Baking your own sourdough bread can be a fulfilling and delicious experience. On and off for over a decade, I have been making sourdough bread. I recently decided to start milling my own flour. This is a new experience for me and I am excited to share the journey and insights I have gained in the process. With the help of some organic hard white wheat berries, a healthy homemade sourdough starter, and a few simple steps, I have been able to produce artisanal, homemade sourdough bread with unique flavors and textures. I have made almost a dozen loaves of sourdough bread with fresh milled flour. Playing around with different flours each time.
In this post, I will share my journey and results of making sourdough bread with my own fresh-milled flour, from the process of milling the flour to baking the loaves.
Making sourdough bread from freshly milled wheat flour is an experience like no other. The texture, flavor, and aroma of the finished loaf will make all your efforts worthwhile. The process of feeding your starter, adding in freshly milled flour, and then transforming it into a beautiful finished loaf is both rewarding and enjoyable.
In this blog post, I’ll outline the basic steps for making sourdough bread with freshly milled wheat flour. I’ll also provide helpful tips from my personal experience to help you achieve success with this project. With the right ingredients, a bit of patience, and the right techniques, you’ll be able to make a delicious and amazing sourdough loaf with freshly milled wheat flour. So, if you’re ready to get started, let’s jump right in and explore how to make sourdough bread with freshly milled wheat flour.
I will include the recipe I used at the end of this post in case you want to try it out, too! Remember that if you change out the flour you will be changing the overall recipe since fresh milled wheat flour is thirstier and absorbs more water than store-bought conventional flour and fermentation also tends to happen faster with freshly milled flour.
1. Feed your sourdough starter
Making sourdough bread with fresh milled wheat flour is a rewarding experience. Before you can even begin to make the bread, however, you will need to create a sourdough starter. This starter will be used to leaven the bread. To make the starter, you will need to combine equal parts water and flour (fresh milled wheat works great!) Mix them together and cover loosely to still allow some airflow. Allow the mixture to sit for a few days, stirring it at least once a day. As the starter ferments, it will start to bubble and will have a sour smell. This is when you know you’ve been successful in making your own sourdough starter. I wrote a blog post on the whole process you can read here.
I like to feed my sourdough starter about 4-6 hours before I plan to start making my dough to ensure that it is bubbly and active before I make my dough. The image below shows my very happy sourdough starter. Bubbles galore!
2. Milling the wheat berries
So, you have an active starter and now you want to make sourdough bread with fresh milled wheat flour. The next step is to mill the wheat berries. To do this, you will need some type of grain mill. You can use either a manual grain mill or an electric grain mill. I used my Mockmill 200 Stone Grain Mill. After researching a ton of grain mills for about a month and after watching dozens of YouTube reviews, chatting with friends who had mills and reading lots of spec sheets, I decided on this one and I’m so happy I bought it!
It makes quick work of grinding the wheat berries right before I’m ready to use them. I just turn it on, then pour in the wheat berries and the mill will then grind them into flour as shown below. This will give you the fresh milled wheat flour you need to make your sourdough bread.
3. Allow for a long slow fermentation process
Properly made sourdough bread requires a long, slow fermentation process. Some people put it in the refrigerator to bulk ferment and others leave it out at room temp. The temperature of the space it’s in can either speed up or slow down this fermentation. So, it will take a little experimenting to figure out what works best for you and your schedule.
This time around I left mine to ferment overnight on my kitchen counter (kitchen temp was ~70º F), covered. Allowing the dough to ferment slowly allows the yeast and bacteria to break down the starches, making it easier for your body to digest the bread. This process also adds to the flavor of the bread, as the flavor compounds created by the microbes contribute to a complex, tangy taste.
After mixing all the ingredients together and a series of folds my dough ball looked like this when I put it inside this banneton bread basket (aff link) to bulk ferment overnight. When I uncovered it the next morning it looked like the bottom right image.
4. Shape the dough
After the dough has been mixed and left to ferment (overnight in my case), it’s time to shape it. This is a crucial step in the sourdough bread-making process, as it helps to create the bread’s final form. To do this, lightly dust the work surface with flour and turn the dough out onto it. Then, use your hands to shape the dough into a ball, pulling it from the sides and tucking it underneath. For a round loaf (boule), keep pulling the sides of the dough underneath to keep a smooth taut surface on top and use your fingers to press the folded bits of dough together so they stay put. Then I put it back in the banneton bread basket (or a large bowl fitted with tea towel and a little flour works, too!) to proof before baking.
5. Bake the bread in a dutch oven
After you make your dough, it is almost time to bake your bread. I preheat my oven with the dutch oven in it to 450°F (~230°C). Even though my oven preheats quickly I still leave the dutch oven in there for at least 30-45 mins before proceeding. While that is coming up to temp I prepare the dough for baking by scoring it and placing it seam side down on a piece of parchment paper.
- 100g bubbly/active sourdough starter
- 9g of salt
- 350g water
- 500g of fresh milled hard white wheat flour
- In a large bowl mix all ingredients together and stir until everything is combined. Cover and let sit 15 mins.
- Start folding the dough from the outer edges into the center pulling up as you go. Do this 6-7 times working your way around the dough. Cover and set aside for 30 mins.
- Repeat the folds again and cover and set aside. You can repeat this process every 30 mins over 3-4 hours if you’d like. I’ve had great results doing only two series of folds, too.
- Take dough out of bowl and loosely shape it into a ball. Place it into a banneton bread basket or a bowl with a tea towel in it. Cover and let it bulk ferment overnight in the fridge or at room temperature. This will depend on the weather and ambient room temp. At 70ºF or lower I leave mine on the kitchen counter. Warmer than that I would put it in the fridge. I like to leave it for about 12 hours at this step.
- Next morning turn out the dough and shape it again by tucking under the dough several times. Then return the dough to a well floured bowl or banneton basket.
- Preheat your oven with the dutch oven inside to 450º F (230º C) for 30-45 mins.
- Remove dutch oven from the hot oven and place dough with parchment paper inside. Place the lid back on and bake with the lid on for 30 mins. After 30 mins, remove the lid and bake for another 25-30 mins with the lid off. The bread is ready when it is golden brown and the internal temperature registers about 210°F (98°C).
- Let the bread cool completely before cutting otherwise it can affect the texture of the inside. If your dough is gummy you know you didn’t wait long enough to cut it!
To sum up, making sourdough bread with fresh milled wheat flour is a rewarding process that can be done at home with a few tools. The whole wheat flour adds a nutty flavor and extra nutrition to the bread, while the sourdough starter adds unique flavor and texture. Made with 100% fresh milled hard white wheat flour the bread will not be light and fluffy. It was still soft on the inside but it is a denser bread than what you may be used to. We love it! With a little patience and practice, anyone can make delicious sourdough bread with fresh milled wheat flour.