Most of the days, we enjoy eating bread, either homemade or bought from the local stores. In order to cook the best homemade bread, it is important to have a high quality flour, one that helps the dough grow smoothly and rapidly. And when we fancy a homemade dessert, flour is also the main basic ingredient we rely on. But how much do we actually know about this basic ingredient that magically turns dough into baked delicacies that bring joy and enthusiasm in our houses?
In order to choose the flours that best suit our needs to bake extraordinary cakes, pies, breads or desserts, it is important to know all about grains milling and the steps or process of how flour is actually made. Take a closer look and join us in an unfamiliar travel to bring to life a familiar home ingredient.
A brief summary about flour
Usually, flour is made from a wide variety of plants. Wheat is the main grain used for flour production, but it is not the only one. At the GoodMills Group, we use wheat, rye, spelt, corn and durum, all equally valuable sources.
However, the dough obtained from wheat flour is ideal for baking homemade bread, thanks to the high quantity of gluten, a substance that is made of strong, elastic proteins. Basically, the gluten is responsible for creating a network throughout the dough, capturing the gases formed by baking powder, yeast or leavening agents. All of these make the dough rise, in order for you to obtain a light and soft bread.
The anatomy of the wheat grains
Wheat, the major natural plant that flour is made of, has a particular structure which consists of 3 major components:
- the skin (serving as a protective outer layer), which is called bran;
- the seed, from which a new plant grows;
- the starchy endosperm, which is the main food source, hidden inside the wheat seed.
Flour process in the old times
Humankind has been making flour since prehistoric times. One of the earliest methods of producing flour was to grind the grains between stones. Other methods included the saddlestone (it looked like a cylindrical stone that was rolled against the grains that were held in a stone bowl), the quern (a disk-formed horizontal stone that would spin on top of the grains which were held on another horizontal stone) and the mortar and pestle (this was a stone club striking grains that were held in a stone bowl). All of these methods required the use of ones hands.
Later on, the millstone was developed. This contraption consisted in a vertical disk-formed stone disk that would roll over the grains that were sitting on another horizontal stone, shaped in the form of a disk as well. Initially, the millstone was handled by humans or it required animal power. The Romans were a little bit wiser and begun to use waterwheels to power the millstones. In Europe, in the twelfth century, windmills were used to power the millstones.
Since this improvements took place, mills began to appear. First, they were powered by the wind. Then, by the force of water. Lastly, the advance of technology took over and began to create more and more milling machines that would do the job (converting grains into flour) a lot faster and with less mistakes.
The GoodMills Group is the leading milling company in Central and Eastern Europe, being present in 7 core countries and a total of 25 mills widespread. With over 1,600 employers, we annually manage to produce approximately 2.9 million tons of flours.
Modern wheat flour production process – a step by step approach
When the wheat arrives at the flour mill, it is assesed and analysed by the experienced millers, with the help of innovative machines. Samples of wheat are prepared for physical and chemical analysis. There are a lot of factors taken into consideration when grading the wheat, but the protein content is the most important. After this process, millers store the wheat of the same grade in silos, until it is needed for milling.
The wheat is carefully cleaned in order to remove impurities (for example sticks and stones, plus other fine materials). After this step, the purified wheat is ready to be conditioned.
In this stage, the pure wheat is soaked in the water after the bran was removed. The conditioning happens before the wheat milling, because it is important to keep the uniformity of the moistured content throughout the grains. The wheat is left in conditioning bins for 24 hours. The conditioning step is important because it enhances the release of the inner endosperm during the milling process.
This is the step where the cleaned wheat and the conditioned one are blended. Basically, different batches of wheat are mixed together, in order to create the required specific kind and quality of flour.
The obtained grist is further passed through a series of break rolls, that are constantly rotating at different speeds. Do not worry, the rolls don’t actually crush the wheat, but instead it splits the seeds wide open, thus separating the inner portion from the outer skins.
Afterwards, the wheat grains fragments are separated by a complex arrangement of sieves. The white endosperm particles, meaning the semolina, are transported through a series of smooth reduction rolls, for the final milling of the white flour.
The wheat is grounded by a machine that basically crushes it into small pieces. Afterwards, the wheat is put through sifters and after repeated grinding and sifting, it becomes a fine flour, wheat germs and wheat brans. These three pieces can be sold separately, in order to produce different types of flours or they can be used together in order to produce the whole meal flour.
To produce enriched flour, vitamins and mineral are added, as well. In order to produce self-rising flour, salt and leavening agents are neccesary to be added. In one or two months, the flour is all matured. The only thing remaining is to pack the flour in paper bags, in the amount you wish to distribute it afterwards. This is the wheat’s journey converting into the familiar and highly used at home flour.