The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

New to home-milling--loaves are disaster

melishm76's picture
melishm76

New to home-milling--loaves are disaster

I am brand new to posting on the forum but have used the site many times for advice. I have found other older posts that have addressed similar problems, but I've still found no solution to my own. I have been making sourdough bread successfully (recipes; trial and error) for almost two years and have always wanted to start milling my own flour. I just purchased the Nurtimill Harvest Grain Mill and have used it on two batches (third is fermenting now). Here are my results:

-Flour is gritty. Has a sandy texture.

-Dough does not hold together

-"Stretch & fold" is impossible as the dough doesn't actually stretch. It just breaks.

-Very little air in dough or final product

-Bread turns out very moist and flat

First, I've wondered if I'm grinding it too coarse. The Nurtimill manual says turn the knob to the left until you hear the stones start rubbing together, then turn it once back the other way so you don't hear them rubbing together anymore. I did this and this is my result. Secondly, I've been using Nature's Earthly Choice Red Winter Wheat. Admittedly, I bought sealed packages from the discount grocery store. Is this my problem?

Any help is appreciated! Thank you!

williampp's picture
williampp

Hi Melishm76, I am also new to milling and am having the same problems as you, so I will watching the replies you get to this post. I have a Komo mill, which grinds flour similar to what you describe. My first 2 loaves (if you would call then loaves) were flat. Number 3 a bit better. I am thinking that we may have to put more effort into the dough, before we add the starter ( i am a sourdough bloke as well ). My next try will be soaking the home milled flour for a long time, then add the starter, but only give it one rise. The reason for 1 rise is, it seems to me that there is not as much rise in home milled flour, as in that white stuff + things we buy from the supermarket. I should be trying my 1 rise bread tomorrow, I will let you know how it goes.

Bill.

Justanoldguy's picture
Justanoldguy

I own a different type of mill so I searched for the instruction manual for the one you have. The online manual says to turn the adjustment to the right for finer flour and left for coarser. This differs from the procedure you posted that you used. In my experience freshly milled flour seems "thirstier" than the bagged product. My sandwich loaves seem to benefit from an autolyze, around 45 minutes at least with just the flour and water getting acquainted. I've not used the wheat that you mention so I don't know if that's the problem. The nutrition label on the product I found online indicated there was enough protein for bread dough. A look at your whole recipe might help.

DanAyo's picture
DanAyo

I use hard red winter wheat. Actually it’s a favorite of mine.

Dan

DanAyo's picture
DanAyo

A few thoughts. Try starting out with a small portion of whole wheat and the remainder using commercial flour.

Maybe try baking a loaf with commercial yeast first. That way you’ll rule out anything to do with the starter.

Whole wheat breads will never be as light as those using commercial flours.

I close my stones until they touch and then back off very slightly. A whole turn sounds like a lot. You shouldn’t be getting a lot of grit at this setting. It will not be as smooth as store bought flour because of the bran, but pretty smooth. It’s not necessary, but you can regrind the flour a second time to make it a tiny bit smoother.

Whole grain will make for a drier dough than commercial flour if the water content stays the same.

Let us know your recipe, we can make sure things look correct. Any and all information can help.

If possible, post pictures. They always help.

BTW, you’ll love your mills, once you get the hang of it!

Dan

barryvabeach's picture
barryvabeach

Just posting to stay keep with it.  I found when I started with home milling, the flour was less thirsty than commercial whole wheat, so it all depends.  It may help if you post your recipe and procedures, so we can see if there is anything there.  BTW, your mill is very similar to the Komo, so it shouldn't be a problem with the mill, though I agree with just an old guy, you want to turn it one or two clicks away from touching, and you should get a fairly fine flour. 

clazar123's picture
clazar123

It is very hard to help change or correct something if I don't know what you do in the first place. Posting a recipe is the first step-it doesn't have to be fancy or formatted in a spreadsheet. Ingredients, amounts and what you did with them. Pictures would be the bee's knees.

Just as a shot in the dark suggestion on problem solving- you need to know that whole wheat does not substitute directly for store bought AP flour. It is a different ingredient and needs different handling- in fact a whole new recipe is required. It will react differently in regards to hydration, how yeast (commercial or natural levain) behaves, kneading, and rising. It is a new learning curve unto itself.

In regards to milling finer flour, not everything is in the manual. Google around a bit. Turn the dial to the finest setting and then turn it a little past. That suggestion was even in my Mockmill manual. You can run the first pass flour through the mill a second time and then sieve the resultant flour. Or you can make bread with the coarser flour that is delicious and soft, if handled correctly but will be a bit dense.  

Please post recipes and pics. A pic of the flour would be useful, too. You will get lots of help if people know what the problem is but they can't know the problem if there is not enough vital info.

 

 

HansB's picture
HansB

I too mill with the stones just touching. It produces a nice fine flour.

Filomatic's picture
Filomatic

As clazar says, it's impossible to pinpoint your problem without knowing what process you followed.  Hard winter wheat is what home millers typically use in place of the store bought WW called for in a recipe.

Home milled flour contains bran and germ, unlike store bought WW (unless you've been buying whole grain flour with a shelf life).  The bran is fairly sharp, and there are a couple ways to deal with it.  You can sift it out and use it in your levain (credit dabrownman), which gives the hard bits an extra fermentation, is great food for the wild beasts, softens it up for more healthful human consumption, and softens it so there is less of a tendency for it to sever the gluten strands.  You can also see if running it through the mill a second time breaks up the brain more.

If you're working with high percentages of whole grain, that is more challenging anyway, and you're going to have to play around with autolyse, and consider that hydration level necessarily goes up as percentage of WW or whole grain flour goes up.  A 75% hydration white loaf might make for very wet handling, whereas the same hydration for 100% WW or whole grain could feel under hydrated.

bikeprof's picture
bikeprof

clazar and filo  have a number of good points...I'll just reiterate that you should adjust your expectations, esp. if you are using all home milled flour.  I would also suggest taking an incremental approach (starting by using a modest portion of home milled flour in your formula, and the rest the commercial flour you have been using).

While doing that, you need to give it time and try different things, getting to know your mill and the flour it can produce, different kinds/sources of wheat berries, and your whole baking process.  There is a lot to learn on all fronts.  Add in bolting and there are a bunch more possibilities.

Do post formulas and pics for better help...

 

melishm76's picture
melishm76

Thank you all for your quick and thorough responses. I guess I hadn't been too detailed about my method in the original post. I stopped measuring/weighing ingredients about a year ago to better "feel" what was going on. But this is a rough guess at my recipe and the method I used:

-3 C. flour using Hard Red Winter Wheat Berries (ground using 'fine' setting but still seemed very coarse)

-about 1 C. King Arthur's Bread flour

-eyeballed water as I mixed

About 1pm: I let autolyse for 30 min then added salt and about 1/2 C. starter. Tried to stretch and fold but had no luck stretching, as dough would just break as soon as I picked it up. I just let it be. No bubbles formed and the texture seemed dense and heavy the whole time. I let it rest for the day and even overnight on the counter (I read this could also be helpful for home-milled WW bread). Even though it did not rise at all, I plopped it in the dutch oven at 475 degrees for 25 min bake time w/ lid, about 10min without lid. The flavor is there but texture is not at all. Very wet, dense. Overproofed? Pic is attached.

I also tried this same method on the last loaf but added about 1/4 C vital wheat gluten (I read it would be good to use w/ WW bread to aid gluten development). Results were about the same. 

I have read through the advice you all have given so far and started a new loaf a few hours ago. I ended up milling a higher quality organic hard red winter wheat berry from Whole Foods. I went against the grain mill's manual advice and ended up milling the grain with the stones touching. I was able to get a nice fine consistency that I was happy with. I soaked the flour for 3 hours before adding salt, starter, and a bit of KA bread flour. It already looks SO much better. There actually seems to be some gluten development. I'll update when I have a finished product.

I guess my question now is will it damage my mill if I continue to grind with the stones touching?

Thanks again!

 

barryvabeach's picture
barryvabeach

 You definitely do not want the stones touching when milling   If they are touching, they will get hot, and excess heat can damage the flour.    I don't think eyeballing water is a good method -   and many suggest that water should be added to WW, then wait 10 minutes and check if more water needs to be added because it absorbs water at a different rate than AP or BF.   I think room temp fermentation for 24 hours would likely be overproofed  ( all day plus overnight ) but their could be other problems with your procedure.  Have you used this procedure using other flour?   I find it easy to forget that we need to do several things, that don't happen all at once.  You have to have gluten formation.  Without that , the yeast will reproduce and give off gas, but the gas will mostly escape the loaf without gluten to capture the air.   You also need yeast activity to generate the gas -  which will cause the bread to increase in volume, if there is enough gluten present.  Finally we need to develop flavor.  Going the other direction, we don't want the yeast to exhaust the food source, once it does, the yeast will die off, and we don't want the flour to break down.   All of these factors are balanced in one way or another by a recipe that says autolyze for x min, then knead  ( or do S & F of x times , separated by ---- minute intervals,  and allow to bulk ferment until increase in volume by _____.    So I would start with a formula and procedure you feel comfortable with, and try to repeat it with home milled flour, though you may need to add extra water to get a similar feel, and watch the dough since it may develop in a different time frame than AP or BF. 

HansB's picture
HansB

With the Mockmill you definitely DO want the stones touching. If his flour is not fine enough the stones need to be closer together. See video at 1:15 for proper adjustment.

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aVijulPWye0

albacore's picture
albacore

Yes, for my last Mockmill session I had the stones touching and the flour was a lot finer.

However I suspect the concept of "stones touching" may be prone to confusion. In the Mockmill, the top stone floats on two small springs, so although it might sound like it's touching without grain, as soon as the grains go in they force the stones apart and they are not touching, just grinding the grain fine.

I'm not sure if other mills work the same way.

Lance

melishm76's picture
melishm76

Yes, I think that last loaf was definitely over proofed! No, I've never tried the "overnight" method with any other loaves--this was my desperate attempt to see some air make its way into the dough. I always use a combination of whole wheat and bread flour (never AP) but had never seen the dough behave this way. With my current loaf going so well, it makes me think the problem was definitely the coarseness of the flour. I'm not sure what that happy medium is between keeping the stones so close that they produce fine flour and keeping them far enough away that they're not damaging the flour. With the stones just far apart that they were not touching, the flour was too coarse and there was little-to-no gluten formation. This was my problem. With the finer flour, the gluten development is totally normal. I'll keep the thread posted on how the new loaf turns out. Thank you for your advice!

Justanoldguy's picture
Justanoldguy

Melishm76 don't think we're jumping on you with all this info/critique. For myself, when, not if, I do two more 'wheat bricks' I will be able to construct a full scale model of the Great Pyramid of Giza from my 'oopsy-daiseys'. You might want to begin using weight instead of volume for your measurements. This is advice from a fellow that dearly loves pounds, drams, gills, ounces, inches, grains, pecks, bushels, yards etc. Here's an example. Were your three cups of flour really flour or were they three cups of wheat? Three cups of berries will mill into almost four cups of flour, so there's no one-to-one correspondence with them. In addition, it's very difficult to derive accurate percentages of the various ingredients in relation to the amount of flour without using weight and bread making is a game of percentages. Another thing to consider is using a proportion of commercial flour in your recipes. I've been riding around on King Arthur Unbleached Bread Flour 'training wheels' until quite recently while I got used to using home-milled flour exclusively. Even adulterated loaves are wonderful by comparison. So, keep your nose to the grindstone and endeavor to persevere. It'll all come together and you'll be amazed at what you've accomplished.

melishm76's picture
melishm76

Thanks Justanoldguy for your advice. I've actually never measured my ingredients. I've only ever weighed but as mentioned in my previous post, I have just "felt" the ingredients for about the past year. It's worked out well for me (with much trial and error, of course!). My "recipe" above was merely a guess at what I used. I've considered going back to measuring and recording any changes I make just for quality control purposes. I think my biggest problem here has been the flour being too coarse. Like you, I've added some King Arthur Bread Flour to each of my home-milled loaves so far but I'd like to get away from that. Thanks so much for your advice. I'm glad we can all come together here over our love of bread! :)

clazar123's picture
clazar123

It can be done and it can be delicious. You can even get good gluten and starch development. So... while you are working on getting the flour fine enough, you can still make delicious bread with the flour that turns out a little coarse. There is nothing like home-milled flour for that. The trick is to do 2 things- soak it a long time and knead it/mix it a long time. The key is to NOT overproof it. All in all, you use the same techniques as in making a high percentage rye or pumpernickel.

Here is a link to the recipe I am currently working with. I have a working sheet but I have not written it up yet so I will just list my comments/recommendations.

1. This recipe is based on Peter Reinhart's  master recipe in "Whole Grain Breads". He uses what he calls the "epoxy method"-essentially a biga and soaker made separately and then mixed together in the final dough-same concept as using epoxy. Good book-consider a purchase or borrowing from the local library.

2.  I made the biga and soaker up in plastic gallon ziplocks the evening before I was going to assemble the bread. They are very wet and this allowed me to "massage" the doughs very well. I had the best gluten and starch development!.

3. I reduced the yeast in the last part from 1 tbsp. to 2 teaspoon. I like my bread to rise slower.

4. My next time making I will substitute my very active sourdough culture. Be aware that SD yeast eats through fresh milled flour very quickly-I may chill the biga overnight to prevent it overdeveloping into a puddle of goo.

5. I used a kitchenaid mixer. This is a very sticky dough but don't add a lot of bench flour or you will end up with a brick. Handle it with damp (not wet) hands and a bench scraper.

6. This makes a moist, supple slightly dense bread. It is not prone to developing holes due to the coarseness of the flour and does best in a pan. BUT the taste is phenomenal. I have made it twice and I have gotten rave reviews.

 

I understand your desire to make bread by feel and you can do a learning curve that way. But it is more efficient (tho not as fun) to advance on the learning curve by first doing some measuring,weighing and tracking.  Some differences in how an ingredient or dough behaves are subtle but important and tracking gives you better feedback.

OTOH, I had a gifted baker (for white bread and cakes) in an uncle. He never measured a thing and came out with big, fluffy loaves (Army trained-produced volume but not much taste). However, he could not share that information with anyone else because he didn't understand what the ingredients did-he just knew how they felt. He couldn't make biscuits to save his soul and NEVER made rye or whole wheat. He didn't know how they were supposed to feel. If he tried to make rye, he would have added a ton of flour so it wasn't sticky and then we would have had rye bricks.

I make some of the best loaves on a whim without a recipe but often I am not able to repeat it. I also enjoy sharing recipes so you have to measure in some way. The important thing is to have fun when you bake and enjoy sharing what you learn. Keep asking questions. How do you think I got here?