Monday, June 22, 2015

First Tries Grinding Grain

Here I am, grinding my own grains, virtually on the cusp of living off the grid; well, not quite. I have no plans to buy and store a years worth of foods. But the advantages of grinding your grains extends beyond the possibility of extreme self-reliance. The aroma of the grain, wheat, so far, for me, is amazing. The taste, even on the two pretty mediocre-looking breads I've made, has been fantastic. 

The home mill is lovely, a testament to German ingenuity and skilled manufacturing. No snide remarks; the Germans excel in efficient, organized design. Just a few tips, however. 
(1) Be sure to put the bowl under the shoot. This is obvious, yes, but rushing around or lack of sleep can turn one second of forgetfulness into a kitchen mess.  
(2) Pay attention. Do not walk into another room; do not wash dishes. The bowl underneath the chute that is delivering the freshly ground flour must be continually or pretty frequently turned. Basically, the flour will pile up in one spot and overflow quickly. So turn the bowl and lightly pat down the fresh flour as the grinding continues.
(3) Be ready for less predictability. Flour companies can test the grain and flour to make sure the protein levels and other indicators stay consistent across most batches. When you purchase wheat, rye and other grain berries, and grind them at home, however, your freshly-milled flour may exhibit a broader range in terms of moisture absorption, protein levels, etc., that will affect dough development. This will require somewhat more attention to a specific dough and less heeding of strict recipe instructions.
So excited
Totally excited and nervous to use the new grain mill. Felt like I was stepping onto another planet or diving yet deeper into the bread universe. No question the taste was ramped up, a whole new level of flavor is achievable with freshly-milled grains. Maybe this is all fantasy and it is merely the aroma of the flour that magically produced in one's kitchen. Who cares? The experience of baking and eating the bread is improved. If this is a placebo, as it were, then so be it.

This bread was 65 percent, approximately, whole wheat. The hydration percentage was 79 percent, which was, frankly, too high for how I developed the dough and baked it. But the taste was still fantastic.

302g whole wheat flour
203g water
5g salt

Mix and cover. Leave out for a few to 24 hours. I left mine out for seven hours. After seven hours, this soaker was like an autolyse with developed gluten strands and requiring of much muscle to incorporate the starter later on.

100g starter (110-120 percent hydration, using all-purpose flour)
100g water
100g bread flour

Mix and cover. Leave out until nice and bubbly. My kitchen was about 75 to 80 degrees and this process took about seven hours. The kitchen would have been over 80 degrees for most of the duration, but someone else in the household was displeased with early morning summer heat and turned on the air conditioner.

5g salt

Mix the dough and cover. I did three stretch and folds at 20 to 40-minute intervals. I let the dough rise for three hours, but I'm not really sure if it needed a little less time. 

Baking preparation
I did a stretch and fold on the wet counter and with wet hands due to the - you got it - wet dough. Left the dough, covered, to rest for 15 minutes and preheated the oven to 475 degrees with the dutch oven inside. During the 15 minutes, I also greased a bowl with oil and sprinkled flour and sesame seeds on the bottom.

After the 15-minute rest, I shaped the dough, as much as a wet dough could be shaped, and placed it, seam side up, in the oiled and floured bowl.

Baking time was only 36 minutes because this was a small loaf. 

Incredible taste. A level beyond any 60 percent whole grain I've made from store- or farners'-market-bought flour. However, because I made such a small loaf, the dutch oven was really too big. It could have used a little side support. 

Now, to get myself to finish up the store-bought flours in the freezer and move on completely to grinding my own. I might throw away the completely mediocre whole wheat flour I have from a major flour manufacturer.

Now that I've been to a whole new land, as it were, cannot go back.

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