This is a five-part article. Here are links to the parts.
Part 1: The basics
Part 2: Creating a starter
Part 3: Mixing dough
Part 4: Baking
Part 5: Upping your game
UPPING YOUR GAME
Last month, I outlined the Tartine method for baking wonderful sourdough bread. This month, I’m going to build on that. I’m going to build on it in two ways:
With suggestions for milling your own flour
With a dessert-worthy variation to the base recipe
I’ll start with the milling.
UPGRADING YOUR FLOUR
In the first article on this bread-making method, I suggested using commercial flours, and I pointed to King Arthur flours as a good, easy-to-find choice.
That’s how I baked for a long time.
Eventually, however, I wanted to experiment, and I decided to experiment by milling my own flour. That turned out to be a life-saver (well, a baking-life saver, anyhow) during the early days of the pandemic when everybody in the world discovered baking and flour disappeared from grocery shelves.
I couldn’t get flour, but I didn’t have any trouble getting wheat berries, rye berries, and corn, so my baking continued without interruption.
Recently, in preparation for writing these articles, I baked some boules using commercial flour again. The bread was great, and I definitely understand why I loved this method when I first started using it. However, I also have to say that — in comparison to the bread I make with my home-milled grains — it lacks a bit of flavor and it makes less exciting toast.
Commercial flour also has some pluses. I think the resulting bread has a lighter, more open crumb, and I think the crust is a little more crispy.
But personally, I prefer the bread I make with home-milled flour. The biggest problem is that I can eat an entire 1-½ pound boule in a day, because it’s hard to resist.
So how do you go about milling your own flour?
You need three things:
A source of grain
A flour sifter
Sources of grain
Milling your own grain gives you a lot of options for your flour.
Some wheats are perfect for bread. They have a high protein content and produce strong gluten, which enables your bread to rise and form an open crumb. Other wheats have lower protein content and are better for pastries. Still other wheats are best-known for their use in pastas.
So where do you get unmilled grains?
I’ve used two sources. Here in Texas, up near Austin, the Barton Springs Mill is a good source. The website is great place to learn about various grains, and when you order a particular wheat, you know not only the type of wheat, but the specific farmer who raised it. As an example, check out this description of Rouge de Bordeaux.
The description reads like a wine review: “Nutty and earthy with subtle notes of cinnamon and baking spice.”
And, by the way, that description is accurate. I like the slight spiciness of bread I bake with Rouge de Bordeaux.
Another source for wheat berries is Breadtopia in Iowa. Like Barton Springs Mill, Breadtopia tells you a lot about each grain they sell. Here’s the Breadtopia page on Rouge de Bordeaux.
Both places — Barton Springs Mill and Breadtopia — offer a wide range of unmilled wheat berries, as well as flours milled from those berries. They also offer rye and corn, and they’ve got lots of recipes.
Breadtopia goes a lot farther and offers a terrific selection of equipment, including Mockmills, the brand of stone mills that I recommend (more about that in a minute). Breadtopia's one-stop-shopping capability has made it my go-to place for everything now, both grains and equipment, and I highly recommend them.
Here are two versions of the 100-level Mockmill. The standard model is on the right, and the upgraded wood-clad model is on the left. Both have the same motor. The wooden model has a longer warranty and a slightly easier-to-use mechanism for adjusting fineness.
CRANBERRY PECAN BREAD
This recipe is my own, but it’s inspired by a bread from Central Market and it combines ideas from several recipes I found online. It’s my breakfast indulgence, and, without consulting a nutritionist, I argue that it’s a healthier alternative to danish rolls, muffins, and croissants.
The recipe uses no sugar, but the orange juice and the rye flour give it some sweetness. For the cranberries, I choose something really tart. A lot of dried cranberries are heavily sweetened, and I avoid those. For the oranges, I use heritage oranges from Central Market — they produce some great juice.
The process is the same as the process described in last month’s issue, so I won’t go into the same level of detail in my instructions this time. Here are the steps, with some suggested times applied (approximations only).
Prepare your leaven (8:00 AM, Day one)
You’ll need ninety grams of leaven for the recipe, so I suggest mixing about eighty grams of your 50-50 flour mix with eighty grams of water; the extra will become your starter base for tomorrow.
Mix the dough (3:30 PM)
This is a two step-process, which I’ll describe below.
Bulk rise (4:00 - 8:00 PM)
Here’s where you allow the dough to rise; you’ll turn or fold it every thirty minutes, until it becomes billowy.
Shape the boule (8:00 PM)
Remember that you’ll shape the boule twice, letting it rest between shapings.
Refrigerate the boule (8:30 PM)
Putting the boule in the refrigerator overnight slows down the rise and allows flavors to develop.
Bake the bread (8:00 AM, Day two)
Follow the usual instructions — preheat both the oven and the combo cooker to 500º; after scoring the top, put the boule into the oven, inside the covered combo cooker; reduce the heat to 450º; bake covered for twenty or twenty two minutes; uncover the cooker and bake for another twenty or twenty-two minutes, until the bread is done.
Allow to cool for half an hour or more
As appealing as it may look, don't cut into the bread immediately.
From left to right, an open bag of Bloody Butcher Corn from Barton Springs Mill (hidden), a forty mesh sifter, a storage container into which I've emptied a bag of Red Fife wheat berries, a sealed bag of Yecora Rojo wheat berries from Breadtopia, a sealed bag of Red Fife wheat berries from Breadtopia (hidden), and an open bag of Hopi Blue Corn from Bartons Springs Mill.
There are a surprising number of mills out there, but I picked one, and I recommend it. It does a good job, it’s durable, it has good video documentation, and it has an excellent warranty — the Mockmill.
The Mockmill comes in several versions at different price points. All the versions, including the least expensive, are excellent. The higher-priced versions differ in two ways:
The motor — some higher-priced models offer a bigger motor, so they mill faster
The aesthetics — some higher-priced models offer nice wood exteriors (those models also have twelve-year rather than six-year warranties)
I’ve owned the lowest-priced model for at least five years now, and I don’t see a reason to upgrade. But then I’m not picky about my kitchen decor, and I’m okay with spending ten minutes a day (rather than five) milling my flour.
I’ve got the Mockmill 100, which currently sells for $310 and mills at a rate of 100 grams per minute — or roughly a pound every five minutes. It has a six-year warranty. The Mockmill 200 sells for $395 and mills twice as fast, with the same warranty. Beautiful wood-case models sell for $540 and up and have twelve year warranties. You can see the entire line-up, including an alternative brand, on this page of the Breadtopia website.
Your mill will produce whole grain flour. Whole grain flour is great — it’s healthy and tasty — but it may not be what you always want. Sometimes you’ll want to sift (‘bolt’) it to remove some or most of the bran. You’ll do that if you are baking something light, like pastries or cakes. You’ll also do it if you want to get a bread that’s lighter and has a more open crumb, since bran interferes with formation of the gluten network that promotes the bread’s rise and the openness of the crumb.
(Here’s a good resource for understanding the basics of whole grain. Here’s a good resource for understanding bolting.)
You can control how much bran you remove from your flour by choosing a sifter with the appropriate mesh. The size of the mesh is indicated by a number that represents the number of mesh squares per inch of the sifting screen. I mostly use a forty mesh screen, but I also have a fifty mesh screen that I use occasionally. You can find higher-mesh screens online.
Here's the result. This bread is slightly sweet with a hint of orange juice and a crunchy crust. As a variation, I sometimes add chunks of tart Granny Smith apples to the recipe. When I do that, I reduce the pecans and cranberries just a bit.
That's the process. Here are the details:
90 grams of sourdough leaven
335 grams bolted wheat flour*
65 grams rye flour
250 grams water
75 grams orange juice**
zest of two oranges**
12 grams salt
110 grams tart dried cranberries***
70 grams toasted pecan pieces
* I bolt (sift) the wheat using a 40 mesh screen, which leaves a substantial amount of bran in the flour. I’ve been using Rouge de Bordeaux wheat, but other high-protein options like Yecora Rojo, Red Fife, or a hard red spring wheat should work fine, too. If you’re using commercial flours, substitute a good bread flour.
**I like the ‘heritage’ oranges from Central Market, because they produce a great juice. Sixty-five grams of juice is about 1-½ small oranges worth of juice, which leaves you with half an orange to eat while you’re mixing the dough.
***A lot of commercially available dried cranberries are sweetened — it’s not just that they have sugar added, but they have a lot of sugar added. What’s the point of cranberries if they’re sweet? The bulk ones at Central Market aren’t too bad. The H-E-B packaged ones are nice and tart, but I’ve had trouble getting them lately. They haven’t been restocked at the South Flores Market for a month or two.
Dough mixing Instructions
Add the starter, the water, and 50 grams of the orange juice to a large mixing bowl
Use your fingers to disperse the starter
Add the flours and mix with your hands
Cover the bowl with a light towel and allow it to rest for forty-five minutes
Sprinkle the salt over the dough
Sprinkle the remaining 25 grams of orange juice over the salt
Squeeze the salt and juice into the dough with your fingers
Add the cranberries, pecans, and orange zest and mix them into the dough
Cover the dough with a towel and allow it to rise for three or four hours, folding it every thirty minutes, until it becomes billowy. It will be a fairly heavy dough.
Shape the boule
Allow the boule to rest for thirty minutes
Shape the boule again, put it into a towel-lined bowl, cover the boule with the ends of the towel, and place in the refrigerator
Pre-heat the oven (with the combo cooker inside) to 500º — don’t cheat on this, you want the combo cooker really, really hot. I pre-heat for forty-five minutes.
Remove the bottom of the combo cooker from the oven and place it on a heat-resistant surface, like a burner on your stove.
Take the boule out of the refrigerator and tip it, seam side down, into the cooker.
Using your lame, score the top of the dough
Put the cooker into the oven, replacing the cover
Reduce the heat to 450º
Bake covered for twenty to twenty-two minutes
Remove the cover from the combo cooker
Bake uncovered for twenty to twenty-two minutes or until done
Remove from the oven and place on a cooling rack for thirty minutes or more before cutting into it
LET ME HEAR FROM YOU
I'd love to hear from you about your experiences baking the sourdough bread described in last month's issue or the cranberry bread described above. I'd also be happy to get your questions. Are you having trouble getting your started started? Do you have questions about the Mockmill?
You can reach me with the 'Contact us' button at the top of this page.
Jim Feuerstein is co-editor of LNF Weekly; he also designs and manages the website.