The White Flour Project
"Do or do not...there is no try." Yoda
And so it is finally time to actually make a "white flour" milling run. This is a project that I have been mulling over for some time - and it is not a small one.
Here are some specifics as to my milling setup. I use a Diamant mill with steel burrs. The mill is hand cranked. For sifting, I use plastic classifiers from Legend, Inc. I have #12 (screen openings of .07"), #30(.02") and #50 (.01"). I also have a #100 (.006") but have not been using it. I use a Delmhorst G7 grain moisture meter to measure grain moisture.
The objective for this first "white flour" run was simply to get a generic "all purpose" white flour. I do not currently have the equipment to measure ash content, and the method described by bwraith in his blog requires a 12 hour waiting period. I can see how this would be useful, but at this time the project seems monumental enough.
The first step in the process is tempering. I am hoping to produce enough flour to make a recipe of baguettes, so I started with 32 oz (Oh, me and my pound and ounces, but this is a low precision operation and they should be good enough) of hard white wheat berries. To this I added 0.8 oz of water. After 24 hours I took a moisture level measurement and found the grain to be at 12.7% moisture. This is close enough to the desired 13% so the berries were left in the tightly sealed container for another 24 hours to continue the tempering process.
My target extraction level was 70%. Some of the weight of the grain is lost in the process, so my goal was to obtain 20 oz of "white" flour.
My first pass through the mill was what I define as a "medium sized" cracked wheat. This is a little finer than typical cracked wheat, but still more of a meal than a flour. This pass was sifted through the #12 sieve which is part of my process to remove the bran and then through the #50 sieve (which is the sieve through which I normally sift my high extraction flour) to see how much "flour" resulted from the first pass. On this first pass I obtained 1.5 oz of flour (from 32 oz of grain...) Not much, just not much at all.
My second pass was a 'fine" cracked wheat. This pass took all of the material that had not passed through the #12 sieve and milled it again. Again I sifted it through both the #12 and the #50 sieve. I obtained an additional 1.15 oz of white flour.
Since, frankly, I am just making this process up as I go along, I had to take a moment for quality thought. I already have what I consider to be a successful process for obtaining my high extraction flour and my objective was to get as much bran out of the process before I started doing the finer passes. So I switched to my "high extraction" process. I did one more pass to "very fine" cracked wheat and sifted it through the #12 sieve. This resulted in about 10 oz of "bran like" material left in the sieve. This would be about a 70% extraction, however noticing that some "bran like" material had passed through the sieve and would be sifted out at finer siftings, this would not result in my target extraction rate. So I put the material remaining in the sieve through the mill again at the same setting. Sifting through the #12 sieve left 4.35 oz of material in the sieve. This material was removed from the milling process.
I then sifted the remaining material through the #50 sieve to get 2.95 oz of flour. Clearly I had to continue with finer grinding.
The next pass through the mill was at what I call "hippie whole wheat" coarseness. This is starting to look like flour, but at a texture that bakes up into the doorstops we convinced ourselves were good bread a few decades ago. This was sifted through the #30 and the #50 sieves. From this pass I obtained an additional 2.95 oz of white flour. There was more milling to do. There was 5.25 oz of bran like material left in the #30 sieve. This was removed from the milling process, making the total bran removed 9.6 oz - somewhat below my target, allowing for some more material to be removed in later siftings.
The next pass was to the fineness of coarse ground whole wheat. Again it was sifted through the #30 and the #50 sieves. I obtained an additional 4.6 oz of flour.
At this point I had obtained, in total, about half the amount of white flour that was my goal. I needed to grind finer, but frankly at this point a small amount of bran was working its way through the mill and into my flour. It was a very small amount, but it was there. Oh well.
The next pass was essentially typical flour. I grind finer, but this is very like commercial whole wheat. This was sifted through the #50 sieve to obtain 4.05 oz of white flour. The material remaining in the sieve was returned to the mill and put through at the same setting. This was sifted through the #50 sieve to obtain an additional 3.95 oz of white flour. All of the remaining material was returned to the mill.
At this point I put my mill on its finest setting. Once again I sifted the output through the #50 sieve to get an additional amount of white flour of 2.5 oz.
That was it - I had my 20 oz of flour. I returned what remained in the sifter to the mill and did an additional pass. What went through the #50 sieve, however, was clearly loaded with bran and so was removed from the process.
All of this took about an hour. Coming soon to an infomercial near you "Milling and Sifting Your Way to Fitness."
What were the results? Unfortunately the combination of my snapshot camera and my photography skills result in unedifying pictures, so sorry, no pics. I have 20oz of whitish flour. It is clearly, but very lightly flecked with bran. Compared side by side with King Arthur All Purpose flour, it is a bit more yellow in color and just a bit grittier, but not unpleasantly so. The flour from the first couple of passes was distinctly greyer than the rest of the flour. Here is our treasured "clear" flour perhaps, but at such a low volume that I don't think I could justify milling it. I could put the results through the #100 sieve to attempt to get my "white" flour even whiter, but that would result in a much lower yield. I may have to tolerate the flecks of bran.
Right now I have two paths I could take for the next batch: stay with this method and send the next lot off to the lab for some test results, or try another method. The key, of course is to get the bran out before it gets ground too finely. I am considering doing more passes at coarser settings, but the flour yield from those is just a bit discouraging. I must remind myself that these burr mills are not roller mills and in general are not designed for milling white flours. I can be terribly hard on myself. Inspiration is welcome.
As for the baked results? Now we wait. Four weeks. For while there is much ambiguity about aging whole wheat flours, there is none for white flours. What I have is green flour and it needs to be aged prior to baking. I'm not going to let my lack of patience mess with the results...