Milling your own flour

Last year I celebrated 10 years with my current employer and to recognise the fact the company gives a nice gift of our choosing and so I chose a grain mill and 30Kg of grain. After some searching I went for a German machine called a Havos Novum, they have a distributor in the UK and it didn’t take too long to arrive.

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It was a lot larger than it looked and makes a fair old racket when it’s going but seems very solidly built and is easy to clean. I wanted something that looked like a modern piece of kitchen tech rather than the many wooden cuckoo clock types I saw.

Finding grain was a little challenging and originally my first batch came via the nice folks at the Denver Mills. It was a bit of a baptism of fire, previously flour was just plain, self-raising and strong bread flour. Now we’re talking varieties of wheat and blends!

Shepard – Excellent soft flour for cakes
Paragon – Strong flavoured, dark, bread flour
Magister – Strong flavoured, bread flour
Amaretto – Milder flavour, good all rounder

More recently I’ve hooked up with the very helpful Howard Roberts at Hammonds End Farm in Harpenden, he’s been wonderful and even gave the children and me a tour of the farm, oh and he does some wonderful grain. So far we’ve tried the Amaratto and Paragon and which make a wonderful tasty blend for bread, especially sourdough, he also does Spelt, Oats & Rye, all organic in 25Kg bags, he gets my recommendation and is very accommodating for home millers with the smaller quantities.

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If stored properly grain should last a fair time, we’re talking 5+ years and to be honest we seem to get through it much faster than I though we ever would, I keep it in sealed plastic tubs in the garage once the larger bags are opened and I store the unopened bags in a large plastic dustbin from B&A, typically I mill about 1-1.5Kg at a time.

Typically I mix 50/50 Amaretto/Paragon, the wheat from Hammonds End farm is really clean, very little unwanted grains/chaff unlike my previous supply that I had to manually sift through to remove a lot of chaff/junk before milling.

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If you look closely you may be able to notice the difference, Amaretto on the left, Paragon on the right. I just fill up the hopper, turn on the mill and place a 5l stainless steel bowl under the spout, you need to keep an eye on it as if you just walk away it will pile up and overflow the edge of the bowl so you need to rotate it eve now and then. The freshly milled “green” flour is quite warm after milling and you can feel some of the moisture in the flour if you hold your hand above the bowl. I typically leave it in the bowl open in the kitchen to cool.

Once cooled its time to sift and remove the bran, you can leave it in for 100% whole grain flour, however it’s not as wholesome as it sounds, the bran is quite sharp and will cut the gluten stands, coupled with the fact that the protein/gluten levels in green flour are a little lower can make things a little challenging. Evidently ageing flour increases the protein levels and makes the flour easier to work with. I’ve tried with/without bran and nowadays I sift out the majority and use it for other things. You do need a fairly fine sieve, below you can see some of the bran, different grain types seem to give different bran, the Shepard gives quite big flakes, the others much finer.

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What really surprised me was the smell, sadly it’s not something I can adequately convey on the blog but when you mill grain it has a wonderful wheat smell, quite unique. Below is some of the final sieved flour, it’s not as fine as shop bought roller milled bread flour but I don’t notice much difference in bread making.

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My experience has been that you can get a decent loaf/pizza/rolls out of green flour without adding gluten if you use sieved flour and the fold technique, mix, fold, leave for 30 mins, fold, leave, fold, leave, fold then prove. It’s taken a bit of experimentation to get there but now I just take it for granted in terms of going through the process from grain to loaf and it’s quite satisfying.

There is probably a lot more I could do with some more rigorous controlled experiments with blends and sieving but I tend to be a little trial and error in my approach and get there in the end evening I’m not quite sure how!

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