The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Farina Sourdough Bread

varda's picture

Farina Sourdough Bread


Lately I've been fascinated by the baking properties of the material that is left after milling wheat berries and screening out the fine flour and (some of) the bran.   One thing that has daunted me for awhile was what to call it.    At first I tried the term middlings, but that made me uncomfortable because of the squishiness of the term.    I have found in my readings at least 4 different uses for the word middlings, some similar to each other, and some not.   Bah.   I used this material several times as hot cereal, and it distinctly rang a bell from my childhood and beyond both because of flavor and texture - Cream of Wheat!   I loved cream of wheat when I was a child, and strangely, as an adult I was hooked on it if and only if I was pregnant.   Who can understand these mysteries.    So look up Cream of Wheat and what do you find - Farina.   Farina seems to be defined quite a bit more consistently than middlings, and  describes my mystery substance quite well.   So farina it is.  


I have baked several times with farina (plus other flours) and have been very happy with what it adds to the mix.  Now I find myself milling just so I can get the farina, and the heck with the high-ex flour - that's just a byproduct.   

The next thing I tried with it was using it as the flour in starter.  I had a "desem" starter that I had begun with a dab of rye starter, but had never been happy with the results.   But I had a bit of it tucked away in the refrigerator


So I built that up with farina, and got it ready for use.    I fermented it in an outer room which is colder than the rest of the house at between 62 and 65F.    The second morning it had grown and cracked and as I was planning to be out most of the day I put it into the refrigerator.   If there is one thing I've learned about whole grain starters, which I extrapolate to farina starters, it is that they can over-ripen when you turn your back on them, and then your bake is doomed no matter what you do. 

Here is what the starter looked like when I removed it from the refrigerator after around 7 hours and cut it in half.


At the same time, being piqued by A.P.'s suggestion of a long autolyse, I did an autolyse for that 7 hour period as well.   Finally I put all ingredients together, and mixed and fermented, and then retarded overnight only because time had run out for a bake yesterday.   This morning after proofing until the dough softened, I baked it and this is what I got after cooling:


Flavor is excellent - mild and creamy.   I somewhat dislike the squatter shape of overnight retarded loaves but that's a quibble.  

Skip this section if you are bored to death with milling and sifting.

I have developed a more streamlined milling and sifting process which I believe gives me as good results as the more elaborate one I was using previously.  First I got a sifter holder so I could sit down and sift instead of standing and hurting my back (ok, you younger folks might not need this.)   I wanted something where I could see what was coming out during sifting, so this is my set-up:


Yes, you're right, that's a plant stand.   It works great.   I place the sifter on top, sit down, and rub my hand through it and I can see the flour flowing down into the bowl. 

My milling and sifting log and notes:

































Mill berries fine



Sift in 55




When streams get very light


sift leavings in 30



This separates off bran


Had to remill leavings at fine during this





Resift results in 55











This was as simple and effective

as other methods I've used


No appreciable difference between

this strategy and milling coarse first





I used plant stand with wooden bowl

and thick plastic on the floor


This was my lowest loss yet



Here is formula and method:




10:00 AM

9:00 PM

2:00 PM



















































































































Starter Factor














Ferment starter at 62-65 degrees starting on 1/18



Refrigerate starter at 9 am on 1/19 as don't want to get overripe









Mix flour and water at 9:15 for autolyse











Mix all at 3:45 in mixer for 8  minutes to blend, and 4 more minutes

to strengthen.   Dough comes out very stiff and windowpanes









BF 30 minutes, S&F






BF 30 minutes, S&F






BF 50 minutes, S&F






BF 40 minutes






Cut and preshape






Rest 20 minutes













Place in couche on tray






Put whole tray into plastic trash bag and tie




Place in refrigerator around 8 pm





Remove at 8:45 am






Proof for 1.5 hours until proofed





Bake at 450F with steam for 20 minutes




and 20  minutes without








BobS's picture

The crumb is fantastic.

varda's picture

Bob,   Thanks so much.  -Varda


ananda's picture

Hi Varda,

what you have in the photo is what is called semolina.   I mean that in the traditional sense of the word, and it is relevant only to stone-milling and bolting flour.

From 100% wholwheat flour, the first sieves take off the bran.   Next comes the Semolina, only then the Middlings.   Middlings look like a greyish flour, and contain some high quality protein.   This portion is retained within the high extraction flour; it is only removed when you move to milling white flour.

I hope that helps to clarify, but you should appreciate we are talking about old milling techniques, so that is possibly why the terminology has become a little inconsistent.

Anyway, your bread looks gorgeous, and I am left very jealous of that sunshine too!   The weather is rubbish here; we have snow, and expect more too!

Take good care


dabrownman's picture

only came from Durhum wheat and was very yellow in color?  Or does Semolina have more than one meaning when it comes to milling like so many bread terms?

Happy Baking Andy

ananda's picture

Hi DA,

the term "semolina" is used by the traditional millers in the UK for what is a by-product when milling wholemeal to unbleached white flour.   Yes, I'm aware that it is commonly associated with durum wheat, and that this relates to how durum is milled.   However, I suspect that the meaning I associate with semolina is the original use of the word, and the association only with durum is much more modern.   You simply need to read about traditional milling methods such as bolting flour to get a handle on this.

Best wishes


dabrownman's picture

two peoples can be separated by a common language.  I think, in America, we would normally associate the left overs between whole wheat and white flour as 'the middlings'  the part in the middle sifted out between whole meal and white flour.  I have read where they call the 2nd pass output of milling, after the bran is taken off, as semolina in the UK somewhere.   I think Varda or you posted a link to bolting when she was starting out on her milling / sifting quest.  Interesting how words change their meaning over time. 

varda's picture

Hi Andy,  I don't want to get too deep into this nomenclature but...  I am somewhat uncomfortable with the name semolina, as in my readings, semolina always comes out as farina for durum wheat.   The definitions for middlings varied quite a bit - mind you I'm reading modern automated milling literature.   Middlings are usually defined as leavings from the milling process.   In one document it says that middlings will be completely different composition from mill to mill.   It's just whatever is left over, and generally sold by the mill for animal feed.   In other cases middlings and farina are used interchangeably.   In one document purporting to describe modern milling practices, middlings are described as the result of the first milling after separating out the bran and germ.  That one's the outlier.   I am not a 16th century miller (their technology is in many ways better than what I have) nor am I from UK, so in trying to find language consistent with modern milling and American English, farina seems to do it.  

In any case, enough of that.    Thanks so much for your compliments on my bread.   The sun today was lovely.   Most of my pictures made the bread look washed out there was so much light.   Such a problem.  


nicodvb's picture

in italian farina means "flour", nothing more nor less specific than that. It can mean both wholemeal and sifted flour, but surely not the kind of sawdust ramained:-)

Anyway, very nice bread! Open, creamy and surely tasty.


varda's picture

Hey Nico.   Thanks for the etymological input.   My "farina" is grainy rather than sawdusty.  It falls like sleet, whereas the more refined flour falls like rain.   And not a particle of it goes through the 55 (holes per inch) sieve.   Certainly semolina is an italian word as well, yes?    What does it mean?   Thanks so much for your comments.   The bread has been very enjoyable.   The crust got a little washed out due to the long retard following the long autolyse, so I'll adjust accordingly.    -Varda

nicodvb's picture

Varda, semolina does not exist in italian, but semolinO is the second grind level of durum wheat.  The term semola (the first grind) applies to both durum and soft wheat (there's no hard wheat in italy, so much that this naming causes a lot of mistranslations in italian labels, confusing hard and durum wheats).

This is an example of soft wheat semola (also called granito)

You can see that the grind is quite gritty and that it looks very close to a durum wheat semolina from a calibration point of view, infact that semola is indicated for pasta and for dusting.

varda's picture

Thanks for the details.   So let's see

English (American variety)                      Italian           

Flour                                                                  Farina

Semolina                                                          Semolino

Farina                                                                Semola

It makes one long for Esperanto.


dabrownman's picture

a very nice whole wheat....eeerrr.....Farina bread to me.  Nice baking Varda!  It seems the farina we buy at the Chinese Market in the Indian asile is much more finely ground though but I don't think they are using middlings.  Love the crumb of this bread!  Your Farina is one of the items we put in our Toasted Toadies and we love the taaste of Toadies in bread.

Happy Baking

varda's picture

if you look at the formula.   Thanks so much DA.   Of course you use farina - you use everything!  -Varda

grind's picture

Wow, looks amazing.

varda's picture

your comments, Grind.  -Varda

lumos's picture

Great looking bread, whatever you call it.  Had to google to find out what the h*** Cream of Wheat was and still have NO idea what it tastes like :p,   but the open crumb is really lovely and the crust and shape very stylish. You should be really proud of yourself. :)   

varda's picture

is just a blah old hot cereal from my youth - like grits but made of wheat rather than corn.   (But you probably don't know grits either - not sure what to compare it to.)    Thanks so much for your comments.   I was very happy with how this came out.  -Varda

golgi70's picture

Hi Varda

Wonderful looking loaf.  Crumb is amazing.  

So you attempted the long room temp bulk ferment, shaped, proofed partially, and then retarded overnight.  From AP's post this would create a loaf as sour as a long cold bulk ferment.  So with that how sour is the bread?  


varda's picture

Josh,  On my first sample, I thought, oh not really sour.   When I came back a few hours later, it tasted much more sour to me.   Not something that hits you in the face, more like complex deep layered flavor.    But definitely not a straight almost white bread.    We'd have to compare side by side with the long retard approach to see.   Thanks so much for your comments.  -Varda

breadforfun's picture

Hi Varda,

It is a beautiful crumb, very close to AP's.  Yours looks much like the photo that he posted that, to my weird eye, gave the impression of a laminated dough, like txfarmers croissants on a small scale.  It looked like a hybrid between that and bread.  If that is the benefit of a long autolyse and home milling, sign me up.



varda's picture

Thanks so much.  No fat here.   No lamination.  Just regular old flour and water.  I was thinking that this bread doesn't require home milling.   Just some sifting of whole wheat.     And I see the superficial resemblance to AP's bread, but trust me, he's way out ahead of me.    Thanks so much for your comments.  -Varda

PiPs's picture

Excellent conception and execution Varda,

After speaking with AP, I did a 12 hour autolyse yesterday ... Amazing crust colour and flavour in the crumb ... the baker (ie me) made some bad calls and the bread suffered for it .. but all-in-all its a technique i'm going to explore. Hopefully I can find time to post on this :)

You are really getting into this milling thing ... great to see.


varda's picture

I will continue to experiment with the long autolyse but right now I'm not sure of impact since I've never made the same bread with and without.   Would love to see what you come up with.   It seems to me that milling is great, but sifting is where you get the power and control over your flour.   Just thinking.   Thanks so much for your comments.  -Varda

FlourChild's picture

Varda, that is one fine looking loaf- gorgeous, gorgeous crumb!  Cream of Wheat never had so good :)  I'm enjoying following your milling projects very much, one of these days I may have to follow suit and get a mill.

varda's picture

I was pleased with how the bread came out and surprised to discover the humble cream of wheat coming out of my milling process.   -Varda

Song Of The Baker's picture
Song Of The Baker

Great crumb on that one varda!  Looks great.


varda's picture

John, Amazing what a difference photographing in sunlight makes.   But the bread is really delicious.   Thanks for commenting.  -Varda

Syd's picture

Oooh!  That's a beauty Varda, the muzziness of the nomenclature notwithstanding.  That crumb is to die for and great scoring, too.  I can even see what looks like the fine imprint of the linen on the crust.  Excellent baking!

All the best,


varda's picture

Syd, I went flourless for the proof in couche and so the surface is etched with the linen imprint.   Thanks so much for your kind words.   As always wondering what you are up to in the baking department.   -Varda

sam's picture

That is the perfect crumb.  

Very nice.

varda's picture

Sam,   You seem to have transformed from gvz.   Thanks so much for your comments.   The crumb exceeded my expectations.   Usually the opposite happens.   -Varda

breadsong's picture

Hi Varda,
What a beautiful bread, very pretty in the winter sunshine!
Enjoyed reading how you built up your starter and made this bread.
Saving to favorites/bake list!
:^) breadsong

varda's picture

I'm sure you would enjoy this bread.   As I explained to John, it doesn't require home milling - just home sifting.   My theory was that the farina would be a great feed for starters and I think I've been borne out although more research needed.    I used a very dry starter - 60% with a very absorptive substrate (as AP would call it) and it never liquified but as it grew its density got lower and lower.    I fermented it cool but not cold, mostly out of fear of over-ripening, the kiss of death.  Not my usual starter by any means.   Thanks so much for your comments.  -Varda

evonlim's picture

very complicated to me, cause i am very new to baking bread. your bread is excellent, beautiful crumb and texture. will have to do more reading here to learn more from you and all the experienced bakers. thank you for sharing.


varda's picture

but you certainly have the imagination and touch as evidenced by your shocking green bread.    I hope to see a lot more from you.   Thanks so much for your comments.  -Varda

AnnaInMD's picture

To make it a bit easier, is there a way to just buy Farina flour ?  Didn't I see small bags from (oops I forgot the name - has a picture of a bearded gentleman on the see-through bag), Bob someone ? Or did we decide that farina is semolina, not quite though, right ?



varda's picture

Hey Anna,   This is another reason I used the term Farina instead of Semolina.   On store shelves at least in the US, semolina always means durum meal.    I would think that Bob's Red Mill would be the place to start looking for Farina in the store.   You may have to look at list of ingredients.   They sell a lot of cereals, so perhaps one of them is farina or mostly farina.   I would suggest that you just go ahead and use Cream of Wheat, but that seems kind of scary given the amount of processing they do on it.   The alternative is sifting whole wheat flour with a very fine sieve and a fine sieve as I detailed above.    Thanks so much for your comments.  -Varda's picture

Amazing crumb for an effectively 120% WW bread Varda.  Raises the bar!

I've 55# sieved several store-bought WW flours and consistently retain 20 +/- 2% by weight = your Co'W fraction, or close to it I expect.  The only storebought WW that yields a coarser (20#) retentate is from Central Milling, who strangely blend in a 1% fraction that I can only describe as hamster bedding:  like bulk bin bran, littered with chaff and what I hope is bits of flax seed and not something else that's small and black and occasionally found in improperly stored flour.

In my notes, I've been loosely calling these 55# retentates the "bran fraction".  Isolating it offers interesting creative possibilities, as you've found and so beautifully reported (albeit in a decidedly more sophisticated context: you're milling, I'm just undoing what the mills do after they mill).  I've been using this "bran fraction" as you've posted:  Using the pass-through as the BF in some formulae (it's very fine, sort of like T-65), or making up an AP/BF 'base' and adding a 'bran fraction' back at various %-ages and in various forms, including the orginal bran fraction at various %-ages (for PR's 100 or higher % WW sandwich loaves), toasted bran fraction, doping it with toasted/milled WG.  Our Forkish Field Blend "2.1" yesterday had my 55#-retained spelt bran (+ toasted/milled WG +...) replacing the removed 'bran fraction' of Forkish's formula's 30% whole grains (his has rye+WW).  That was a fabulous, lighter-than-air loaf about which I'd like to post but time is tight.

2013 looks to be The Year of the Long Autolyse.

Thanks for the great post!



varda's picture

First of all, Tom,  thanks so much for the nice things you said about my bread.

Now on to the arithmetic.

Here's how I see it:

My Yield

Golden Flour   67%

Coarse Flour   27%   (for the sake of this argument I'll say that the milled flour I used is called Coarse)

Bran   4%

Loss   2%

A typical breakdown of whole grain wheat is:

Endosperm  82.5%   (includes White and Farina)

Germ  2.5%

Bran 15%

So let's say

Golden + Loss = White flour + bran   (note I'm assigning all loss to the golden just because that's what gets lost)

Coarse = Farina + Bran + Germ    (note I'm assigning all germ to the coarse which is a guess)

So assuming that the missing 11% of bran is distributed roughly proportionally between golden and coarse that gives

67% + 2% = White flour + 7%   or White flour = 62%

27% = Farina + 4% +2.5% or Farina = 20.5%

My formula:

White flour    450g

Coarse flour      143g


White flour          450g  75.9%

Farina                    109g   18.3%

Bran                          21g   3.6%

Germ                        13g    2.2%

So as my formula is constituted it is high on white, very low on bran, and a little low on germ and farina.   Wouldn't know how to give  a percentage whole grain to this, but it ain't 120%


varda's picture

to rest of your comment.   Sounds like what you are doing is very creative and interesting and exploring the range of possibilities when we constitute our own flours.   Would love to see a detailed post on it.    And sorry for the pedantic outburst above.    The bread devil made me do it.  -Varda's picture

No need to apologize.  It would take rather heavier-handed pedantism than that for me to 'flag as offensive' :-)

Thanks for such a thorough explanation of your fractionation, in the OP and reply.  Makes more sense now.  I really need to stop comparing what you're doing with what I'm playing with -- my sieving apples do not correspond in any way to your milling + fractionation oranges.  Your photo of your 'farina' looked so much like the ~20% fraction that my 55# retains from store-bought WW flours that I was equating the two.  So your "24% farina" formula became, in my simple mind, 4% more "bran fraction" than the native ~20%, making it a 120% WW bread.  But I started to doubt that when I noticed your formula was 72% hydration -- way too low for such a high fiber flour blend.  Indeed, when I've made soakers of just my 55# 'bran fraction', almost 200% hydration is required to fully saturate it.

I'd meant to say as well that those are beautifully shaped loaves.  Kind of like the tubby batards that Phil/Pips posted soon after.  Inspires me to develop some batard-shaping skills and start using my couche for more than just wrapping loaves that come out of the oven too late at night to seal up!  All in good time.

Finally, I wish our "outer room" was 62-65˚!  Ours is 50˚ and our woodstove is working hard (unsuccessfully during this cold spell) to get the rest of the house to 60˚F.  Gotta go to the top of our water heater to achieve dabrownman-level balminess @ 70˚F.

Happy milling!


bakingbadly's picture

Beautiful loaves, Varda. Your diligence to milling has rewarded you well, it seems. :)


varda's picture

Happy baking!  -Varda

SylviaH's picture

It really caught my eye.  Nice looking linen prints too :)  You hard work and dedication to your milling is very admirable.  Nice work as always, Varda!


varda's picture

Thanks so much for commenting.   I have a new couche from Breadtopia which is a lot stiffer and sturdier than the KA one.  I haven't seen it leave a pattern before, but this time I retarded overnight with no flour, so I guess that's what did it.    And oh - the milling and sifting is my idea of a good time.   Just weird I guess ;-)   Hope to see what you've been up to.  -Varda