To mill or not to mill ?
I have been asked many times of why go to the trouble of milling your own flour, and it really is a very good question that has crossed my mind many times, however if you use a similar analogy to coffee and why freshly ground coffee is superior in taste to what you buy in a bottle, or the difference between freshly ground sea salt as compared the packaged equivalent you might buy in the shop. Night and day springs to mind.
In short freshly ground flour makes infinitely better bread. The reality is that whole grain flour starts to degradate once it is milled, as grain contains bran which oxidizes and degrades pretty quickly. Given we use a high % of wholegrain we try to use it as fresh as possible and the best way to ensure is to mill it yourself. Commercial flours milled on modern roller mills typically contain smaller bran particles (or in some cases no bran, i.e. white flour). Bran is high in dietary fibre and other nutrients but its presence results in denser bread because sharp bran particles “pop” the gluten bubbles that form as bread dough develops. Wholegrain consumption has also been associated with a reduction in chronic disease risk, while refined grains can increase risk. The fibre of wholegrains is especially important as it contains a high level of prebiotic fibres that fuel the good bacteria in the gut, driving their growth. This is essential for good gut health, but has a knock-on effect on both mental and physical health.
Sourdough bakers who use a high proportion of stonemilled flour typically have a variety of tricks they can use to achieve a good rise. They might add extra water to increase the formation of gluten bonds during the proving stage, or delay adding salt. Many bakers dilute or combine their mix with white flour which is more refined. They also tend to leave the bread to ferment for longer sometimes up to 48 hours as in the case of some of our sourdough loaves.
Eoin knows it’s 100 per cent wholegrain and he knows it’s fresh because he mills it himself on a beautiful machine in his bakery three times a week.He’s one of a small but growing band of bakers who are ditching refined flours and grains, for both health and taste reasons and milling their own.
But we’re also just insatiably curious bakers, through our love of making naturally leavened sourdough – we want to get as deep into the process as possible, and having control over the transformation of pure grain into flour is something we’re so excited and proud to say is part of our everyday baking practice. It also allows us to have relationships direct with the farmers growing the grains and we are working with a number of Irish farmers to grow ancient organic grains once more which we can mill and use in our breads.