The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

New home miller struggling!

polkadottattoos's picture
polkadottattoos

New home miller struggling!

I've been baking regular bread since I was a kid, have had success with sourdoughs, and 100% whole wheat using store-bought whole wheat flour but I'm struggling with home-milled wheat.  When my parents divorced a few years ago, in addition to an absentee father, i also got their Nutrimill and ~80 pounds of wheat berries (1/2 soft white, 1/2 hard red).  The wheat was originally stored in 5gal buckets in their basement but moved to my mother's storage garage for a year or so before making it's way to me.  I've been moderately successful in using 1/2 unsifted soft white and 1/2 store-bought in sandwich and no-knead loaves.  (It's a little heavier than normal but it's edible!)

Over the three or so years I've owned the mill I have tried to make a recipe from a home-miller blog here and there - last night, I tried one from a Flour Lab recipe - but I always end up with the same result.  The dough takes on a texture of paste or wet sand, no matter how studiously I sift, measure, and autolyse per the instructions.  Frustrated, I poked around on this forum a bit last night and found some recommending that when "wet sand" is the texture, it's time to hydrate further.  I took this dough to 100% hydration (from a start at about 80% in the recipe - by adding 100g of water last night and 100g additional this morning) before it lost the wet sand texture but it's still not...dough.  It's no longer paste, but it's still doesn't seem to have any meaningful gluten development and I'm 100% certain that if i dug my hands into the bowl and tried to lift the dough, i would end up with sticky slop on my hands and 90% of the mass still in the bowl.  This recipe is intended to rest overnight in the fridge after autolyzing and, at this point, since I'm already committed to the ingredient loss, I might as well leave it sit overnight and see if that makes something happen, but I'm not hopeful.

There's part of me that thinks "It was free, you didn't ask for it, just use up the grain that you have by blending it with store-bought flour and then run far far far away from this ill-advised experiment," but there's also part of me that knows that my parents used to have success with 100% whole grain bread using this mill and this flour and if they can do it then I can do it...I just don't know how...

Help?

idaveindy's picture
idaveindy

I dont have time right now to type much, but if you haven't already, see my blog entry on "7 things".

Re: hydration. It's also a matter of time, not hydration %.  you should not have to go over 90% unless your grain is super dry.

Others may disagree (maybe they know tricks I don't), but soft wheat is not for bread. it is for pancakes, waffles, muffins and tortillas.  Use only hard white or hard red for bread. Durum and Kamut can make bread too when you get skilled.

Mormons say sealed wheat lasts 30 years. Sure, its edible, in porridge, if stored well for 30 years, but for "good" bread, its less than 10 years.

And if not sealed, or not sealed correctly, it's like 4 to 7 years, depending on climate. So, depending on how long your wheat was sealed; then how long it has been sitting around unsealed ("enclosed" is not good enough), it may be ready to be used as cattle feed, pig slop, or compost.

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Soft  wheat has a much shorter shelf life, sealed or unsealed, than hard wheat. It just doesn't keep well.

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Also, if wheat  has blackpoint, it has a shorter shelf life, and you need to hand sort and remove the blackpointed grains if the black gets into the crease or the germ.

Look for my post on blackpoint for links to web sites with pictures to learn how to handle blackpoint.  Many sources sell "grade 2" wheat, or "barely grade 1", which after a period of time, can degrade to grade 2 or  3 when the blackpoint grows into the crease or germ.

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Things you ought to know about using stored wheat (as opposed to wheat harvested within the last 12 months)  :  date of harvest, date packaged/sealed, date package was unsealed.  The "age clock" starts at harvest, and slows during good sealed storage, but does not stop. Then when the seal is broken, the clock resumes normal speed.  and temp/humidity affects the clock speed.

I'll ask more questions later.

polkadottattoos's picture
polkadottattoos

That is 100% comforting information.  I was pretty sure when I took it to 90% and nothing good happened, it wasn’t going to, so I wasn’t that worried about dumping in the extra water and just seeing if it would on any level begin to resemble even so much as batter.  It took up some fridge space but that’s the totality of my loss.  I thought there was a solid case to be made for “the problem, at this point, is the arguably the grain” because I’ve never had flour just...behave like dust?...but having no frame of reference, I wasn’t sure and all I was told when receiving it is “That will last forever!”

We have a few granaries locally. I’ll arrange to pick up a small quantity of grain from one of them and try the Flour Lab recipe again with fresh wheat.  (And peruse your recommended reading :))  If that solves my problem (which i expect it will - I haven’t checked the date but I’d venture to guess we’re pushing 9 years) I’ll contact sone of our farm friends and see if they can make use of the old stuff or send it out with the compost :)

Thank you!

barryvabeach's picture
barryvabeach

Unfortunately,  I am not familiar with the flour lab recipe, so it will be hard to give much help on that side, but I do have a few things to suggest. First,  as Dave says , the soft wheat is probably similar to cake or pastry flour  https://www.bonappetit.com/story/difference-bread-all-purpose-cake-pastry-flour    

You can use it for pancakes, for quick breads like banana bread and I often mix it 50 % soft with 50% hard for pasta. 

Also,  I have never had the wet sand issue, but I had a question.   To be sure I understand, when you say Nutrimill -  you mean the Nutrimill Classic -  https://pleasanthillgrain.com/nutrimill     not the nutrimill harvest  https://pleasanthillgrain.com/nutrimill-harvest-mill     the Harvest uses stones, and if you using that ,  I would suggest that you open it up and inspect the stones to make sure they are clean.  The Classic and the Nutrimill plus use a different system without stones,  so you would not need to check those. 

 

I think your idea of testing the recipe with either store bought whole wheat or locally ground whole wheat is a good idea to rule out any problems with the grain.  If you have a Whole Foods store near you, they sell wheat berries in bulk - so you could buy a pound of hard berries and try them in your Nutrimill and see how that works out .

idaveindy's picture
idaveindy
idaveindy's picture
idaveindy

Polka, I'm not clear if all your bread attempts so far have included the soft wheat.  

 If you have not already done so, try making a loaf out of just the hard wheat, before you write it off as bad.

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I'm also unclear as to how many of the 9 years the wheat spent vacuum-sealed if any. Was it still vacuum-sealed when it went into storage, or when you received it 3 years ago?  

There is a big difference between vacuum-sealed (putting an oxygen absorber in the bucket before putting on the airtight lid), versus just putting on an airtight lid.

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Here's my post on blackpoint. not all the links still work, but some do:

http://www.thefreshloaf.com/node/61578/grading-wheat-berries

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Here's my experience with coarse ground home-milled wheat:

https://www.thefreshloaf.com/node/64863/7-things-about-freshmilled-flour

I use a 3-roller hand mill to crack the berries first, then finish by grinding them in a Vitamix blender (regular container/blades, not the dry grain container.)  So my flour is  very coarse.  

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And as Barry said, it is important to know which Nutrimill you have.

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Re: getting grain from a granary or a miller.  When mills, such as Central Milling, sell whole berries, they have gone through a cleaning process.  I don't know if granaries can or do clean their grain.

If you buy uncleaned grain, you'll need to sort/clean it by hand, to pick out the dirt, stones, husks, and shrunken/shrivelled/green/broken/mal-formed/blackpointed grains.  I do that by putting a sheet of parchment paper on a white surface, and spreading out 1/4 cup of berries at time on the paper. Then, by hand, pick out the bad and broken ones.

If the berries are less than 2 years old, my opinion is that a few  broken berries aren't bad.  But after long term storage, a broken berry has degraded, (the bran "seals" the germ and endosperm) and you want even fewer of them.

Getting un-cleaned grain, or even "clean" Grade 2 grain, where you have to pick out the blackpointed or damaged berries, makes it such a hassle, it's not worth it.  

Wet harvest years can lead to blackpoint. 2011 or thereabouts was a wet year with lots of blackpoint.  The big flour/food companies get the best grain, and lesser quality ends up in the home-milling market, and at the bottom is animal feed.

I've ended up with berries that were right on the border between grade 1 and grade 2. (Yes, I hand sorted and weighed.)  And one small test purchase from Whole Foods was definitely grade 2, but I didn't want to make a hassle over $3, and I figured a store level customer service person is not going to understand the nuances of wheat grading.

 

barryvabeach's picture
barryvabeach

Dave, thanks for the corrections to the links.