Mill your own flour: How to unlock unique, regional flavor in your bread

At King Arthur, we’ve always known that flour drives flavor. That’s why we encourage you to experiment with alternative flours, bake with ancient grains, and even mill your own flour.  Fresh-milling flour can be a fussy process, but once mastered, it unlocks new possibilities and a greater connection to local farmers, unique varieties, and regional flavors. We invited Martin Philip, the King Arthur Flour Bakery’s head baker, to kick off a series of posts on how to mill your own flour.

Depending on your point of view, the world of baking is either scant or chock-full of miracles. My take on this is obvious: I am a baker – I’ve tied my apron and handled hot loaves for over a decade – and among the many moments when one might pause to acknowledge a miracle, perhaps the biggest magic act of all is flour itself.

Consider this: farmers plant winter wheat in the fall just in time for seeds to sprout and send up a small green shoot before fields chill and freeze. And then it sits, silent through cold days until sun and rain return, followed by heat and cloudless skies. At harvest, wheat will break a tooth if bitten and then is made even less edible once ground to grist. But, add water and witness a transformation. The dusty flour softens, silkening, yielding, stretching, and rising, ready to become a crackling baguette, brioche, or biscuits. Is that not miraculous?

And yet, while we touch flour each day we’ve somehow become distanced from the special chain of events that fall between planting and eating.

How to mill your own flour via @kingarthurflour

It wasn’t always like this. While the water mills are gone and the fields have grown over, cellar holes remain across our hilly state of Vermont as a reminder and testament to a time when bakers, farmers, and millers were more closely connected – neighbors, even. I want this connection back.

I want to see the path of food from field to table. I want to know farmers and millers by name. I’m even willing to travel backward in order to proceed to a more connected place with my food and, ultimately, my community.

And, good news, change is on the way. Two years ago, the King Arthur Flour Bakery purchased a stone mill from Austria in order to mill grain that we could source directly from farmers. Next time you’re in Vermont, swing by our bakery for a taste of our fresh-milled loaves. In the meantime, you can always mill your own flour.

How to mill your own flour via @kingarthurflour

Fresh-Milled Miche

To walk through the process, we’ll make a fresh-milled miche.

Grinding your own grain takes patience, experimentation and, of course, a mill. For this article, I’ll use the bakery’s stone mill, but you don’t need one the size of a washing machine to get good results. King Arthur sells a tabletop mill that’s well reviewed by our customers, and you can find lots of other brands online.

In the bakery, we make a few breads with 100% fresh-milled flour, but we also make several breads with a blend of fresh and commercially milled flour. All-purpose flour is highly reliable. That consistency makes it a solid bread-making dance partner with good structural integrity that lightens this fresh-milled loaf.

As you come to know your mill and grow as a baker, you will likely be interested in making bread with 100% fresh-milled flour. But for now, let’s begin here. I promise, even with a portion of all-purpose flour, you will enjoy these delicious loaves.

This recipe for a fresh-milled miche is adapted from my book, Breaking Bread, due on shelves in October of 2017, published by HarperCollins.

How to mill your own flour via @kingarthurflour

Day 1: Building a stiff levain

Start by milling the grain for the stiff levain, according to the mill manufacturer’s directions, making the finest flour possible. Then gather the following ingredients:

113g (1/2 cup) water
35g (heaping 2 tablespoons ) sourdough culture, ripe
194g (1 1/2 cups + 2 tablespoons) whole wheat flour, freshly milled*
4g (3/4 teaspoon) salt

*While we strongly suggest you fresh-mill the whole wheat from wheat berries, you can substitute King Arthur Whole Wheat Flour.

In a medium bowl, combine water (75°F to 80°F) and sourdough culture. Mix with your hands and fingers until the culture is broken up and well distributed in the water. Then add the flour and salt.

Mix briefly, then knead until smooth. Cover and set at room temperature for 12 to 16 hours.

How to mill your own flour via @kingarthurflour

Day 2: Preparing the final dough

Mill the grains for the final dough and gather your other ingredients:

392g (1 3/4 cups) water
259g (2 cups + 2 tablespoons) King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
129g (1 cup + 2 tablespoons) whole wheat flour, freshly milled*
64g (1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons) rye, freshly milled*
9g (1 1/2 teaspoons) salt
1g (heaping 1/4 teaspoon) instant yeast

*Again, for the best flavor, fresh mill the whole wheat and rye flours; you can mill rye flour from rye chops, coarsely chopped rye berries. But you can also simply use King Arthur Whole Wheat Flour and whole rye flour (pumpernickel).

In a large mixing bowl, combine the final dough water and stiff levain. Mix with your hands until the levain is broken up in the water, then add the flours, salt, and yeast. Stir with the handle end of a wooden spoon until the dough forms a shaggy mass.

If you find it easier, after stirring some, scrape the dough out of the bowl with a plastic scraper onto your work surface and knead briefly with your hands just until the dough comes together.

Resist the urge to add additional flour. Scrape the dough off the work surface and return to the bowl for bulk fermentation.

How to mill your own flour via @kingarthurflour

Fermentation, folding, and shaping

Scrape down the sides of the mixing bowl and allow to rise, covered, for 3 hours at room temperature.

While it rises, fold after 15, 30, 45, 60, and 120 minutes, then leave untouched for the last hour. As you perform each series of folds, you’ll begin to notice that the dough becomes smoother, stronger, and more cohesive.

Pre-shape as a round loaf. Cover and rest for 15 minutes.

How to mill your own flour via @kingarthurflour

Then, shape as a boule. Place the dough seam-side up in a floured banneton or floured, towel-lined bowl, approximately 10″ wide and 4″ deep.

Cover and rest for 50 to 60 minutes at room temperature.

How to mill your own flour via @kingarthurflour

Baking the miche

Toward the end of this final rest, preheat the oven to 450°F with a lidded cast iron pot and lid in the oven. Transfer the loaf to a parchment sling, gently inverting it so that the side that was against the dusted tea towel becomes the top.

Score the bread with a lame and gently transfer to the pot.

How to mill your own flour via @kingarthurflour

Put the lid on the pot and bake for 40 to 45 minutes. After 30 minutes, carefully remove the lid. At 40 to 45 minutes the loaf should be well-colored.

How to mill your own flour via @kingarthurflour

Continuing to mill your own flour

There will undoubtedly be many questions that relate to milling. I have come to what knowledge I have through trial and error, kept on track at many points by the generosity of others, especially Blair Marvin and Andrew Heyn from Elmore Mountain Bread, who are also partnered with New American Stone Mills.

In my work with different mills of various sizes, I have found that each has its own learning curve, just like ovens and other tools. I have milled fine flour with home-scale mills and regularly mill great flour on our commercial-sized Ostiroller.

Be patient, take your time, gather whatever research you can, and proceed, milling the finest possible flour that your mill can produce. I’m happy to take questions in the comments section below.

Follow the path of food from farm to table by milling your own flour. Click To Tweet

See the recipe for Fresh-Milled Miche; and print a copy.

Thanks to fellow employee-owner Julia A. Reed for taking the photos for this article.

Martin Philip
About

Martin Philip is head bread baker at the King Arthur Flour Bakery in Norwich, Vermont. He is a former member of Team USA which competed in the SIGEP Golden Cup in Rimini, Italy and was a finalist in the selection process for the coveted bread ...

comments

  1. Jodi

    Thank you Martin for this terrific post. Growing up, my mom milled her own flour whenever she baked bread. At the time I didn’t realize how blessed we were to have wonderful homemade breads; I always wanted the white bread I saw on TV! My mom isn’t able to bake much anymore, but your post has inspired me to spend time talking with her about her milling techniques and the secrets of her delicious loaves…and give it a try myself.

    Reply
    1. Martin Philip , post author

      Hi Jodi,
      Your anecdote hits very close to home. Thanks for sharing.
      I wish you well as you head toward your own fresh-milled deliciousness!
      Best,
      Martin

  2. hddonna

    Is what you refer to as “sourdough culture” the same thing as a sourdough starter? I maintain starter based on the one I ordered from KAF–can that be used?

    Reply
    1. Martin Philip , post author

      Hello and thanks for the question!
      Yes, sourdough culture is another term for sourdough starter.
      Happy baking,
      Martin

  3. Mike Johnson

    I mill my own flour. I love the taste. Both whole wheat and rye. Hope your new book has a section on milling.

    Reply
    1. Martin Philip , post author

      Hello, Mike.
      It’s great to hear of others who also enjoy milling. It’s a trade worthy of its own resource, I think. Much of the information that exists on dressing stones and working with stone mills had to be rediscovered, as I understand.
      Best of luck with your milling and baking.
      Martin

  4. Shirl

    Nice article….I bake all our breads, trying something new all the time. I bake loaves in a cast iron pot a fair amount of time. I score the Ioaves making them look interesting. My question is what makes Martin’s loaf around the scoring a darker color. I love the affect. Did he paint carmel color around the scoring?

    Reply
    1. Martin Philip , post author

      Hi Shirl,
      Great to hear that you have found success with the cast iron. It’s a great way to simulate a steamy, hot bake oven at home.
      I didn’t add anything to the loaf for coloring-it’s simply browning from the heat of the oven. If you’d like more color (and remember, color is flavor!) try increasing your bake time and/or temperature.
      Happy baking!
      Martin

  5. Tony M

    Is the instant yeast a necessity for this loaf to come out well? Or might natural leaven only be ok, allowing for extra time?

    Reply
    1. Martin Philip , post author

      Hi Tony,
      Great question. The short answer is yes, that will work. Depending on the activity level (vigor) of your culture, you may or may not need to increase the amount of bulk fermentation and final proof. Sounds like you are experienced enough to hit some curve balls–let us know how it goes!
      Best,
      Martin

  6. Rosalie

    I’ve been milling my own flour in a Nutrimill for some time now. I bake cookies and cookie-like goodies for my club. I use standard recipes and simply substitute my home-milled flour (from soft wheat) for the ap flour in the recipe. People are always telling me how good my cookies are, and I strongly suspect that the fact that I’m using home-milled flour is a big factor.

    Reply
    1. Martin Philip , post author

      Nice! Fresh cookies, fresh flour, fresh baked.
      No wonder people love you!
      Happy baking,
      Martin

  7. Angelina

    I have a Vitamix Blender with a dry ingredient attachment. Will this produce the proper consistency as a manual mill does?

    Reply
    1. Martin Philip , post author

      Hi Angelina,
      I’m sorry that I don’t have any experience with the Vitamix. Does the flour feel smooth (similar to store bought whole wheat) or, does it feel sandy? You want it to be smooth and fine, not sandy. You might also look around on the internet or, on the Vitamix website for advice for producing fine flour?
      Let us know how it goes!
      Happy baking (and milling!)!
      Martin

  8. Anjali

    I have a komo mill. I grind at the finest setting, and always run the milled flour through the mill again for a second time. This makes it finer. Is it necessary to always have as finely milled flour as possible for the best bread?

    Reply
    1. Martin Philip , post author

      Hi Anjali,
      Very good question. Remilling is an old practice and does often produce good results.
      As a general rule I find that fine flour performs better. I should qualify that by offering that my experience is weighted towards commercially-milled flour. Coarse millings can be fun to play with but, I find that I prefer them when used in a soaker (a hydrated portion of the final dough, set to rest overnight, softening the grain).
      Does this help? Sounds like you are well on your way!
      Best,
      Martin

    2. Joel Jenkins

      The Country Living Mill can grind a fine flour one time through. Flour samples are available from the manufacturer upon request.

  9. Maggie Kruger

    Thank you! I am a life long bread baker and recently began stone milling at home this was very helpful…

    Reply
    1. Martin Philip , post author

      Thanks Maggie!
      Congratulations on the baking (and milling).
      Take care,
      Martin

  10. Renie

    Your post has inspired me to find flour mills around my area and make sure my bread is made with freshly ground flour. Thanks!

    Reply
    1. Martin Philip , post author

      Renie,
      That’s great!
      I am always on the lookout, as well.
      Happy baking,
      Martin

  11. Denise

    Do you leave that parchment paper sling? If not, how do you remove it from the pot?
    I mill flour in my Kitchen Aid grain mill. It works well for small amounts but heats up so I worry about nutrient loss. Still, takes little space and works well for every grain I’ve used. I also make grits from dried hominy and cook immediately. So good.

    Reply
    1. Martin Philip , post author

      Hi Denise,
      Very good questions. Thank you!
      Regarding the sling, yes, leave it in the pot until you remove the lid. It will slide out easily once the loaf is set. I wasn’t aware of the heat generated by the KitchenAid grain mill. Some heat is normal during the milling process-we also keep an eye on it here at King Arthur. I suppose that it all gets heated eventually as it’s baked but, it is good to be aware of these things. Fresh grits are wonderful! You might try toasting them some in a dry pan before hand-it adds a nice toasty flavor.
      Best,
      Martin

  12. Lucy

    I was a bit misled by the title of this article I thought it would actually have some tips for home milling

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      We’re sorry to hear you didn’t feel this article provided you with the information you were looking for, Lucy. The good news? We’re always here to help. If you’d like to chat with one of our friendly bakers, you can give the hotline a call at 855-371-BAKE(2253) with any questions or milling challenges you may face. Kindly, Kye@KAF

  13. Anne Peacock

    Martin, I experimented by baking the same whole wheat recipe using packaged flour vs. freshly milled, and the difference was remarkable. I’m sold on freshly milled grain! I am interested in trying to make a freshly milled white flour for other kinds of bread, but not sure what to use to finely sift the freshly milled flour. Would a flour sack towel work? Also, what kind of wheat berry would you recommend using for this?

    Reply
    1. Martin Philip , post author

      Hi Anne,
      Thanks for your feedback, I’m glad you are enjoying the recipe and the approach!
      Bear with me for a quick technical discussion around white flour, extraction rates, and home milling.
      The gist of what I would say is that I haven’t had much luck milling “white” flour (by “white” I mean a flour with ash content similar to our reliable all-purpose). Our mill in the bakery has very fine screens but, the lightest flour that I can make is tan (and gorgeous!). The extraction rate (which I would define as the sifted flour divided by total mill output) hovers around 80% for us. That means that when milling and sifting we remove about 20% of the bran and coarser material. Following me? In order to make a flour which presents as white we need to get the extraction rate down to about 60% or so but, and here’s the trick, we want to be able to select out certain areas of the endosperm (the starchy portion of the wheat berry) which are whitest. This is possible using a roller mill (this is what is used in large commercial mills) but doesn’t happen easily with home mills or even our larger stone milling system in the bakery. To my lens this is ok–bran and germ are flavorful and nutritious.
      Regarding the sifting systems, there are a few options. Fine sieves can be purchased on the internet-I’ve even seen some bakers using screens developed for small scale mining. Hand sifting can be a slow process-you may want a few good audio books. ; )))
      Last, the wheat berries. I like to look for local options-you should try working with some soft wheat berries if you find any, sometimes they mill more easily in the home environment.
      Let me know how it goes!
      Martin

  14. Karen Jacobs

    Thank you for taking on the challenge of milling fresh flour. I have just started doing so & love the results. But one area I am always confused with in recipes using fresh milled flour are the measurements. Is the quantity of flour to be measured before or after the milling process. I can understand if it is measured by volume it would need to be done after milling; but by weight I keep thinking it could be done before but it always seems to be so much more flour. Any guidelines you can offer to clear up my confusion? Thanks for your help.

    Reply
    1. Martin Philip , post author

      Hello Karen,
      Thanks for the great question. It’s best to measure the weight of flour after milling as I sometimes find (depending on the mill) that some flour may remain tucked away inside the mill. So, for accuracy’s sake, double-check that your yield matches your need, and proceed!
      Happy baking,
      Martin

  15. Anthony

    Hi Martin- great post – would love to see more like it at KA.

    It sounds like there is some bran extraction going on with your mill and I’m curious how much it is – I’ve recently acquired a mill and I’ve been using the results in my go to sourdough recipe (the King Arthur Pain au Levain recipe – with basically 2 hours autolyse, 5 min of kneeding in my KitchenAid plus 2 hours of counter top rise with a double kneed every 30 minutes, followed up by a fridge retard final rise of 4-5 hours before baking in a cloche). The bran seems to be key, as it seems that when I try and make a loaf that is 100% whole grain I get a great loaf that doesn’t seem to generate much gluten and has a much denser crumb. If I use a #40 sieve and do a high extraction of the freshly ground flour, I get a much better gluten development/crumb and a nice oven rise. I’m very curious how best to work with 100% whole wheat freshly ground flour. I’d prefer to leave the bran in and would love to see some recipes/techniques that are 100% freshly ground.

    ***Sent to Martin on 5/15 -KA ***

    Reply
    1. Martin Philip , post author

      Hi Anthony,
      Thanks for the good question! It sounds like you are well on your way.
      Working with 100% whole wheat requires a modified approach and, in some ways, modified expectations.
      A couple quick tips which might get you closer. First, bran is very thirsty-if you find that your 100% whole wheat dough is stiff (and resultant bread is dense) try increasing the total hydration by 5 to 10 percent, for starters. You might also consider increasing the amount of development whether at the mix or, by folding. Both of these should help.
      One more tip you might like, try making the bread you love (with the sifted flour) but, roll the shaped loaf across a moist towel and then, through some of the sieved bran. The flavor of toasted bran on the outside of a loaf is great!
      Enjoy your baking, let us know how it goes!
      Martin

  16. Fran

    hi Martin-
    please keep this post going!
    I received a Komo mill for Christmas (yay!) and am still learning how to use the flour it produces. My milled flour does have a slightly sandy in texture, so I see from above I need to try to get a finer product. And/or sift, and/or re-mill?
    My go-to whole wheat bread recipe is all commercial yeast. I am trying to use as little white flour and as much fresh milled as possible, but am having a hard time keeping the bread texture ‘right’ and am experimenting with vital wheat gluten. Bad idea? Should I just through it in the fridge overnight to slow it all down?
    I do have a good sourdough culture, so I guess the next adventure is with levains and longer ferments to get it right. My starter is quite happy when it gets some fresh milled. I just got Peter Reinhart’s Whole Grain Bread book and am about to venture into it.
    Either way, I’m having fun experimenting and hope to see more fresh-milled posts. Thanks.

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Posted on behalf of Martin
      Hello Fran,

      It’s great to hear from you. I’m so glad that you enjoyed the piece and I’m glad to hear of your baking, as well.
      There will be a learning curve with mills of all makes and models. I wish I had some specific tips on the Komo — you might have a look on The Fresh Loaf to see if users recommend remilling or have other tips for making finer flour. You could try sifting, my experience with the home mills has been that the granularity is such that sifting removes more than just bran. That’s not ideal.
      Working with 100% whole wheat flour does require some formula adjustments (vs. a loaf which is a blend of all-purpose and whole wheat or other whole grain flour). In the bakery those adjustments are most often made with changes to hydration (increased water) and the use of preferments such as the sourdough culture which you mention. I can’t say that I’ve ever used vital wheat gluten but, depending on the bread you want to make, maybe that’s the ticket?
      You mention that you’re not crazy about the texture of your whole wheat loaf, you might give our hotline a call as they often have good ideas which might get you headed in the right direction.
      All the best,
      Martin

  17. Wormdelivre

    A baker at the farmer’s market claimed that the “nutrition” leaves flour within 24 hours of milling…That doesn’t seem quite right–what’s your take?

    Also, an article from McGill University mentioned that freshly ground flour doesn’t make good bread, but I can’t find follow-up info to confirm, or, if that’s true, what to do to make the bread better. Don’t know if the article was referring to sour dough types or regular bread (my usual preference, but maybe home made sourdough is better?) So, can I use all freshly ground flour in my bread and expect good results? (I usually use hard white berries, but can get other types.)

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Hello and thanks for the question!
      I haven’t read any research which supports the theorem that the nutritional value of flour is diminished within hours of milling. I have seen significant science relating to protein, fiber and mineral content which remains intact for the usable life of the flour.
      Excellent bread may be made with freshly-milled flour, give the recipe a try and see what you think. Your Hard White Wheat berries will work.
      Happy baking!
      Martin

  18. Diane Rogers

    I’m hoping there is a way to follow this blog as I just got a Komo mill and love it. I am working with the Einkorn berry and though I’ve been in a commercial kitchen all my life, this is a learning curve for sure.
    Any tips are always welcome .

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Hi Diane, thanks for your question! In addition to milling, varieties such as Einkorn do have needs which require special handling. I would recommend that you begin your exploration with the blog recipe, milling your own wheat. Once you feel that recipe is working well and results are consistent, you might begin blending some of your einkorn, noting changes as you proceed. These are deep topics, I wish you the best with your baking! (posted on behalf of Martin)

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