The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

7 things about fresh-milled flour

idaveindy's picture
idaveindy

7 things about fresh-milled flour

In my experience, Fresh-Milled flour has 7 "things" I need to allow for:

This is based on using a sourdough starter/levain. Commercial yeast (dry or fresh) will be slightly different.

1. Fresh-milled flour is usually thirstier, takes more water, than store-bought WW. This is a general rule. You will eventually find exceptions, i.e., some grain will already be high in moisture, and therefore need less water.

2. Fresh-milled flour takes more time to soften, so use 30-90 minutes of soak/autolyse (without starter/levain, depending on granularity (particle size).

Sidenote: because of 1 and 2, if I make a combo fresh-milled WW and white flour loaf, I autolyse only the fresh-milled WW because the white flour would "steal" the water first.  So in that  case, I add the white flour (and some water) when I combine in the levain.  I'm sure there are other ways to do it.

3. Fresh-milled flour is Tricky, in that you think you over-wetted it, but then it absorbs and it feels underhydrated, but then it eventually slackens. So after you learn by trial and error (keep meticulous records of weights) and "dial it in", then you have to trust it to end up at the right spot of hydration.  You sort of have to learn three or four  different "feels", one at each stage, (depending if you add salt in a separate stage -- salt tightens dough, temporarily.)

3a. "Wet sand" feel. Home-milled flour can sometimes be gritty, especially extra hard wheat such as durum and Kamut/Khorasan.  I need at least a 1 hour autolyse (no starter/levain) for these.  And even then, the transformation from "wet sand" to dough doesn't happen, for me at least, until 30-60 minutes after incorporating the levain.

My procedure is usually: 1 hour autolyse, gently incorporate levain (no kneading, just gentle folds), let it rest 30 min, incorporate salt and hold-back water, let rest 30 minutes for it to slacken becasue salt tightens it up, then do stretch and folds.

3b. Important: Do not knead or do "stretch and folds" until the  "wet sand" becomes "dough" and the dough is extensible enough.  If the dough never slackens/loosens or becomes extensible ("stretch-able") enough say, 45 minutes, after adding salt (or after adding levain, if salt was already in it), then it likely needs more water.

4. Fresh-milled ferments FAST!  I use 3.5% prefermented flour for an overnight bulk ferment, or an overnight proof.  Fresh-milled, like most store-bought WW, maybe even more than store-bought WW,  keeps on fermenting in the fridge, more so than white flour does in the fridge.  The fridge won't "stop" WW from fermenting/aging/breaking down.

5. Fresh-milled flour has oil from the bran and germ  Store-bought WW has had some oil evaporated off, and might not even have had the germ in it, depends on brand. So I use little to no oil compared to store-bought WW.

6. If I over-hydrate a dough, and feel like I need to add flour to adjust, I add _white flour_ because it will absorb water quicker than fresh milled WW.  The late addition of WW and especially fresh-milled WW won't get as hydrated/soaked as well as what was in there from the beginning.  In other words, to "salvage" an over-wet dough at some point in the bulk ferment, I use white store-bought  flour.

7. Good oven spring on a boule or batard (ie, not a pan-loaf, like sandwich bread) generally requires under-fermenting. Do not let it rise (first or second rise) as much as you do with a loaf baked in a pan.  First rise (usually called bulk ferment) can be 30-50% increase.  2nd rise (usually called final proof) even less, depends on if you do it at room temp or in fridge.

Your mileage may vary.

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Suggested reading:

Avoiding/removing bugs: http://www.thefreshloaf.com/node/64081/tip-bugs-whole-grains

Starch damage: http://www.thefreshloaf.com/node/62154/oven-spring-possible-miche

Sifting and multiple passes through your mill: www.thefreshloaf.com/node/62237/bolting-sifting-comparison-1-pass-vs-5-passes

Easy sandwich loaf formulas: http://www.thefreshloaf.com/node/62486/community-bake-approachable-loaf-bread-lab

Testing/comparing different varieties of home-milled wheat (just the comment, not the whole thread/post): http://www.thefreshloaf.com/node/56742/community-bake-maurizios-fiftyfifty-whole-wheat-sourdough-everyone-welcome#comment-412372 

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Notable comments. See more below, in the comment section:

From MTLoaf:

2. [...] I like to use around 15% bread flour for more consistent results. Extra kneading will make the loaf lighter.

3. Sifting is worth the effort. Even if you are going to bake with all the brown bits because it oxygenates the flour and allows it to absorb the water better. Separating them with a #40 will collect about 5>7% and a #50 will get around 15%. The bran can be presoaked, used in a levin, toasted or used for other things. My chickens love a bran dough ball.

4. My personal preference with whole wheat is to error on the side of over hydrate because the bran will absorb moisture even after it has baked. The Approachable Loaf from the recent Community Bake here at TFL (http://www.thefreshloaf.com/node/62486/community-bake-approachable-loaf-bread-lab) is 85 to 90% water and produces a Wonder Bread soft sandwich loaf. Say no to the brick.

5. Other grains like rye, spelt, white whole wheat, kamut are nice to have on hand. [...]

Comments

naturaleigh's picture
naturaleigh

Wish I had read this about two hours ago!  ;-). I think I might need to add some more water to the dough that I just started bulk fermenting.  I'm trying to utilize a higher percentage of freshly milled wheat berries into my bakes.  I see now why this new recipe I am trying called for counter top/out of the bowl stretch and folds...it's simply too tight to do it in the bowl.  This is definitely a different animal.  Hope I'm not going to be disappointed.  It does, however, call for an overnight bulk ferment in the fridge, so hopefully things will loosen up a bit.  Thanks so much for posting this info!

MTloaf's picture
MTloaf

1. Taste and nutrition was the first reason I chose to mill my own. (Mock Mill 100) The first time I smelled the flour coming out of the mill I knew it was going to be both.

2. I was worried that I wouldn't get the same baking performance as a commercial flour but have not adjusted by more than a "watch the dough" and pay attention to the feel kind of way. I have made a few 100% WW loaves but like Dave I like to use around 15% bread flour for more consistent results. Extra kneading will make the loaf lighter.

3. Sifting is worth the effort. Even if you are going to bake with all the brown bits because it oxygenates the flour and allows it to absorb the water better. Separating them with a #40 will collect about 5>7% and a #50 will get around 15%. The bran can be presoaked, used in a levin, toasted or used for other things. My chickens love a bran dough ball.

4. My personal preference with whole wheat is to error on the side of over hydrate because the bran will absorb moisture even after it has baked. The Approachable Loaf from the recent Community Bake here at TFL is 85 to 90% water and produces a Wonder Bread soft sandwich loaf. Say no to the brick

5. Other grains like rye, spelt, white whole wheat, kamut are nice to have on hand. There are heritage grains that I have yet to try. There is a whole world out there for exploring.

6. I will never eat white flour pancakes and waffles again. I love my white flour baguettes and pizza dough but fresh milled is the way to go for breakfast.

7. It began as a novelty but the recent pandemic shortages moved it into an essential category for me and having buckets of grains was a comfort.

Having the space to mill and store grains is almost essential. There is some dust involved. The other downside is not knowing for sure the quality of the berries which can vary a little even within the same brand because every year the crop and harvest are not the same. Professional millers can balance things out.

Thanks Dave for for your diligence in all things TFL

berryblondeboys's picture
berryblondeboys

I started using freshly milled grains a year ago now and I agree with everything you state here.

barryvabeach's picture
barryvabeach

MT,  I am almost with you on point 6, but I don't use white flour for pizza, instead white whole wheat for pizza as well as pasta, and in fact only use BF when testing a recipe - even then it has an empty taste.

shelmica's picture
shelmica

Thank you for this post.  I have been trying the fridge retard after shaping and could not figure out why the loaf just keeps growing.  I think overall based on your info I am probably over proofing.  Anyway, thank you very much for your summary. 

Another Girl's picture
Another Girl

I've been struggling with 100% home milled heirloom wheat doughs and bookmarked this post. Thank you thank you thank you!