Be sure to read the whole recipe for tips, trips and troubleshooting – for a consistent fresh milled flour bread recipe you can use every time.
If you give a gal a homestead, she will, at some point, want a grain mill to go with it.
It almost seems cliché how these two things go together. But for most new homesteaders, it’s a big goal: learning how to mill grains and successfully use them to make whole-grain sandwich bread.
Getting that perfect, nutritious loaf takes time, persistence, and and a lot of trial and error.
Once you get into a good groove with your sandwich bread, you’ll be hooked and will want to find alll the fresh milled flour recipes. Fair warning!
Below, we’re going to go step-by-step through the process of what it takes to get a great, soft sandwich bread made with fresh milled flour.
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Why mill your own grains, anyhow?
Making bread has been a basic, essential skill throughout history. Yet only in recent decades has it become somewhat of a lost art.
We’ve been left with what the grocery stores offer: a sorely-lacking source of sustenance.
If you’ve ever dug into books such as The Essential Home Ground Flour book, you might have been blown away (as I was) concerning the complete lack of nourishment and quality of today’s store-bought flours and breads.
The main reasons I decided to start milling my own flour
- Being able to retain all the nutrients in the grain (such as wheat), which has been sifted or processed out of today’s white flour
- Reaping the benefits of the germ and bran that your body needs to function properly
- Having flour that is actually fresh (you can taste the difference)
- The ability to store wheat berries (which can last 30+ years), instead of flour, which goes rancid within months
- The cost savings (minus initial equipment) of milling your own flour on demand
- The satisfaction of learning a new skill!
Common problems when using fresh milled flour in bread
Now, I have been successfully making white bread like a pro for many years. But I quickly discovered that working with fresh milled whole wheat is a different ballgame.
Whole wheat flour is thirsty, first of all. It needs moisture, and time to hydrate.
And because we’re not sifting out all the bran-and-germ goodness, it’s heavier. It can take time to learn the techniques to make your loaves soft and light, like their store-bought counterparts. (Except honestly, way better tasting.)
It takes more yeast to rise whole wheat, and way more kneading, in my experience.
The temperature of your kitchen and counters can make a huge difference in how your bread rises (or doesn’t).
Troubleshooting tips for making fresh milled wheat bread recipe
Here are the most important things I’ve learned so far:
Not every recipe will work the same in your kitchen.
In fact, you may have to tweak every recipe a little until you get the desired results. Humidity, temperature, elevation – a dozen factors can affect the texture and rise of your bread.
Grind your flour as fine as possible.
I use a Nutrimill Harvest, but there is a learning curve to virtually every type of grain mill.
For my mill, I have to start it, then start adding the wheat berries and immediately tighten the knob just until the stones are touching. And then I tighten it just a little more. 🙂
You will know if you’ve tightened it too much if the flour slows down to a trickle as it’s grinding.
At the very end when it’s done grinding, per my mill’s instructions, I back the knob off to where the stones are not touching while it finishes cleaning out the remaining bits of wheat.
It’s that last step that sometimes causes problems, as I have to remember to tighten the knob every time I grind flour again. You will definitely be reminded if you end up with coarse flour once or twice!
For my mill, I do not run the flour through to grind it a second time. This may be a common practice with some mills, as I see it discussed in Facebook groups often. But I have heard warnings about how it can ruin my mill, and I don’t see a need to risk it.
Fresh yeast really matters.
I’ve always kept my yeast in the freezer to extend its lifespan. However, when I got to the bottom of my big jar recently, I realized it had been in the freezer for about two years. It was time for a new batch!
I could tell the difference immediately. Note to self: Write the date on those jars before freezing.
Kneading time matters.
I have always had to knead my dough a little longer than the recipes I’ve tried have suggested.
In the recipe I’m sharing below, it takes about 15 minutes from start to finish on speed 2 in my Bosch Universal mixer, before my dough is ready for the first rise.
If it’s still sticky the last 3 minutes or so, I will add extra flour and approximately an extra minute for every 1/4 cup of flour added.
Know your environment.
The sandwich loaf recipe I had almost-success with was from Home Free Alaska on YouTube, and theirs turned out beautifully. But when I followed their directions precisely, I was getting a dough that was too sticky and wasn’t rising consistently.
Then I realized: I do NOT live on an off-grid cabin with a wood stove as my heat source. These things needed to be taken into account.
My house likely has a higher humidity, for one. And second, after using my digital thermometer, I learned my kitchen temp was right around 68 degrees most of the time.
If I had a wood stove, my kitchen might run a little warmer in the winter.
Try a countertop heat source.
This was the BIG factor that gave me consistent, beautifully-risen loaves of whole wheat bread.
I had tried all my old tricks for rising my white-flour loaves: letting them rise longer on the counter; letting them rise in a slightly-warm oven; using the “proof” setting on my oven. Everything.
My loaves either didn’t rise quite enough, or they were over-proofed, making them fall once in the oven.
Then I heard chatter about people using seed heating mats under their loaves. Bottom-source heat. Hmmm. I didn’t have a seed heating mat, but my dishwasher was running and it always warmed my countertops nicely.
So I set my dough on the counter above my dishwasher, and voila: perfectly plump loaves in record time. This has been my go-to bread-rising trick for both the first and second rise (in a bowl, then in the loaf pans).
When my dishwasher isn’t running, I use an electric heating pad (with a towel on top) on the lowest setting.
Type of loaf pan may not matter (as much as you think).
Some people swear by their cast iron loaf pans (I do like mine), or unglazed stoneware. I use both, along with cheaper metal pans, and here’s my verdict:
The material doesn’t matter as much as you think. I have experimented with all three types of pans and the other issues mentioned in this list seems to matter far more than the type of pan I use.
Glass loaf pans are the only pans I do NOT recommend using if you’re having trouble with bread rising or getting “done” in the middle. They do not heat as evenly as others. (Fine for casseroles; bread — not so much).
Also, for this recipe you can use either two standard loaf pans (approx 9.5 x 5 in), or two long loaf pans (13×5 inches).
The standard size pan will result in a taller loaf. I like to use the longer pans for sandwiches as they stretch a little farther for our family of six.
I also prefer to line my pans with parchment paper, regardless of the pan I’m using. If you cut a slit from each corner towards almost the center of a large sheet of parchment paper, you can make them fit quite well, while providing higher “walls” for your rising dough.
Develop a dough-IQ.
This is going to sound a little funny, but over time, you will develop what I call a dough-IQ. You will instinctively know what your dough should look like and feel like, before it’s ready to rise.
You will be able to adjust your recipe according to the weather and whatever else your dough might need that particular day.
So don’t give up! It just takes a little time, and trial and error, to learn.
A Few More Notes: Fresh Milled Flour Bread Recipe
You can skip to the recipe card below if you’re a seasoned fresh-flour bread maker. These details are for those who are pretty new to making bread with fresh-milled flour.
Most recipes I’ve found use honey as the sweetener. A sweetener of some type is helpful to help activate the yeast. But because quality honey is a little pricey and I don’t always have it on hand, I am instead using pure cane sugar in my recipe.
Light olive oil is my pick as it has a very mild taste and really, no taste in baked bread. But it does the job well.
As for yeast- I have used both active dry yeast and instant dry yeast interchangeably in this recipe; so use whichever you have. (Weird, but true.)
Eggs: many fresh milled flour bread recipes make eggs optional. I have found that for me, at least 1 egg is needed for moisture and a better texture in my bread. I have used either 1 or 2 eggs with good results.
I’ve noticed that farm fresh eggs make the flavor of my bread better, and even seem to lend to a softer loaf of bread.
You may find that you want to experiment with the extras such as vital wheat gluten or sunflower lechithin. For me, I have never had a need to add them, so I am not including anything fancy or extra in this recipe.
Honestly, it’s my goal to make bread that’s delicious, and as simple as possible.
FAQ’s: Fresh Milled Flour Bread Recipe
Are you sure I don’t have to proof the yeast? What about the sponge method?
I have not needed to proof the yeast, but I do often soak half of the flour with all the water in this recipe, for a few hours up to overnight. This softens the whole grains and improves the texture of the bread. When I don’t have time, I just proceed with the recipe as written.
For the sponge method, after adding the yeast (step 4) and mixing for a few seconds, let the mixture rest for about 20 minutes to soak up the moisture.
Is salt necessary?
Yes. Namely because it helps strengthen the gluten, which we can’t have enough of with fresh milled flour dough!
Does the type of salt used matter?
Also yes. I have tried using my favorite pink salt, with poor results. Regular table salt works best in this recipe.
Do I really need to use a thermometer for bread?
Of course, you don’t have to. But with these whole grain flours, they can naturally be darker while baking and it can be more difficult to tell when they’re done. When my loaves hit 200 degrees F, I know they are ready, regardless of how dark they look.
Can I do an egg wash instead of a milk-wash?
Sure! I hate having to figure out what to do with my extra egg yolks. (Yeah, I could freeze them.) But if you have an abundance of eggs, you can certainly use an egg white to brush over your loaves in place of milk.
- 4-1/2 cups hard white wheat berries
- 2-1/4 cup hot water
- 1/2 cup extra light olive oil
- 1/4 cup pure cane sugar
- 1 large egg (or 2 if you prefer more moisture.)
- 1-3/4 Tablespoons yeast (active dry or instant)
- 3 teaspoons regular table salt
- 2 tablespoons of milk (for brushing on loaves)
- Mill 4.5 cup of hard white wheat berries. (*See notes on alternative method for an even softer loaf)
- Add the hot water, olive oil, sugar, eggs and salt to mixing bowl of stand mixer.
- Add 3.5 cups of flour to the bowl all at once, and mix on low speed (speed 1) for about 1 minute.
- Sprinkle the yeast over the mixture.
- Mix until combined, then begin adding enough flour (1/2 cup at a time), until dough pulls away from the bowl.
- Mix (knead) on speed 2 for about 12 minutes. If dough seems sticky after this point, add another 1/4 cup of flour at a time until dough is a soft, but not sticky texture. Add another few minutes of mixing with every 1/4 cup of flour added.
- If you did not need to add additional flour after 12 minutes, just continue mixing (kneading) for a total of 15 minutes (so, about 3 more minutes at this point). It's ok to add a few minutes to kneading time if you feel dough is not soft enough, though. You should reach the windowpane stage at this point, where you can stretch a small amount of dough and see through it, and it holds up without tearing.
- (Note: if kneading by hand, it should take nearly double the amount of kneading time above.)
- Transfer to a large bowl (at least twice the size of the dough). Cover with plastic wrap, then a kitchen towel.
- Set in a warm, draft free area and let rise for approximately 45 minutes. I suggest setting on a warm countertop above a running dishwasher, or try using a heating pad on lowest heat with a towel on top, then placing the dough bowl on top of towel. If your dough has not risen enough, let it rise for another 30 minutes or so. Rise time really varies depending on the temp of your kitchen.
- After dough has doubled, divide into two equal portions and place in two greased loaf pans (or line with parchment paper). You can use regular-sized 1-lb loaf pans for taller loaves, or the longer bread pans that hold approx. 2 lbs (13x5 in) for a larger, more standard bread loaf.
- Brush olive oil (or olive oil cooking spray) onto plastic wrap and place over both loaf pans. Place a kitchen towel on top of both.
- Return pans to your warm countertop and let rise again for approximately 1 hour, or until dough is sufficiently risen above the rim of your loaf pans. (Again, let rise another 30 minutes if it hasn't risen enough.)
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
- Carefully remove the towel and plastic wrap from loaves and place in preheated oven. Bake for 10 minutes at 400 degrees.
- Remove from oven and use a basting brush to brush each loaf with milk.
- Continue baking at 400 degrees F for approximately 10-13 minutes until temperature in center of each loaf reaches 200 degrees F. (If you like a lighter-colored loaf, reduce oven to 350 after basting with milk, and bake to same internal temp of 200 degrees F.)
- Transfer to a wire rack to cool. Enjoy!
*Alternate method: for an even softer loaf, start by taking 3.5 cups of your freshly milled flour and using a large spoon, mix with all the hot water in a mixing bowl. Cover bowl with plastic wrap. Let sit for a few hours on the counter, up to overnight. Transfer soaked flour to the bowl of stand mixer. Add the oil, eggs, sugar, salt and yeast. Mix on low speed until combined. Then proceed with Step #5 above.
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