Milling Flour for pasta (and bread (sort of)

MMMMMMM…. Fresh Pasta (made with 100% fresh flour!)

After much research – I finally ended up buying my own grain mill. My three favorite foods (bread, pasta, and pizza, and any combination thereof) are primarily made of this amazing thing called flour so I figured it would be fun to learn how to mill my own. After much research – I landed on a GrainMaker 116 flour mill and while it’s still early days Im a huge fan. I’m one of these people that spends a lot of time reading reviews and doing research before I buy something and I found that even with something as simple as a flour mill there is still a fair amount of debate about which one is “best”. There seem to be 2 primary categories of mills, those for the home, and those that start getting into large production. Focusing on the home category there are two sub-categories. Mills that are driven off of burrs (metal plates) and those driven off of stones. The main complaint about metal plates seems to be around heat. There is a theory that if the wheat is heated past a certain point it can serious impact the flavors. While Im not saying that isn’t true – I also found enough folks who said this wouldn’t be an issue for most home millers. Between that, GrainMaker offering a lifetime warranty, and the abundance of great reviews they had I went that path.

GrainMaker is a busy company and it took close to 3 months for my mill to arrive. I waited anxiously for it and when it finally came I was so excited. It looked awesome, heavy duty, and well made. I almost instantly clamped it to my counter and started milling some soft white wheat that came with the mill. Yes! I was finally milling flour! I spent some time that first day adjusting the plate distance as I milled. In terms of adjustments on a mill, that’s really all you can do. I found that to get the flour to a consistency that was close to what I was used to using I had to have the plates as close as they could get and in this setting the crank was hard to turn. So I took a break. I was initially a little disappointed but after some thinking, some googling, and some more reading I found that I was sort of doing it wrong. White flour that we buy has no bran in it at all. The bran is pretty much the hard outer covering of the wheat berry that surrounds the germ and the endosperm. Those are the good things we want to get to – but when we grind up the wheat berry we get all of it.

The solution? Don’t grind it as fine as you can which makes filtering out the bran easier. I have to say at this point – that I became entirely disappointed in almost all of the “Bake (or any other kitchen thing) with fresh flour” books I’ve bought. While many of them are happy to tell you all about the benefits of fresh flour, even going so far as to recommend certain types of mills, none of them really cover the process. After much Googling I was fortunate (very very very fortunate) to find Steven Sharafian’s blog ” A Serious Bunburyist and more specifically this post where he talks about the process for bolting flour to use in making fresh pasta. Steven has a ton of great posts about milling flour to use in lots of things but the real focus seems to be pasta. A goldmine for someone like myself that’s looking to just understand the fundamentals.

Also – I mean – A Serious Bunburyist? That’s perhaps the best name for a blog I’ve ever heard. I laughed for a good 2 minutes when I remembered where the term came from. In case you don’t know (from Steven)…

“It’s a bit of an inside joke. The term, A Serious Bunburyist, comes from Oscar Wilde’s play The Importance of Being Earnest. One of the characters, Algernon, invents an imaginary friend, Bunbury, whose constant maladies allow Algernon to escape unwanted obligations and attend to his whims.”

Armed with the knowledge from his blog posts I went and purchased some Gilson Test Sieves. Once I had them I milled some hard red winter wheat and ended up with something that looked like this….

Fresh milled flour. Yum. Im not really sure all these pictures need captions….

You can see the bran as the darker components of the milled flour. So my next step was to sieve out the bran. Steven said he did this in two stages. First with a #40 sieve and then with a #50. So I did the same. Below you can see the result…

The Gilson Sieves

I first ran the flour through the #40 which removed a lot of the bigger chunks of bran. The remaining flour was then passed through the #50. I had turned something like 350 grams of flour into 120 grams. The remaining flour was fairly fine and I had no issue at all turning into pasta dough…

The final flour and eggs. In one bowl… together…..

Once mixed and kneaded it was the consistency I expected for pasta dough…

The final mixed dough before resting

Once it rested – I had no issue running it through the pasta machine. And I have to say the resulting pasta was glorious looking and tasting.

Although – while sitting at the counter eating my delicious pasta – it occurred to me that I had quite a bit of bran that I had filtered out. What to do with it? I ended up taking the bran that was filtered by the #50 and incoporating it into baguette dough made which I made with King Arthur bread flour. The results were awesome!

What’s better than fresh pasta? Fresh pasta with bread.

The resulting dough was easy to work with and the final bread had just subtle “whole wheat” flavors though I think it had a more rustic than “whole wheat” flavor. AKA – it tasted better than just a normal whole wheat flour.

At any rate – my first adventure in milling has panned out! I can’t wait to keep trying new wheats, recipes, and just in general experimenting some more with the mill.

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