresh olive oil).


I hope to mill my own grain soon. 


What continues to beautifully delight and amaze me is the fruits of 'fermentation'.  Recently, as an experiment, I have baked off some of my starter - ie, not as a complete loaf (flour, spring water, salt, starter), but as pure starter baked at 250C - 200C 50 mins - 1 hour.  On the first occasion the result was a leavened portion of 'bread' that was sweet with stunning levels and layers of flavours that all denoted apples.  it was truly amazing. It was as though I had baked apple bread.  On the second occasion I baked off some pure starter (same starter), the result was 'bread' that was leavened and full of highly aromatic banana flavours and an incredible sweetness far superior to that which is achieved via sugar.  The flavours were all tied up in a complex bouquet and was so superior to my expectations that the 'apple' flavoured and scented starter was served with cheeses, and the 'banana' styled 'loaf' was devoured by all as....a banana loaf, with fresh cream cheese and orange blossom honey .


I didn't expect to be able to serve up either of these.  I was going to taste & then discard.


The beauty I find in all of this is that both starters were from the same batch and contained only stoneground wholemeal wheat flour (Australian wheat varieties), stoneground wholemeal spelt flour, and spring water.  Oh, and time.


The beauty in the grain is as the beauty in the grape.


I love that something so surprising and so lovely can come from such simple ingredients and natural fermentation alone.


If I had tried this with some of my previous starter cultures (which have since been discarded from existence due to  eventual bad behaviour....) the results would have been inedible due to an overpowering red-wine vinegar taste and aroma.


I love that my new starter, now about 2-3 months old is light and delicate.


Cheers and goodluck everyone


Marie

clazar123's picture
clazar123

That is what old whole grain tastes like because it is the natural oils that are oxidizing. If you mix it with water, it smells stale instead of grasslike,starchy.All your baked product will smell/taste like that. Very unpleasant. Sometimes a bottle of oil has drips or residue on the outside exposed to the air that  get very sticky/tacky over time. And they get stale oil smelling.Hard to describe a smell.


I mill my own flour and it sits in my kitchen cupboard for up to 2-3 weeks without problems. I grind 12 c flour at a time (my machine capacity per batch).


The starter issue sounds like it might be another problem. It would eat even old flour and just acquire tha old taste. As temperatures fluctuate,it may need more feeding and may have starved.I have one beastie that I can't seem to overfeed no matter what the temp-he often smells like acetone (the smell of hunger).Also, it is very sensitive to water. Has the water processing changed recently? Reverse osmosis treated water seems to bring on early starter death. Search that phrase here and you'll find lots of threads on it.

marieJ's picture
marieJ

Thank you Clazar.


These are the characteristics I would have expected to observe in corrupt or rancid flour.  The presence of the germ in the flour is why I prefer to use stone milled flour but it does make the flour less stable.


Thanks for your information.  Now I know for sure that a corrupt unstable flour will be yelling at me from the depths of the flour bin!!


I hope to mill my own flour soon and therefore eradicate this reliance on processing methods.


Thanks again to everyone!


Cheers 


Marie.