I started my sourdough baking adventures in March. After just one loaf, I knew this process was going to become a hobby and passion of mine. I’ve never been so fascinated in my own kitchen, nurturing and fermenting a live starter (you can read my Top 5 Sourdough Starter Tips) on my counter and transforming it into the most delicious bread I’ve ever eaten, with the addition of just flour and water.
A golden, crunchy, caramelized crust.
Holes scattered through the soft crumb.
A touch of tang, but mostly yeasty sweet.
You’ll notice that besides whole wheat flour, bread flour and all purpose are also used in this recipe to achieve a tender crumb, and keep the bread from becoming too dense, which can happen if you use all whole wheat.
Bread flour and AP are also important for building structure and allowing for easier handling of the dough, including shaping, due to their higher protein count.
As I continued to learn about sourdough bread, I also started to research using fresh milled grain. Like other things that we buy on the grocery shelf, it’s hard to know exactly when the flour was milled, or where the grain came from. And I was really curious as to the complexity that whole grains would add to the bread.
I had some experience with home milling, as I acquired the WonderMill grain mill about 6 years ago. I milled only gluten-free grain, and had good end results, but the mill was extremely loud and I didn’t like how the flour flowed into a bucket that had a “hose” coming from the main mill. It got messy. Additionally, it wasn’t the prettiest machine to look at, made of hard plastic.
Pleasant Hill Grain has lots of kitchen equipment, and is the exclusive US importer of Austrian made Komo Grain Mills and Flakers (mill is left side of machine, flaker on the right) you see here in the photos. We are working together to start more conversations around home milling, the benefits of using fresh flour, and how easy it is.
They graciously provided me with the Komo Duett Mill, which is gorgeous – constructed of beechwood, and I’ve been using it for the last month, experimenting with different grains, and making bread with the flour using different techniques and ratios. The process of milling is as simple as:
The grinder side mills hard or soft wheat, rice, kamut, spelt, buckwheat, barley, rye, millet, teff, quinoa, amaranth, sorghum and dent (field) corn. It will also grind lentils, dry beans (pinto, red, chickpeas, kidney & more), and dried, non-oily spices. It isn’t suitable for herbs, oilseeds like flax or sesame, popcorn, or fibrous materials. The grain flaker side (shown above), is incredible too! Wheat, rye, barley, and most commonly, oats are flaked.
When you press your own oat flakes, you’re getting fresh, raw oats with all the delicate essential oils and life energy of the seed. That’s compared to commercial oat flakes, which are steam cooked and heat dried to preserve. Other grains that are normally dry and hard should be softened by briefly rinsing them under water. Then spread the grains on a cloth or towel to let them dry over night or for at least 3-4 hours.
Milling your own flour, without sifting, means you retain 100% of the same wheat berry in your end product. Many mills will label using the term “whole wheat”, but that doesn’t always mean whole grain. Additionally, they will sometimes perform several milling passes, especially on the germ and bran which are sifted out and then later added back in. Once the wheat berry is milled, breaking open that protective bran layer, oxidization begins which causes nutrients to slowly degrade.
So when we mill at home and use the flour immediately, we’re retaining many more nutrients that store bought flour.
But where fresh milled flour really shines is in flavor. The complexity and nuances of each grain comes through, deeply rich and nutty.
I’ve baked with both fresh milled hard red winter wheat, and spelt, and loved each. The crust, crackly, and shinier! The crumb is so so tender, softer than an everyday kind of loaf.
After baking several loaves now with fresh milled flour, the success has been mostly dependent on three things:
When doing these two things, I achieved the oven spring I was hoping for, and nice holes near the edges of the loaf, with a tighter middle. It’s wonderful for toast and sandwiches.
Sourdough is the way bread was made centuries ago, and I’m so glad that many around the world are embracing sourdough again, and sharing their learnings with others. My starter has become a part of me…. It needs to be fed. It asks to be used. The long rise. The satisfying bake. The first slice of whole wheat sourdough bread.
If you’d like to purchase some of my starter, you can! Right HERE.
My Whole Wheat Sourdough recipe is adapted from the Artisan Sourdough Made Simple cookbook, which has been my guiding star throughout this whole sourdough learning process. I highly recommend it.