Fresh milling flour and grains at home: 6 simple tips
Image: a loaf I made using equal quantities fresh-stone-milled organic spelt grains and roller-milled white spelt flour.
Fresh milling wheat, rye and other grains and seeds has been gaining popularity over the past few years for home bakers (and professional kitchens and bakeries too).
Here are a few observations and tips:
1. Freeze the grains before milling for cooler flour.
Room temperature grains produce warm-hot flour; frozen grains produce room temperature flour. This may not be practical for larger bakeries, but worth trying for the home baker. I'm not sure if it makes a difference for the resulting flour, but it feels nicer, and much of the baking process is about enjoying the aesthetic and tactile aspects. Frozen grains can contain more moisture, so supervise the milling to ensure it does not clog.
2. Adjust your expectations of what the bread will be like.
Modern flour mills are exceptionally skilled at producing consistent flour, which is very helpful for the baker. These processes optimise the flour/s for certain baking qualities, usually loaf volume (for bread flours). A wholegrain stone-milled flour will not produce the same qualities. So, make fresh-milled flour breads for its qualities and modern (stainless steel roller-milled) flours for their attributes. Or blend both for a balance; make whatever you enjoy for the loaf you want.
3. Monitor fermentation and adjust accordingly.
Domestic stone mills mill the entire grain, so all the components of the grain are present. For wheat, this includes all the germ and aleurone layers (layers just under the outer bran). These provide lots of nutrients, enzymes and fats which can accelerate fermentation. Use cooler water and reduced yeast and/or sourdough starter quantities.
Many of the tips in my blog about baking in hot weather are applicable to fresh flour to help guide the active fermentation.
4. Test and record your results.
Having a mill allows the baking enthusiast to use a wider range of single-origin, locally sourced or heirloom grains and seeds. However, these come with seasonal and provincial variations (e.g. water absorption, enzyme activity, protein levels, etc.). So, if you like experimenting and changing from bake to bake, keep records of mixing, fermentation activity, water and finished results for future reference when using the same grains.
5. Buy grains in bulk to save money.
Whole grains have a long shelf-life (12 months+), so are worth buying in bulk bags. Invest in a tight sealing bucket or two to keep insects out, especially if using organic grains. Some suggest a bay leaf or two on top of the grains to prevent weevils and moths. It is a good habit to check new bags of grain for insects immediately upon purchase. Grains can be frozen for two weeks(+) to interrupt the weevil breeding cycle.
Fresh milling adds delightful flavours, aromas and colours to baked goods. The process also brings the baker closer to the raw ingredients and the processing.
I have a Hawos Billy 100 mill from Skippy Grain Mills (disclosure: I received a small discount, with no obligation). It mills very well, looks great, is a high-quality build and has an excellent warranty.
I regularly mill 1-2kg at a time (wheat and/or rye), and have done over 8kg in a day, so great capacity most home bakers. Micro-bakeries may benefit from the next size up model.
How I Mill:
Set the mill to desired fineness (e.g. I use #1 for wheat and rye), place the grains in the hopper and a container under the spout. Start the mill and watch the fine flour come out!
*Place a tea towel over the spout and container to minimise flour dust in the air.
*Stay in the room when milling to make sure the grains do not get stuck or the flour container overfills or backs-up into the mill.
*I mill from whole grain to flour in a single pass and the resulting flour is excellent and fine textured. I rarely sift the flour, but it is an option to remove some bran for a lighter bread.
Other ideas for fresh milling: wheat, rye, oat kernels, pearl barley, spelt, chickpeas, white rice, brown rice and many more seeds, spices and grains.