All about Flour – What is a Grain?
The outer fibrous layer is the bran, the small embryo from which a new plant grows is the germ and the bulk of the grain is the endosperm which is the starch used to create white flour. Wholegrain or wholemeal flours uses the bran, germ and endosperm.
Bran – the outer fibrous layer contains some protein, fat and minerals.
Germ – the embryo from which a new plant grows, contains most of the oils, some protein and the highest concentration of vitamins and minerals.
Endosperm – inner white starch used to create white flour.
Wheat is the most common grain used for creating flour and baker’s flour should be used to make bread because of its higher protein content. A protein level of 12-14% is required for high-quality bread.
Spelt is very closely related to wheat and has a distinctive nutty flavour. It requires less fertiliser than wheat. Some people with wheat sensitivities can tolerate it.
Khorasan or Kamut is also a wheat species but is more easily digested than wheat and some people with wheat sensitivities can tolerate it. It has a higher protein level than wheat with a nutty flavour.
How is the Wheat Grown?
Choosing organic flour makes sense if you want the wheat farmer to preserve the environment and if you value your health.
Organic farmers try to use systems that are in balance with nature and aim to replenish soil fertility using natural processes rather than artificial fertilizers. They do not use toxic chemical pesticides and build a biologically diverse environment.
The following definition of “organic” was passed by the Australian National Organic Standards Board in April, 1995:
“Organic agriculture is an ecological production management system that promotes and enhances biodiversity, biological cycles and soil biological activity. It is based on minimal use of off-farm inputs and on management practices that restore, maintain and enhance ecological harmony.”
When a farm is certified organic it must meet or exceed standards which include:
- Land on which organic food or fibres are grown must be free of prohibited substances for three years prior to certification.
- Farmers and processors must keep detailed records of methods and materials used in growing or producing organic products.
- All methods and materials are annually inspected by a third-party certifier.
- All farmers and handlers are required to maintain written organic plans detailing their management practices.
How is the Wheat Milled?
Large-scale manufactures use high speed rollers to strip the grain into its three parts, the bran, germ and endosperm. The rollers are much faster and the heat generated causes the fat from the germ to oxidize destroying many of the vitamins, particularly fat soluble ones such as vitamin E. This loss of essential nutrients requires manufacturers to then add some back artificially. In Australia fortification of baker’s flour is required by law. This video does a good job explaining the current process for making commercial flour.
Stoneground flour is created using millstones to ground the wheat. The process is slower and prevents the grain from being exposed to high temperatures allowing more of the nutrients to be retained. The endosperm, bran and germ are in their natural, original proportions, allowing for higher and efficient nutrient absorption.
Here is a great video on the process of dressing a millstone.
How is the Wheat Stored?
White flour was once stored for months to allow oxygen to condition it. The cost of storage and the losses due to spoilage and and insects meant that chemical additives were used. Chemical oxidizing agents or bleaches are used because they produced the same conditioning effects as oxygen in a much shorter time and they bleach the flour to a whiter colour.
Whole rye kernels are usually referred to as “rye berries.” Rye growing in the field has an inedible hull, which must be removed before milling or eating. In rye, the starchy endosperm constitutes about 80-85% of the whole kernel, the germ 2-3% and the outer bran layers about 10-15%. While the fibre in most grains is concentrated almost solely in the bran layers, some of rye’s fibre is also in the endosperm.
Rye Flour contains only the endosperm. As with refined wheat flour it is missing many of the original nutrients in the rye kernel.
Rye Meal contains the bran, germ and endosperm of the rye kernel and can be ground fine, medium or coarse.
Rye has an amazing taste and is extremely good for you. In our experience people with gluten sensitivities can handle rye flour and rye meal although technically small amounts of gluten exist.
In our process a very small amount of diastatic malt is used. This is a natural product made from sprouted barley which is dried and ground. Diastatic malt is used to help convert the starch found in flour to sugars that are useable by the yeast over an extended ferment. It is used by many Artisan Bakers in Europe, US, and Australia. Normally diastatic malt is applied at 0.1% of flour weight. That is 1 gram or a pinch for 1kg flour.
Diastatic malt can be obtained from Brewer Stores or occasionally Health Stores or we recommend this online supplier.
An ideal would be to use filtered water but if you don’t have it don’t worry the bread is still great with normal tap water.
Sea salt without iodine is best but if you don’t have that then normal salt will do just fine.
If you want to create a Mixed Grain Sourdough you can purchase grain mixes such as the ones available from this online supplier.
If you want to create a Mixed Seed Sourdough you can purchase grain mixes such as the ones available from this online supplier.