Whole wheat breads – dough moisture levels

So it’s probably pretty obvious that I grind a lot of whole grain flours and do a considerable volume of baking with them.  I’ve learned a couple of secrets over time.

1. You need fine flour to get something that is acceptable quality, you can do that on the home built grain mill or a good quality one you purchase.

2. You need a really good recipe to make a whole wheat breads that is something folks will be happy eating day after day.

3. You need to ensure there is adequate moisture in the dough at when it is just starting out to compensate for the slower

Desired moisture level in whole wheat dough at the start of the cycle

Desired moisture level in whole wheat dough at the start of the cycle

absorption of the liquid into the whole wheat flour.  This is something I always monitor at the start of the bread machine cycle and add water as necessary to achieve the consistency I am looking for.  While the consistency is always the same the amount of water can vary depending upon the moisture content in the flour and things like the size of the eggs.

You want the dough at the start of the cycle to look considerably more moist than you would want to achieve with a white dough.

I shot a video to give you a better idea of what you are looking to achieve.



Grind it fine – whole grain flour

In real estate the three factors that are said to matter are “Location, Location, Location”.  A similar thing might be said of baking – the secret is all in the ingredients.

So, it’s somewhat surprising then when folks use whole grain flour that has the consistency of sand and wonder why their whole grain baking doesn’t match up with what they can produce with the super fine white flour.

Whole grain flour Lower Left - Cracked Top - Second pass Lower Right - Pastry fine

Whole grain flour
Lower Left – Cracked
Top – Second pass
Lower Right – Pastry fine

Really?  It’s all in the ingredients, so when starting with a coarse flour it is hardly surprising that you get a coarse product.

The homestead mill will produce pastry fine flour – and that is the grade that I aim to produce and use in all of my baking.  If anything using fine flour is more important with whole extraction flours than with white since the lower proportion of gluten in whole grain flour and the slower absorption of liquid due to the higher fiber content benefits significantly from the smaller particle size.

Now, I think that one of the reasons folks go coarse is because they expect to produce suitable flour in one pass through the burrs.  I guess that with a tiny mill it might be possible enough to muster the torque to produce that quality

of flour in a single pass – but you certainly wouldn’t be doing it very quickly.  As soon as you step up the burr size that becomes nearly impossible.  Move up to a six inch burr like those on the Homestead Grain Mill and you’re up for a real challenge.

Instead of struggling to do it in one pass I usually do it in at least two passes, and more often three.  The first pass is just to crack the grain, the second brings it down to a much finer but still cracked consistency, with a third pass to get it pastry flour fine.  If I  am using the power drive I usually end doing the reduction in four passes.

With finely ground flour I think you’ll find that your whole grain baking gains a whole new level of endorsement from your family and friends.