Why use fresh flour?
I was first introduced to fresh flour when I was living in Copenhagen. I was visiting a friend for dinner and she served the most delicious Rugbrød (rye bread) that I had ever had. Of course I wanted to know more about the bread and that’s when she showed me a little table top mill. In a matter of minutes she was able to mill enough rye flour to provide bread for her family everyday.
Since then I set out to learn more about milling fresh flour and how it can be used in everyday baking at home. I have learned that fresh milled flour can produce breads and other baked products that have a better flavour and nutritional content. It is also a really great way to diversify your home baking.
Fresh milled flour is becoming more and more popular in professional bakeries and in homes and I wanted to share a few things I have learned over the years.
This guide will help you learn the following and more:
- The benefits of using freshly milled flour
- A few ways to mill fresh flour at home
- Whether or not milling your own flour is for you
- A little bit more about flour in relation to your baking
About the Grain
In some ways milling your own flour could be compared to grinding coffee. In North America grinding your own coffee has become more and more popular over the past decade. Coffee aficionados, local coffee shops and restaurants often choose to grind their own coffee as it produces a better tasting coffee. There are even many home brew coffee machines that come with a built in coffee grinder. Milling flour at home can be rewarding for the same reasons, and can help you make better tasting products at home.
The wheat berry is made up of three parts; the bran, the germ and the endosperm.
- The bran is the part on the exterior that contains all the fibre.
- The endosperm is the starch interior part that contains most of the protein.
- The germ is the nutritional headquarters of the wheat berry. This is where all the vitamins and minerals exist.
Most commercially available flour is processed on a roller mill. These work by stripping layers of the wheat berry ultimately removing everything but the starchy part that is recognized as white flour. This can be bread flour, all purpose flour, 00, pastry flour and more.
While these flours are shelf stable are known to have a great consistency they do not have the nutritional content of fresh milled or stone milled flour.
Stone mills have two stones inside. The wheat berry goes through a hopper and it is crushed between the two stones. This type of short milling keeps all parts of the grain in tact and preserve the nutrition and flavour of the wheat.
6 Benefits to Using Fresh Flour
#1 – Fresh Flour is Healthier
While this is not to say that other flours are unhealthy it is something to consider when think about the shelf life of our milled flour. By using freshly milled flour we are choosing to use flour when it is at it’s nutritional peak.
#2 – Fresh Flour Tastes Better
While it might sound funny, I find that fresh milled flour smells like bread. It’s still bright, vibrant and almost alive when it is first milled. If you rub your fingers together with the flour you can feel the wheat berries natural oils rubbing between your fingers. The aromas and freshness of the flour come through in the final product. Like anything if we use older chopped herbs, ground coffee or even cut up fruit the terpenes, natural oils and aromas start to degrade. This will ultimately affect our final product when it comes to taste.
#3 – Milling your own grains can add diversity to your baking
Not only can you mill different varieties of wheat you can also crack grains. By using a mill on a coarse setting with the stones further apart we can break them open into larger particles than flour. Cracked be made into porridges eaten as is or even added to breads. We can add another unique layer to our breads by adding cracked grains. Typically the grains are cooked (I use a 4:1) ratio and add them back into a developed dough. There are also many rye breads that contain cracked rye to enhance the profile of the grain in the bread.
#4 – Wheat Berries Store and Keep Much Longer than Flour
Wheat is a grass seed. If you soak it in water or put it in the ground it will sprout and grow. The moment we crack it open and expose it to oxygen we begin to degrade the grains quality. This can effect the taste, appearance, aroma and nutritional content.
#5 – You get to Eat the Whole Grain
When you mill your own flour you get to eat 100% of the grain. You can also choose to sift the flour through a fine mesh sieve to lighten the flour and remove some of the coarse bran. When we remove the bran I like to add it back to oatmeal in the morning to add a bit more fibre for my daughters breakfast.
#6 – Fresh Milled Flour can be More Active
Fresh milled flour is great food for your starter. It can have high enzymatic activity and tends to ferment fast. Keep a watchful eye on doughs as they rise, with larger amounts of freshly milled flour. For this same reason milling flour for your starter can be beneficial. When starting a new starter using fresh milled flour will amp up fermentation and help you develop a healthy starter fast.
Fresh Milling at home
Large stone mills such as the New American Stone Mill are designed so that the grains do not heat up (or heat as little as possible). In many small home mills the grains will heat up slightly during the milling process. I like to treat each grain differently and mil them according to what they will be used for.
With harder varieties of wheat I often freeze them in air tight jars before I mill them. I then mill then on a coarse setting followed by a fine setting. This allows me to get a finer mill on the flour which in turn allows me to add a bit more water to my doughs as well as prevents them from over heating in the mill.
With softer grains I normally just mill them fine the first time. I then spread them out and allow then to cool before being used so they do not effect my desired dough temperatures.
One benefit to fresh milled flour is that you can choose to mill only what you need. We like to plan our baking at home so we can mill 1-2 times a week. This also helps the flour come to room temperature and more importantly saves us time when we are baking. We use the mentality “mill today, bake tomorrow” a mindset that I first heard from Blair Marvin of Elmore Mountain Bread.
Fresh milled flour has a larger volume and tends to be lighter than flour that has been sitting. I try to always use a scale when baking but keep in mind when using volume that your recipe ratios may change.
Add variety to your baking.
There are many different types of grains you can experiment with milling at home. Hard red spring, hard red winter, red spring, durum, along with heritage varieties of wheat such as red fife, einkorn, spelt, rye, Khorasan, emmer, amber wheat and more.
In addition to fresh flour, there are many other grains, pulses and legumes that can be milled at home a few of my favourites are:
Storing your Grains
I store my grains in a cool dark place. Like almost all food heat and light will damage grains and cause them to start breaking down. Buying in bulk can help save money and help limit trips to the store or shipping costs. As mentioned above we try to mill smaller quantities at a time and typically do not keep fresh milled flour around for longer than a week.
Where to buy wheat berries and other grains
I like to experiment with grains and source from a number of mills, farmers and stores. Ask at your local bakery food co-op and they likely will help you sources grains for milling.
A few sources in Canada that offer a unique and quality variety of grains are:
I hope this guide has helped you understand a bit more about fresh flour and how you can use it in your home baking. If you have any questions let me know in the comments.
All Photos are by: Alex Nirta Photography