The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

New flour - how to avoid cowpats (!) ?

Salilah's picture

New flour - how to avoid cowpats (!) ?

After reasonably (!) successful and reliable sourdoughs, I had in succession one very flat loaf and then a cowpat (overproofed) - the cowpat was a new recipe but the flat loaf was tried and tested.  Even the cowpat seemed relatively fine - not very active bulk fermentation, so fridge overnight, it felt heavy when I shaped, then fell apart before final shaping...  The thing I'd changed - was to a new flour!

The new flour came through Bakery Bits - a 100% stoneground white, which I thought would be great.  Looking at the label, it comes from Little Salkeld:

and is the biodynamic, which I'm assuming therefore is potentially only a protein level of 9%(?) - it doesn't specify protein on the label :(

I've been using either strong bread flour, or the very strong Canadian flour (Waitrose) - so I'm guessing this is what is challenging!

Question: how can I best use this new flour, as I have 6kg of it?  Should I mix it with the strong Canadian to make a sort of standard bread flour, or are there particular techniques I should try to get the best from this flour?  I'd like to be able to use it and see what it tastes like - but I don't know the right techniques.  Any suggestions much appreciated!!


Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

way back when.  Not with your flour but with a low protein flour and I found that adding an egg white into my liquids (put it in first and add water to the correct amount) for every 500g flour did wonders.  Improved the dough memory... elasticity?  Scalded milk also helped.  Try it and see.  

Salilah's picture

Thanks Mini Oven - that's interesting!!

I'll definitely give it a go - especially as I seem to need more egg yolks than whites for cooking! <grin>

lumos's picture

Hi, Sali, happy new year!

I seem to remember Richard (Ruralidle) has used some flour from Little Salkeld, though I can't remember which ones.  Maybe worth asking him?

Good luck!

Salilah's picture

(the bells are ringing from the church - guess they must be practising, as it's Monday not Sunday!)

Good idea to contact Richard - I'll drop him a quick email - thank you!!

ananda's picture

Hi Sali,

A very Happy New Year to you!

I used Watermill flour exclusively in baking when we set the Red Herring up in the late 1980s.   If you remember Richard first acquired Watermill flour from me at the TFL Baking course.

Your estimate of protein level will be reasonably accurate.   Yes, you can mix it with strong flour no problems.

But it is also possible to use it on its own and make good bread...and the flavour is of course fantastic.

Personally I would recommend that you experiment making breads using ordinary yeast rather than sticking with leaven....just to begin with.   You can use either a bulk fermentation process, or any type of sponge and dough.

Mixing the dough by hand is definitely the best tactic, and try to be careful about hydration levels.   Too much water will produce your cow pats, but not enough will mean a dry dough which is hard to work with and produces inferior crumb quality.   The fermentation should do plenty of work to develop dough strength.   My fear is that using leaven only may make your process too long and open you up to excess protease activity.

If you have any specific questions please just ask.

All good wishes


Salilah's picture

Thanks Andy - I knew you'd used the flour from previous postings, though I didn't remember re Richard

I'd like to experiment with it - and thanks for the idea of avoiding the wild yeast for now - I'm pretty flexible with the sourdough these days and don't pay that much attention to timing - so trying more formal recipe following with ordinary yeast will do me good!  Also my leaven breads are fairly well hydrated, so trying more controlled would be a good  practice.

Any particular recipe recommendations?  I've got a lot of the books (!) but I've only really concentrated on the leaven bread since April last year, so don't have much experience with the others...  Though, thinking about it, I should probably just hit BBA and do e.g. a french bread?  I'll find something with a sponge :-)

Many thanks - will update on how it goes!

all the best


Richard L Walker's picture
Richard L Walker

I have been known to preheat and use a cast iron dutch oven for baking breads that have a tendency to flatten.  I roll the raised dough as gently as possible into the very hot pot, ease the top back on and into the oven until done.  It might be worth a shot so you don't have to revise your recipe ... at least until you try.

Salilah's picture

Thanks Richard - I'd actually done these in my pre-heated La Cloche (pre-Xmas present to myself!) so they did rise a bit, just a lot less than I was expecting! 

Suggestion much appreciated, though - thank you!

Ruralidle's picture

Happy New Year everyone

I am afraid that I cannot offer much assistance with your problem Sali.  I do use some flour from the watermill at Little salkeld but it is their 4 grain (wholewheat, rye, barley and oats) so I only add that at about 30% of total flour to my usual Shipton Mill No4.  However, I have tried some flour from Walkmill watermill near Chester and encountered similar problems, which I put down to excess protease activity (although I only know what it is called because of ananda) so my plan was to use the flour for yeasted breads only and to keep using Shipton Mill No4, spelt etc for my leaven breads.

Best Wishes


Salilah's picture

Thanks - yes I think it is definitely the uncontrollability to get to rising (excess protease I guess)...

I've managed another only-just-cowpat where it got baked just before falling apart, which was OK

I tried Elagin's baguette recipe and sadly left it just a bit too long, with cowpat experience (it's hard enough getting a baguette off the couche, even worse with a collapsing baguette!)

I've tried the same recipe in a loaf but with fresh yeast - OK, it rose beautifully, looked nice - but I just find the taste a bit boring (though OH thought it was "fresh")

Still experimenting...


Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

You got spoiled on high ash content and this flour can't hold out with slower high ash judgement calls and just falls apart for whatever the reason.  Try shortening the fermenting time or the time yeast comes in contact with the "faster" flour.   If you have to use sourdough, then half way thru the ferment, add instant yeast to speed up the rise before the gluten falls apart.