Home milled and commercial flour together

Daniel Leader says on page 64 of Living Bread, “Some home millers like to mix their own flour with commercial flour in order to make doughs more predictable. To me, this is missing the point. If you want to experience the advantages of freshly milled flour, then make the leap and use it exclusively, knowing that it is going to take some practice. Working with 100 percent home-milled flour will give you the chance to judge your dough and adjust your recipe and technique every time you mill, becoming a better and more sensitive baker in the process.”

I’ve been home milling for probably 15 years. Some of the time I’ve sifted the whole grain mill product to make high extraction flour. I don’t have a great set of sieves, though, and it’s a lot of dusty work to produce a kilo of refined flour in my kitchen. Consequently, until I read that passage several weeks ago, I’ve been adding however much all purpose flour suited my needs. It’s fussy work to both mill and sift and then clean everything up (I’m not the only one who uses the kitchen). Breadtopia is backordered on sieves, and sellers on eBay offer 30 days plus before delivery on their sieves. Still, for now I’m shamed by Leader and striving to use only my own flour, or mostly so. What do others think about mixing commercial with home-ground flour?

@tstavely Good morning, Tony. I actually do use both commercial flour and home milled whole grains in my breads. The primary reason, at least for me, is that I simply never had the desire to try and replicate commercial bread flour. I was very happy knowing I could buy a top quality organic bread flour. When it came to adding whole grain to my bread, I decided that fresh home milled was both nutritionally and flavor-wise the way I wanted to go. However, being able to purchase top quality ground whole grain flour is a great option for those who prefer not to mill their own. When I decided to begin this bread journey, back in February 2018, I purchased my Mockmill 100, all my bread baking flour, whole grain and supplies from Breadtopia while my sourdough starter was getting ready to be used. I had received a portion of some starter that had been made by a very dear local friend. She had been baking with it for years and was more than willing to share some with me. That starter, named Cyril, is now about 2-1/2 years old and he’s my faithful happy starter.

Tony, may I humbly address something you wrote in your post? You wrote, “Still, for now I’m shamed by Leader and striving to use only my own flour, or mostly so.” Dear Tony, do what is right for YOU; what you desire to use when baking. If you want to use only your own freshly milled grains into flour, then do so. It’s a wonderful choice. If you want to find and use a top quality commercially prepared bread flour to mix with your freshly milled grains, then do so. It’s also a wonderful choice. It does save time, energy, and there’s less mess than using a sieve (I’ve used one and I swear my whole kitchen counter ended up coated in flour dust). When I read that you felt shamed by the words and opinion of a book author, it saddened me. Reading and learning all you can on this bread journey is most gratifying and produces the most successful outcome. But when the words of an author, which are the author’s stated opinion in his book, feel like they’re causing distress to the reader, you, then it’s time to perhaps step back and find another source to read. I have never read Leader’s book and am not familiar with him at all. In my heart I am saddened to think that the words and personal opinion of an author has shamed you into thinking there is only one way to do something just because the author feels it’s the “correct” way. I pray that you have the mind and discernment to determine what is the best course of action for you. You are perfectly capable of choosing the ingredients and techniques you want to use for your breads. A little bit of this, a little bit of that, preferring this technique, liking this ingredient better than another…learning what is Tony’s way of baking is your unique bread journey. Being shamed into doing something just because someone else does it shouldn’t be a part of the decision. Your bread baking should bring you joy, not pain. I do realize that I may have overstepped my boundaries in writing this portion of my post. If I have, I very sincerely apologize and ask you to please forgive me. My desire for you is only the best.

Baking blessings,
Leah

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I hear what Leader’s saying regarding coming to a deep understanding of the flavor profile and performance of each wheat variety by using it in its purest form. I totally respect that approach.

For me, I like to think I can get that understanding even when I mix in bread flour. Not that I’m a super-taster (I wish!) but I do sense different flavors and texture/gluten strength, even when the home-milled ratio is as little as 15% of the total flour weight. I favor 25-75%.

I also get a lot of dietary fiber and nutrients from a high intake of vegetables in my general diet, so I’m okay with losing out on a little of that in my bread.

Finally, there are so many fun and beautiful breads to try from all around the world. And while I like to convert some of them to whole or ancient wheats; others I want to experience with refined flour.

All that said, I love to do my sweets baking with only fresh-milled flour. The added flavors and aromas are awesome, and the improved glycemic load because of the fiber makes me super happy. Here are my snickerdoodles with whole grain Pima Club wheat:

“Shamed” may have been a bit much to say. I think the real reason I decided to do more sifting is in the last part of the quotation about becoming a more knowledgeable baker. Dan Leader can think what he likes about people who mix their flour types. There are sure to be cases when the time saving from the addition of commercial flour will outweigh the purity of flour extraction. Meanwhile, I’m having fun. Just to learn that I can sift onto my bread board instead of into a bowl has made things easier. Thank you, @Leah1 for your encouragement and support. It’s not an either/or proposition here. The result by any method, after all, is nourishing and tasty food.

That sure looks like desert, Melissa! I make crackers regularly but haven’t gotten into cookies. When I have used all purpose flour it’s been in the range of 25-30%. If I make a whiter bread I’m the only one in the house who will eat it (exaggeration).

I actually have two things going at once now. One is exploring deeper into the world of sifted flour. The other is how to get proper gluten development from flour I mill from Turkey Red wheat berries whether it is sifted or used straight. That flour is really different from what I’ve milled from Northeast-grown Warthog berries.

I like baking with whole-grain, home-milled flour for both flavor and nutrition. I’ve sifted the flour in the past and it’s too much of a mess and a hassle for me, even though the resulting flour is very nice to work with in the mixing bowl.

I haven’t read Leader’s book, but I like that quote. After a few years now of baking bread pretty much exclusively with 100% whole grain, home milled flour, I feel like I’ve gotten to some kind of intuitive understanding of how to get what I want out of it. I’m really happy with the crumb and the spring, and even happier with the flavor. I tend to favor some grains over others, but I’ve milled a lot of different wheat berries and I agree with Leader’s premise that you (I) learn something a bit deeper about a given grain (probably actually about a specific harvest of a given grain) from using it whole and exclusively.

Generally though, I usually mix multiple whole grains in my bread because I want some of the character that each brings. My favorite combination is about 1/3 hard white and 2/3 red fife, but lately I’ve been adding 5 - 10 % rye (at the expense of some of the hard white) in my weekly country loaf and we’re really loving the flavor even that small amount of rye brings - though it does come with a bit of a decrease in the oven spring as well.

If I had a reason to want a more open crumb or a bigger spring, I wouldn’t hesitate to mix in a little or a lot of roller-milled white bread flour. I just hardly ever find myself wanting that more than I want the flavor and health benefits of the whole grains.

Interesting. I’m more comfortable making a mostly turkey red loaf than a mostly warthog loaf. I guess it’s a lot about practice and familiarity.

I tend to get a crumb I like out of my all whole grain loaves – turkey red included – but not the gorgeous oven spring and ears of @homebreadbaker

Here’s an example of my good (for me) crumb and minimal ear. Process is described in the posts

My best are probably my whole grain spelt though (no autolyse).

@Fermentada First of all, I’m positively drooling over those snickerdoodles and can feel my body gaining weight just looking at that snickerdoodle ice cream creation. You’ve put two of my favorite things together in a decadent dessert: snickerdoodles and ice cream. Truth be told, my snickerdoodle recipe is my Mom’s that I’ve enjoyed as a kid. That recipe has to easily be over 50 years old made with totally white AP flour and tons of sugar. May not be healthy at all, but I wouldn’t change it for anything. There’s too much love and nostalgia in every bite, LOL.

Those breads look gorgeous! I want to go bake more bread and I already have 2 whole loaves of bread sliced in my freezer! :smile:

Leah

Nice looking loaves. Thanks for showing what is possible. My main question right now is what was the dough like to handle – stretch and fold or whatever? Most recently, a dough with 75% Turkey Red (90% extraction), 20% whole spelt, and 5% whole rye, all freshly milled, baked up well but was really sticky and so a challenge to shape. The dough hydration was 72%, which I thought would be not too wet. That bread with other wheat berries was pretty straightforward to deal with. I’d like to understand what I need to do to have “normal” gluten development with Turkey Red wheat flour. I’ve gotten the impression that one shouldn’t handle Turkey Red dough too much. Maybe my next try should be to knead vigorously, see if I’ve just been too cautious.