The Fresh Loaf

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40% Rye Remake/ Visit to Vancouver Island Grain and Milling

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Franko's picture

40% Rye Remake/ Visit to Vancouver Island Grain and Milling

 Back In early May I posted on a 40% Rye with a fermented soaker that I had to try and save because of miscalculating the hydration. The save was short lived unfortunately. After three days the crust became so tough from the extra flour added to the dough I couldn't eat it for fear of cracking a tooth. The formula has since been adjusted for hydration and two bakes of the bread have been done over the last few weeks with much better results than the original. The first loaf of the new mix worked out well, the dough consistency being what I expected, well hydrated but not to such an extent it was difficult to develop with a few stretch and folds. This time instead of baking it in a Pullman tin, the dough was shaped as a batard and placed in a brotform. The bread was to be part of a buffet table at my wife Marie's recent birthday party and I wanted it to look a little fancier than a regular tinned loaf. The loaf baked up nicely with a cracking crust, evenly open crumb, and well rounded flavour with a pleasant sour note from the soaker.

 One of our guests told me that she's usually not a fan of either rye bread or sourdoughs but that she enjoyed the flavour and texture of this bread more than any she'd had in the past. This was reassuring to hear and good to know that other people could enjoy it since to that point I'd been the only who'd tasted it. 

Last week we took a mini 3 day vacation out to the West Coast of Vancouver Island for a little R&R. On our way out to the coast we made a stop at Vancouver Island Grain and Milling, in the city of Port Alberni. VI Grain & Milling, a relatively new enterprise, came to my attention when Marie brought home one of their pamphlets from a local Farmer's Market. The proprietor, Wayne Smith runs the facility on his home and farm property located just a short drive from the main highway through town. At the moment the various organic grains he carries are kept in three, temperature and humidity controlled semi trailers situated near the front entrance of his property, with construction of a permanent storage facility getting under way this summer. One of the trailers has a small milling area equipped with four Nutrimills that he uses to produce retail size (2K) bags of flour for a number of health food stores here on the Island.

Wayne told me he doesn't anticipate installing a full size mill anytime soon as the investment cost and profit margin wouldn’t justify it at this point in the business, but that he'd be happy to mill whatever I needed on short notice. What a find! I asked him if he would mill up a slightly coarse rye flour for me while I was there, and a short time later Wayne presented me with 2 kilos of the best looking rye flour I think I've ever seen.

This is the flour I used in a second bake of the 40% rye. It preformed beautifully throughout the mixing, fermentation, shaping and baking, giving the bread an even better depth of flavour than the previous bake. The fermentation properties and flavour of fresh milled flour compared to pre-milled is so superior, I'm finally persuaded to invest in a flour mill for my home baking. Much as I'd prefer a stone mill similar to the type [Phil/Pips] uses, I've decided the size and cost of the impact type Nutrimill is a better fit for my storage and budget limitations right now. Once the existing stock of wheat and rye flour I already have has been used up I'll be looking forward to milling all my own flour with grains from Wayne Smith's VI Grain & Milling. 

The second bake of the 40% Rye was slightly different in that the soaker was all cracked rye instead of 50/50 cracked rye and wheat, but other than that the rest of the formula remained the same as per the previous mix. Since I've started using a fermented soaker in some of my sourdoughs I've discovered how much easier it is to fine tune the level of sour in the  loaf, rather than having to rely entirely on the levain to contribute the bread's sour component. Cracked or whole grains ferment quite slowly compared to flour, allowing for greater control over the strength of the sour flavour than I feel I have with a typical 12-18 hour levain. With the soaked grains adding texture to the loaf along with added flavour, it's proven to me to be an effective technique for enhancing the overall quality of the finished loaf.

After pulling the loaf from the oven, de-panning, and wrapping in linen, it was left to cool for 48 hours. This was difficult! I was tempted to take a slice the day after baking but I'm glad I gave it one more day. The crumb, after 48 hours had set completely, allowing for clean even slices to be taken, minus the usual residue left on the knife when I slice a rye bread after only 24 hours.

40% Rye with Fermented Soaker




Mix all of the flour needed for the levan with mature 100% rye starter and water and ripen at 70F/21C for 14-18 hours.

Cracked Rye and Wheat Soaker

Pour the boiling water over the two cracked grains and salt and allow to cool to ambient temperature. Add the mature 100% rye starter, mix thoroughly and ferment at 70F/21C for anywhere from 3-5 days depending on the level of sour flavour desired. Note: The amount of water needed may need to be adjusted to achieve a slightly loose consistency. The soaker is not hydration nuetral and should contribute a small amount of hydration to the final mix.

Final Mix (by hand)

Combine all the flour and water to a shaggy mass, adjusting for hydration, and autolyse for 40-60 minutes. Add the levan and incorporate thoroughly, then add the salt and honey and mix until the dough is moderately developed. Finally add the fermented soaker and continue mixing until the soaker is evenly distibuted throughout the mix. Turn the dough onto the table and use the slap and fold method until the dough is smooth and cohesive but not fully developed. DDT is 78F/25C.

Bulk ferment the dough for 60-90minutes at 78F/25C. Bulk fermentation times will vary and the dough should be monitored closley to ensure it receives adequate fermentation time.


Turn the dough onto the table and give it a stretch and fold. Cover the dough and rest it for 30 minutes. Shape as desired.

Final Proof and Bake

After shaping, give the dough it's final rise in a covered 78F/25C slightly moist environment for 45-60 minutes. Again it should be closely monitored, as times will vary. When the dough is slightly springy to the touch remove it from final proof to the counter allowing the skin to dry if necessary before slashing. Slash as desired and bake in a 500F/260 oven, vents blocked, with steaming apparatus in place, for 15 minutes. Unblock the vent, remove the steaming apparatus and lower the temperature to 465F/240C, continuing the bake for an additionl 45-55 minutes (lowering the temperature if needed to 450F/232C) until the internal temperature reaches 210F/98.8 . Cool on a rack for 24-48 hours, wrapped in linen, before slicing.  



The flavour is noticeably better than the previous bake, which I credit to the fresh milled rye flour from V.I. Grain & Milling used in the mix and certainly one the best flours I've had the pleasure of working with.





dabrownman's picture

very nice baking Franko and quite a milling find too!  Beautiful grain and milling make for beautiful bread - you do them all justice.  Bake on!

Franko's picture

Thanks dabrownman!

Finding VI G&M was a game changer for sure. I feel quite fortunate to have come across it and to have it as close by is a further bonus. Thanks for your comments.


SylviaH's picture

Baking like this certainly justifies getting yourself a mill.  I know you will put it to good use and have a great time doing it.  You've struck gold finding Wayne Smith's mill.  

I think the loaves and crumb look so gorgeous...the choice not to put such a lovely bake into a pan IMHO was a very good one :)  Happy Baking!


Franko's picture

Hi Sylvia,

I agree with you that the batard is the better looking of the two, but I wanted to try it as pan bread just to see how it would do.

Thanks so much for your compliments!


SylviaH's picture

really didn't sound like I intended..I apologize, Franko!  I love the tinned loaf especially the slashing and pattern around the sides..the shape is perfect for slicing up some of your lovely rye.  I know you put a lot of time and effort into this one..I should do the same with my often very hurried posts and blogs.




Franko's picture

Oh no worries at all Sylvia, nor apologies necessary. I took it as intended,  a very nice compliment from you on the loaves.



Mebake's picture

Now that is a big WOW!

Those Ryes are beauties, Franko! I guess we have another convert to fresh milled flour, eh ?

Regardless of the flour, using a fermented soaker is a genius method of incorporating sour into bread, What a Great idea!

The free standing batard looks so attractive, and so is the gorgeous panned one.  You've obtained some seriously great crumb with almost 50% wholegrains.. Excellent.


Franko's picture

Thanks Khalid!

It will be few months before I start home milling as I have quite a bit of flour left to use up, but I'm looking forward to working with the fresh stuff. The fermented soaker has worked really well for me in several different recipes over the last few months.It's easy, reliable and definitely worth a try when you get back home to do some baking. I appreciate your comments a great deal Khalid, and always a pleasure to hear from you.


hanseata's picture

and I wish, I had such a mill nearby. I visited Vancouver island a few years ago, but that was obviously before it existed.

I use a little hand cranked mill to make coarser grinds of grains I can't buy anywhere, but that works only for smaller amounts.

Your formula is very interesting, Franko. I'll put it on my to-do list. I realize that you worked the dough with S & F, but, please enlighten me a bit: at what temperature did you bake the bâtard, and how long?


Franko's picture

Hi Karin,

My apologies for not initially including the procedure, but it's there now.  At 1350 grams it's a fair size loaf so with my oven I baked it at 500F for the 1st 15 minutes, then lowered the heat to 465F for around 45 minutes more. I think I did lower the heat even further to 450F during the last 10 minutes or so. That's the basic profile at least but  it's may be slightly different for your oven.

Thanks for your comments Karin!


FlourChild's picture

Beautiful crumb and crust!  Loved following your tale about V. I. Milling, good to know how much of a difference freshly ground rye makes.


Franko's picture

Thanks Julie!

This rye flour is easily the nicest rye I've ever used. I built the levain for the 2nd loaf from it and it took off like a house on fire. Much faster fermenting than the rye flour I normally use. 

Best Wishes,


ananda's picture

Hello Franko,

I've just returned from some consultancy work in Scotland, covering a couple of nights to work with 2 great pastry chefs seeking new bread skills.   One of the loaves we made was a 30% Rye.   I'm growing very fond of this mid-range proportion.

Beautiful bread; love the idea of your grain ferment.   If I remember correctly, Andrew Whitley occasionally made a loaf on the Bread Matters course I assisted on, where he used mainly white flour in the final dough, but fermented the bran which would have made the loaf closer to wholemeal, by mixing it down with some warm water and a little yeast and leaving it overnight.   Just put this in as an aside really.

Well, happy milling it is then!

All good wishes


Franko's picture

Hi Andy,

For whatever reason, high percentage ryes suit me better during the colder months, not that it's particularly warm on the Island right now. I find the lower percent ryes hold their moisture better, at least this does. I made the tinned loaf over a week ago and the crumb is still soft. Makes great toast as well. One of the nice things about the fermented soaker is it gives the the bread a flavour similar to a higher % of rye but with a much lighter crumb. Sort of a 'best of both' work-around if you will. Whitley's procedure sounds like a good one, I'm glad you mentioned it as I'd like to try it myself sometime. Marie seems pretty happy with the milling idea as well since she'll finally get my great plastic tub of various flours out of the corner of her kitchen, so it's all good.

Many thanks Andy, all the best!


varda's picture

Franko,   So glad you came back to this.   It looks fantastic, and I'm looking forward to trying it.  -Varda

Franko's picture

Hi Varda.

 Re; the formula,You're quite welcome! I hope you give it a try, not only because I think you'll enjoy it, but I'm interested to know how well...or not, the formula and procedure work for  someone else. Please let me know how it goes.

Thanks for the great comments on the loaf !


PiPs's picture

Excellent rye breads Franko,

... and with a mill on the way we are sure to enjoy many more tempting offerings like these. One of the joys of milling your own grains is the flexibility and creativity it gives you. You can experiment with different grinds and different grains. It really opens up a whole new world.

I love how you added a small amount of honey to this loaf ... a small touch but for some reason that resonated with me.


Franko's picture

Thank you Phil!

From seeing your own breads and others here on the site made from fresh milled flour, the idea of milling my own flour has been percolating away for a while now. The main thing stopping me was having a ready supply of organic grain available that  wouldn't incur shipping charges or 3 hour round trip drives in order to have it. The pieces finally fell into place enough for me on this that I can't ignore the opportunity. The idea of having a few 5K bags of grain on hand that can be milled as needed, rather than all the various bags of flour I now store makes a great deal more sense to me on several levels. As you say, from one bag of grain you can tailor make multiple types of flour to suit specific baking needs, with the flour being at it's peak level. I'm eager to get on with it but need to be patient for a few months more to get rid of the flour I have.

Honey is something I include quite often in sour formulae, not to sweeten the bread per se, more to try and balance the salt and sour characteristics and smooth over any rough edges of the flavour. 

Good to hear from you Phil, thanks again!


dmsnyder's picture

I've not encountered a fermented soaker before, as far as I can recall. Your description of the effects on flavor makes it irresistible! 

I've been thinking that it's been a while since I made a new bread from my "to bake" list. Yours and the one Wally just blogged on go to the top of the list!


Franko's picture

Many thanks David!

Like you, I've never run across a fermented soaker in any of the books I have, but also have no doubt it's been done before and likely a technique used by plenty of contemporary bakers. The steady temperature control of the B&T Proofer makes it very easy to do over a 3-5 day period. I'll stir the soaker every other day to introduce some oxygen, but that's it for maintenance. I know you like your sourdoughs fairly tangy and this is a simple method for achieving that strong sour in the dough without having to manipulate your levain's flavour and strength to accomplish it.

Larry's Onion Rye looks so good doesn't it? He's got me thinking of doing the Onion Mustard Rye I made... a year or more ago ?? again. That, and the fact I've got a nice thick and fatty brisket in the freezer waiting to be turned into pastrami puts the idea at the top of my list as well. Maybe Larry's post will stir up another rye and pastrami frenzy like we had from Eric's [post]  last year. That was a  fun thread that I'd like to see more of on the site.

A pleasure as always David,


breadsong's picture

Hi Franko :^)
Congratulations on finding this supplier of organic grain on the Island.
That does look like really nice rye flour (good to hear how happy you are with the flavor of your loaf)  and I hope you enjoy your Nutrimill very much!
I've spent a little bit of time over the last couple of weeks reading about mills and milling, and am trying to decide between the Nutrimill or a Komo.
Looking so forward to baking my first loaf with freshly ground grain but like you, I've got a lot of flour to get through first!
Glad you had a nice trip to the West Coast (loved the photo of Terrace Beach you posted).
:^) breadsong

Franko's picture

 Hi breadsong :^) ,

I think the fresh milled flour from whatever mill you decide upon will be a bit of a revelation in terms of it's fermentation properties. I'm quite interested to see how some of Wayne's RF handles freshly milled. Will it need to wait a few days before mixing, or can it be used straightaway? This is just one of the things I'm curious to discover when I'm finally able to start milling. Don't be too surprised to find a few shipment's of  Franko Flour appearing on your doorstep from time to time once I'm up and running with the mill...this Fall I hope. Together, we might be able to make some bulk grain purchases from Wayne that would make economic sense if we both have proper storage conditions for the grain. Something to consider as we head into this new (to us) way of flour provision for ourselves. The best price I've found so far on the Nutrimill is [here], free shipping, and great customer service from them anytime I've needed it with previous purchases has been my experience so far.

Getting out to the Coast is our favourite quick get-away here on the Island. Km's of beach to roam, lots of trails, great food and accommodation, what's not to like? Glad you enjoyed the photo and thanks for your compliments on the breads!

All the best,