John Letts Heritage Wheat Loaf
These two loaves are made with John Letts 85% stoneground flour (85% extraction), a mixed variety of Heritage wheat. John doesn’t know exactly how many varieties there are in this mix but he thinks something in the region of hundred and fifty. These wheat kernels are special, they’re from varieties you can no longer buy, some dating back hundreds of years to Medieval times, some younger but all non-hybrid. What makes these kernels different to modern varieties other than age is their ability to grow without any need for fertilisers or manure, just as with Roland’s varieties they have extra long roots collecting all their nutrients deep within the soil, making them adaptable to the unpredictable British climate.
I will write a post about John but first I couldn’t wait to write about this white flour and how amazing it feels to work with for a stoneground flour.
After making the first loaf I text John expressing my surprised on the strength of the flour, the dough feels as one mixed with roller white flour. On first folding it started to develop the gluten and by the second fold I had a tight ball in my hands.
Stoneground white flour is not the easiest of doughs because it has tiny particles from the bran and the germ mixed in, and depending on the quality of the wheat and/or the milling the dough can have short strands, the bran will cut into gluten as it develops its elasticity and the germ will also interfere with gluten development. This is the same problem with any wholemeal flour, stoneground or roller mill.
This mix from John has a lovely elasticity for a stoneground, it’s the sort of dough you could move from a roller mill flour and have to do very little adjustment to handle it. The only care being in the overall proving time, rich flours like this never withstand the same amount of proving as that of a roller white flour.
This dough has a powerful and most unusual aroma of any dough I’ve experienced, while proving in the same room I could smell a mix of roasted coffee and malt drifting over, a very strong complex fragrance. There is nothing added to this flour which means in this mix there are some forceful aromatic wheat varieties.
John had warned me about bakers adding too much water to his flour and then complaining of it spreading.
I soon realised it was absorbing water just fine, here in the loaf above and below I added 300g water to 500g flour, the round loaf I upped to 315g.
Once baked all that lovely malty aroma produces a sweet tasting crust. I’m so intrigued by the performance of this flour I can’t wait to push it further and keep on experimenting with it.