Flour & Grains: Changing grains

Flour & Grains: Changing grains

Heritage Loaf, Sprouted Grain Loaf, Seeded Whole-Wheat with Stoneground Khorasan and Spelt Loaf… The bread flavours popping up in the baskets at farmers markets and on the shelves of bakeries are increasingly varied and intriguing. Baking Business finds out how different varieties of grains have been shaking up the establishment and showing customers that bread needn’t take a back seat to the ingredients it accompanies.

Flour, grains and the status quo: how we got here

The current flour commodity market in Australia works like this: farmers grow wheat right across the continent—about 20 million tonnes every year—and after harvest, wheat grains are transported to silos where they are stored until needed. Millers use these grains, often combining varieties from several farms, and grind them to make flour.

Flour bags are labelled with strength and extraction percentages and shipped off to a bakery for use in bread and other products.

“These factors are extremely valuable to bakeries that need to produce consistent products by numerous staff,” says Emily Salkeld of Small World Bakery.

While commodity flour is reliable and produces consistent results for bakers, its dominance in the marketplace means customers have grown to see bread as something that lacks variety in flavour. Mostly, customers think of bread as a casing to fill with ingredients, rather than as an ingredient in itself.

“Customers have become accustomed to thinking about baked products in terms of neutral flavour, unobtrusive texture and overall softness,” Emily says.

Flour & Grains

Revolution in the air: where we’re going

Bakers think bread needn’t be the bridesmaid anymore, and they’re increasingly turning away from flour available on the commodity market and toward flour made from single-origin grains, or sometimes blends of certain grains, so they can play with the texture, taste and aroma of their loaves.

Emily says the revival of historic cereal grains follows the same kind of revival in heirloom vegetables and fruits.

“A global concern with conserving diverse foods for food security as we face uncertain climatic changes has led people to consider all food sources as valuable for the future.”

Emily is one of the leaders of this revolution, and has been growing lines of ancient wheat grains at a property in South Australia. Her interest in grain varieties began after she tasted a loaf of bread containing freshly milled flour. When she tried the bread, she could taste more than the usual fermentation characteristics.

“[I tasted] this beautiful flavour and aroma pop. I didn’t realise wheat could actually have a character and personality—it gives the loaf personality,” she explains.

Emily decided to plant different varieties of wheat to explore their affect on bread. She approached the Genebank at Horesham who provided her with samples of wheat varieties.

“There were thousands [of varieties] to choose from so we just chose based on some comments we could pick up on in the literature.”

That literature comes from journals from the late 1800s and early 1900s as well as knowledge from retired seed breeders.

“There’s a couple of old seed breeders that are still alive,” says Emily.

“They’ve got a lot of material and they’re so helpful and really glad to know that people are still interested in the work that they put in in the old days. They’ve been brilliant to share stuff.”

Emily’s currently growing einkorn, spelt, emmer and khorasan along with other wheats that were used during settlement in Australia, as well as lines such as Red Spice, Sonora, and Marquis from North America.

Emily says different varieties have a complexity in flavour.

“In our experience, different grain varieties and cultivars produce varied flavour profiles. They have spiciness, grassiness, creaminess… Some of them are more malty and some of them are quite tannic. And some varieties are pretty neutral in flavour.”

Increasingly in Australia, and indeed the world, bakers are seeking out these grains and experimenting with them in the bakery.

Milling Matters

Before we go any further, we must talk about milling, because it matters. The two main methods of milling are roller milling and stone grinding.

Roller milling
Wheat grains are made up of three parts: bran (the hard outer covering of the wheat grain that’s high in fibre and nutrients), the germ (also high in nutrients, this is the part that sprouts) and the endosperm (the biggest part that’s high in starch). When grains are roller milled, the bran and germ are removed, and the remaining endosperm is milled into refined white flour.

“Roller milling enables the unstable fractions (the oil-rich germ and bran layers) of the grain, which affect shelf life, to be removed,” says Emily.

The longer shelf life allows roller-milled flour to be stored for longer, and transported over large distances, and this has led to roller milling being established as the current convention.

The downside of roller milling is, removing the germ and the bran removes much of the nutritional value of grains, and it also removes much of the flavour profile, too.

Stone Grinding
Stone grinding retains all three parts of the grain, which are squeezed between the runner and bedstone of a stone mill and ground into a whole meal. Not only does stone grinding retain nutritional elements, but it also releases oil from the germ through the flour. While this oil reduces the shelf life of flour, it is also responsible for releasing the unique flavour and aroma of individual grain varieties.

Emily says while interest in both has always been around, the recent revival of stone mills and grain varieties go hand in hand, and their revival is why many bakeries are now turning to different varieties of grains that are freshly stone milled.

“When you stone mill grain and use that, you’re using freshly ground germ and bran smeared in with all the endosperm, so you get this really lovely fatty creamy kind of flour.

“We have certainly tasted sifted stone milled flours of many kinds, including ancient and historic and modern cultivars of cereal grains, which have their own great flavour characteristics. From the late 1800s to current times Australians haven’t had much of a chance to taste these differences, and sometimes people assume that because they haven’t experienced something, it doesn’t exist!

“Using wholegrain flour from a stone mill brings a beautiful complexity to the flavour of a well fermented loaf, along with a feeling of satiety.”

Maintaining the rage

Emily says bakers need to support growers of diverse grains to keep the momentum going. “There’s a group of us that all try to support this diversity as much as possible. Wholegrain Milling has a blend of historic Australian wheats and that’s a beautiful blend—really lovely flavour.” Rosemary Dunn at Four Leaf Milling in South Australia grows khorasan wheat (they call it Egyptian Gold) as well as spelt while Jason Cotter from Tuerong Farm in Victoria is growing and stone-milling spelt and red wheat varieties. Grant and Lindsay Tuckwell are freshly milling wheat at St. Alban’s farm in Western Australia while Courtney and Ian Congdon are growing and milling wheat varieties at Woodstock Farm in New South Wales. John Campbell of Provenance Flour in Sydney connects bakers with farms producing the varieties they seek. Creating direct farm to bakery connections means bakers can liaise with farmers about what they’re growing, and can adjust and experiment with grains depending on seasonal and regional differences. And of course Emily Salkeld continues her experiments with different grains at Small World Bakery in South Australia. She says, “We’ve been using older wheat whenever we can, just to support the supply from the mill because if bakers don’t buy these flours, then you won’t be seeing them in a couple of years because they’ll stop producing them.”

Flour & Grains

Ancient Grains 101

Using flour made from historic grains can be tricky and there are tips and tricks you need to know to use them effectively.

Stone-ground bran, for instance, is quite sharp, and small bits of bran can act like little knives, cutting through the gluten frame on which dough rises. But there are ways to get around this, including mixing stone-milled flour with regular flour, increasing hydration and proofing times, and getting to know the way different wholegrain flours behave.

“Some of the grains are quite tricky to use in conventional loaves, so you have to rethink the way you mix your dough,” says Emily.

“Sometimes you use them just for blending, or you might just sprout the grain and add that to the dough.

“You’ve got to be flexible when you’re in the bakery, which makes it interesting.”

Emily’s tips

Einkorn is probably the trickiest grain to make into a voluminous loaf because it has a very high overall percentage of protein or gluten. Those glutens don’t perform in an elastic manner, but the flavour is fantastically grassy and sweet.

If you want a conventional hearth loaf, use a proportion of einkorn flour with a more modern wheat flour. You can put a whole einkorn flour loaf into a tin, and the sides of the tin will support that loaf—much like a 100 per cent rye can go into a tin without fear of it going totally flat and having a lot of crust-to-crumb ratio.

Einkorn makes really beautiful pancakes, pasta, pastry, and flat breads. Just slowly build up how much water you think you can add.

This all depends though, on how the flour is milled and whether you’re using wholegrain flour that’s stone-milled or whether you’re using a sifted flour that is either stone-milled or roller-milled—that does make a difference to every flour.

We’re really thrilled the wholegrain flour we mill is really fine but a lot of people value a coarser stone-milled flour. If it’s coarser, you get more chew in the crumb but you also get the bran cutting through the gluten strands and making a flatter loaf. So it just depends on what you prefer and what end result you’re aiming for.

You’ve got to be aware of how fine your flour is and how silky it is before you start mixing. When it is a whole ground flour with all of the bran and the germ, the flour will usually take more water in a dough because it’s more absorbent and will take up more water.

Emmer is a little bit like einkorn in having a grassy sweetness but there’s also a little bit of maltiness. It has a larger grain, and slightly redder coloured bran, and the maltiness comes through the flavour from that darker coloured bran—I really like it.

I haven’t used it whole yet and it’s being milled really well by Wholegrain Milling. They’ve stone milled it and it’s beautiful and fine, so it’s easy to use. It has good strength and I’ve used it with 50 per cent proportion in a loaf and it made a really lovely hearth loaf.”

Spelt has a darker coloured bran than white wheats and quite a mild nutty flavour. If I get a flour that has a more robust flavour I’ll blend it with some spelt just to make it less arresting for the customer. We’re really into flavour but we want balance as well so spelt is very usable in the bakery. I find it great for making hearth loaves.

Khorasan flavour is really robust. The ones I’ve used have been a bit like black tea; they’ve got a tannic note to them. But they also have a sweetness that’s very attractive. The people that eat our khorasan loaf say it’s a little bit treacly and a little bit caramel—it’s a nice, full-flavoured grain.

It’s also a tricky one to use because the grain itself is a long shape with a hump in its back, so the proportion of bran per grain is greater than the endosperm, which is the fluffy white starch in the centre of the grain.

So, if you use wholegrain flour, you’re going to get more bran in the flour than you would with a conventional wheat. The effect is, it will typically ferment very fast but won’t absorb the water as quick. It needs time to absorb the water so I usually reduce the amount of sourdough starter in those loaves and keep the dough just a degree cooler. I allow it to bulk ferment for longer to absorb all the water in time for the fermentation to finish; that’s when I divide it—so it can be a bit of a tricky one. It’s all in the timing.


Flour & Grains

Quantities suitable for a tin sized 17cm x 10.5cm x 9cm. Prepare the tin by lightly spraying with canola oil. Bake in 180 – 200°C oven until interior of the dough is approximately 95°C.

Day 1
Prepare the seeds. Combine the seeds, salt, and boiling water in a bowl. Cool to room temperature and then refrigerate overnight.

Sunflower seeds                                                 50g
Pumpkin seeds                                                  50g
Flax seeds                                                           25g
Salt                                                                        3g
Boiling Water                                                     65g

Day 2
Making the dough

Prepare your dry ingredients.
Freshly mill the rye and spelt grains, then combine in a bowl with the salt.
Fresh milled rye                                                  220g    (cracked setting 7 on the small mill; at cracked setting on large)
Fresh milled spelt (finest setting)                   95g
Salt                                                                          5g

Prepare wet ingredients.
Sourdough starter, 100% hydration               130g    (You can use a wheat or rye starter, or indeed any active starter.)  
Water                                                                   275g
Honey                                                                      3g

Combine the wet and dry ingredients with your hands, mixing well.
Allow to bulk ferment approximately three and a half hours.
Shape into an oblong appropriate to the size of your tin.
Cover the top with the topping (see below).
Place into the refrigerator overnight.

Equal parts sunflower seeds, flax seeds, and pumpkin seeds.

Day 3      
Pull out of the refrigerator and allow to proof until the dough has doubled in volume (some of this will have happened in the refrigerator).

Bake 180°C – 200°C until internal temperature is 95°C approximately.

Recipe and Image by Dianne Palmer of Hearth Breads Bakery

Rustic Sourdough Emmer Loaf

Flour & Grains

Makes two large loaves.

Total Percentages
Water 77%   |   Flour 100%   |   Salt 1.8%
Prefermented flour 15.8%   |   Emmer flour 42%

Water                                                                                                    1158g
Wholegrain stone-milled Emmer flour                                          724g
Wholegrain stone-milled wheat flour                                            724g
60% hydration stiff starter, mature                                                434g
Salt                                                                                                            31g
Total weight                                                                               3071g

Combine the flours and water to reach a desired dough temperature of 24°C. Rest at room temp (22 – 25°C) between 40 minutes and 4 hours as an autolyse step.

Add starter (fed 12 – 14 hours prior, kept at room temperature) and begin to develop. Assess if more water can be added as you slap and fold the dough over and over on itself. The flour we have used can take up to 5% additional water, keeping the desired final dough temperature to 24°C.

Add the salt before medium development stage is reached, hand mixing for about 8 minutes in total.

Rest in container to hold the dough fairly snugly to maintain 23 – 26°C dough temperature during bulk fermentation.

Fold the dough four ways 2 – 3 times every 30 minutes, depending on the water absorption and fermentation activity of the dough. (Ours was folded twice.)

Turn out and divide in 2 after 2.5 – 3 hours, when the dough is domed and all water is absorbed.

Flour 2 couch clothes well. Very gently but thoroughly fold the 4 sides of the dough over on top of the main body of each mass of dough, to make a rectangular shape. Very gently transfer the loaves to each cloth, positioning along the cloth one-third from one end, to fold the cloth like a pillow-shaped parcel, keeping in mind the proofed loaves need to be flipped out of the cloth and removed smoothly. Place into a container that maintains support for the loaves as they proof. (We use plastic bulk fermentation lidded tubs).

Proof at room temperature until the total fermentation time has been approximately 5 hours. The doughs will be puffy, beginning to pull apart at the seams, and warm.

Transfer the loaves to the oven loader or peel by partially unwrapping the cloth to expose the dough, flipping the loaf onto the peel and gently slipping the remaining cloth out from under the dough. Try to maintain all of the gas inside the dough.

Make light slashes across the loaves to follow the existing cracks, or make a cross-hatch pattern.

Bake at 235°C with enough bottom heat to provide a good spring and prevent a doughy line at the base.

We steam twice, pull the draft at 23 minutes, and finish the loaves to a good burnished crust, about another 20 minutes.

Recipe and image by Emily Salkeld of Small World Bakery.

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  1. Laurie Stolmaker

    26 March

    I am experienced with einkorn bread. It is the only wheat flour i use. I buy all purpose einkorn flour from Jovial ( from Italy and the United States).
    I am planning a long trip to Australia and hope to bake bread there !

  2. Amara Motala

    27 March

    That’s great to hear, Laurie — we’d love to see a picture of whatever you make when you’re here!
    – Amara

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