10 essential baking tips you need to know.

By Paige Grandjean
February 20, 2019
Aaron Kirk

As the resident bread baker in the F&W kitchen, I am always seeking out new and better baking techniques, ingredients, and tools. When I was tasked with tackling the recipes for the March 2019 cover feature about Bellegarde Bakery, I made a b-line for New Orleans to see firsthand what owner Graison Gill was doing with freshly-milled local grains. After teasing me for showing up at the leisurely hour of 5 AM, Graison put me to work.

With only three basic components -- flour, water and salt—the quality of a loaf of  sourdough bread hinges on the ingredients. Graison meticulously sources fresh grains from around the south and mills them daily. Similar to brewing coffee with freshly ground beans, baking bread with freshly milled flour unlocks terroir specific flavors and nuances. Plus, sourcing locally grown grains connects the baker and the farmer. The two work in tandem, revitalizing heritage grains and producing intensely flavorful hearth breads. It makes sense then, that the recent resurgence of hearth style breads, has been mirrored by the revitalization of heritage grains. These grains, unlike mass produced conventional wheat bred for yield, are grown with flavor in mind.

The country loaf at Bellegarde Bakery in New Orleans is made with a blend of two varieties of wheat flour - Ruby Lee and Kansas White. Ruby Lee provides a creamy, grassy flavor and an overtly sweet aroma. Kansas White is rich and slightly floral with a high protein content that promotes strong gluten development. All of the flours at Bellegarde are cold-milled between 2 giant granite stones. Keeping everything cool during the milling process preserves flavors and nutrients found in the bran and germ of the wheatberries. Freshly milled flours are wholesome and alive.

Seasoned bakers venturing into the world of freshly milled flours will notice difference than when baking with white flours:

  1. The dough is thirstier. It will absorb considerably more water than a dough made with conventional flour.
  2. Fermentation occurs faster. This is the result of additional nutrients in the flour which provide “food” for the yeast to thrive.
  3. The loaf has a tighter crumb. Despite the dough’s high hydration, the crumb structure will be relatively tight due to bran and germ particles disrupting gluten development.
  4. The bread tastes better. Sliced straight from the loaf or toasted with butter and jam, you can’t go wrong.

Here, a step-by-step guide to baking with freshly milled flours at home:

To create a shelf-stable product, conventionally produced flours typically have the most nutritious and flavorful parts of the wheatberry removed. The bran and germ, found in 100 percent extraction freshly milled whole grains, are rich in fiber, B vitamins and healthy fats. Store freshly milled flours in the freezer to prevent oils in the germ from turning rancid.

Aaron Kirk

Single origin flours, such as the ones milled at Bellegarde, reflect their individual terroir through characteristic flavors and aromas. Conventional flours are often made from a blend of wheat varieties in order to produce a consistent product year after year. Through a series of siftings, conventional bread flour is transformed from a wholesome, texture-rich flour to a muted white powder.