Difference Between Good & Bad Stoneground Flour


I wanted to demonstrate the difference between good and bad stoneground flour.  I’m hoping that over the last few months I’ve shown how stoneground flour can produce beautiful looking loaves on par with any roller mill flour loaves.  I’ve also shown even freshly milled low protein 10.5% flour like this amaretto harvested 2010 with everything against it can produce a good loaf, see here, and then the same flour 2 months later in this post here.  These are good flours, amaretto is a hard wheat, a spring wheat, and regardless of its protein if it’s grown right, stored right and then milled properly it will performed as I’ve photographed.

Last week I tried a white stoneground bread flour from a different mill, I left Anne’s mill at Feling Ganol and went to experiment with another stonemill’s flour.  I was hoping, really hoping to report back some great flour but even I couldn’t bring this dead dodo of a flour back to life, and it saddens me.

Below I have two flours explaining the difference between this dead flour with “no muscle” that will never make a loaf and then further down Anne’s amaretto 2011, good flour but needs some strengthening, in need of oxidation as with the previous year’s harvest 2010 here.

Below the “no muscle” flour mixed.  On mixing all doughs look the same and at this point I had no indication it was different.

It was on returning and trying to fold the dough when it became obvious it wasn’t developing as it should, I could not make it into a ball, every time I tried to pick it up it broke apart in my hands.

I left it for longer came back and kept seeing the same problem.

Eventually I gave up waiting and turned it out on the worktop and as you can see it didn’t want to do anything other look like a cowpat.

I had to use the scraper to transfer it to the tray for last prove and was still sticking to my hands and scrapper, there’s no tightness in the dough at all.

The dough could not hold in the formation of carbon dioxide and alcohol, wouldn’t form a film of skin on the surface to let these gases increase inside.

You can see apart from the great big gap forming, the rest of the surface is dented with open burst air bubbles, signs the wild yeast are at work but the dough has no structure to hold their work in.

Finally baked it.

Not surprising it came out as it went in.

Not all white stoneground flour is the same and if you came across flour like this, producing dough which won’t hold in the gases right from the beginning all the way through, you’ll never produce a loaf worthy of your efforts.


Good Stoneground Flour in Need of Strengthening 

Now to a flour which has some issues but very different from above.

This is Anne’s white amaretto below, harvest 2011 protein over 12%, the bag I have is 1 month old from date of milling.  On paper it has all the right criteria to produce a good loaf and it does except it’s still too fresh and the proteins haven’t strengthen enough.  After a dialog with Anne, we feel the wheat berries themselves before milled would benefit perhaps from some ageing.

The photos below are of two doughs made slightly different showing why the small differences impacted in the resulting doughs.

The dough mixed as per normal.

After first fold you can see how the dough can form a ball shape, the gluten is holding it together making it stay put.  This is something that never happen with the “no muscle” flour above.

I made this dough slightly wetter than I should have.  It’s always best to hold back 20-30 grms.

The dough carried on forming into shape after folding but I could see I was getting some tearing.

However the tearing was nothing like the “no muscle” flour because my finger below is pointing out to little bubbles forming under the skin of the dough, this is what you’re looking for, evidence the dough is retaining the gases inside.

Once shaped and left to do its final rise after about 40mins or so it started to tear on the top.

And eventually the tearing split completely.

How do I know Anne’s amaretto is in need of some strengthening? 

If I go back to the previous week I made 2 doughs (below) using same flour from same sack, had left them overnight at room temperature  for 7 hrs and can you see how the top was smooth with no tearing like above.  I’ll point the obvious  room temperature  to final rise is daring, especially for stoneground flour.

The tearing around the edges is different, believe me, this happens with every loaf, be it stoneground or roller mill flour when you’ve pushed the dough to the limit.  All dough will show these signs.  Had I left it in the fridge or had I not overslept and got up two hours earlier it would’ve been fine.

I had not only overslept but was having a generally bad baking day, I burnt the loaf slightly as well.  Didn’t effected the taste of the loaf.  The endurance of this overnight dough proves the flour has muscle.

What was the difference between both amaretto loaves?  One cracking on top only after 40 mins and the other which can withstand room temperature overnight final rising?

The first one, the weaker dough was made with levain fed on the amaretto flour.  The second one, the stronger dough was made using levain fed on roller mill white flour, which gave the dough just enough strength to hold together all that time.

In the second loaf the white roller mill flour was only 16% (baker’s percent), this small amount enabled the dough to perform.

Such a small amount is showing why the flour needs time to strengthen it slightly.  The other options Anne has for strengthening this flour is to add ageing performers like ascorbic acid or mix in some strong foreign high gluten flour but that’s not what Anne does.  The other option and a popular choice with some mills when using a 100% British flour is to add gluten but again it’s not what Anne does.

As I’ve been putting together this post I’ve gone back to this amaretto flour using amaretto fed levain and it appears to be working with my usual “holding back” method.  Will post results of it next.