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james 03-05-2009 03:23 PM

Historic Stone Flour Mill
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We visited the Bale Grist Mill in Calistoga last weekend. It's an 1840's era stone flour and corn mill that has bee renovated by the CA state park system. It's an authentic water wheel powered mill built from redwood and fir, and two mill stones imported from France.

The tour is great for a hobby baker, and the guides describe everything from the mill construction and renovation to the theory behind the mill. Like a modern olive oil mill in Italy, the miller kept a percentage of the flour (1/16th in this case) in exchange for milling flour. The mill ran under the 1880s, when it was replaced by a modern mill and the fact that winter wheat grown in the Dakotas and Canada was better for bread than the locally grown wheat.

They were milling the day we were there, and we came home with 5 2lb bags of flour -- 2 whole wheat bread flour, 1 rye, 1 pastry flour and 1 spelt. The mill also had a sorting facility based on the fineness of the grind, it that hasn't been restore yet. I'm baking with the whole wheat and rye in the next day or two and I'll let you know how it goes.

I was thinking that we could sell the flour through the FB Store, and donate all of the profits back to the mill restoration fund.

Who would be interest in getting some great flour? The wheat berries come from Giustos (yes, the great flour company), where the pastry wheat comes from Idaho and the bread flour and rye are grown in the Dakotas.

This is really cool and I can't wait to see how the bread comes out. I wonder how fresh the flour is? Oh, wait. I saw them mill it. :-) Charlotte, daughter #2, helped them set up the gears and ran the hopper while the mill was running.

Let me know what you think.

BrianShaw 03-06-2009 12:17 PM

Re: Historic Stone Flour Mill
I'd be interested... but be aware that I often get cheap when large shipping costs are involved.

In this case I might make an exception (if it is possible to make an exception to in-bred frugality) if it also supports the mill restoration. I have a soft spot in my heart for old mills. Three or four generation fo my father's ancestors ran grist mills in Maine. The original mill was established in the late 1790s. The "old family homes", two of them, are still at the site but the last mill itself burned to the ground -- about 1925 or so. I have an old watercolor painting of the mill and often engage in daydreaming after looking at it.

texassourdough 03-06-2009 12:47 PM

Re: Historic Stone Flour Mill
Hi James!

I will bet you will love the whole wheat. I usually mill my own wheat for me sourdough boules (roughly 5% whole wheat/rest KA bread flour). I find the aromatics from the freshly milled wheat to be a real quality boost - at least to my taste. Look forward to hearing how you like it!

Good Luck!

james 03-06-2009 05:53 PM

Re: Historic Stone Flour Mill
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Here is a photo of my first loaf. Sourdough with 40% KA GP, 40% Whole Wheat, 20% Whole Rye, and 70% hydration. I guess it's a type of Miche. I can't wait to let it look and have a taste.

One more thing, the folks at the mill said that locally milled flour is better for you than even KA whole wheat, as the commercial millers pull off 20% of the bran and germ to sell for other products.

More to come.

Keep you ideas coming. I am going to write to the mill and see what FB can do to help.

james 03-06-2009 05:56 PM

Re: Historic Stone Flour Mill
I also wanted to mention that the flour does a great job of absorbing water. This is a 70% hydration loaf, and when I first started mixing the dough it was a sticky mess -- almost a batter. I did a mix on low for 2 minutes, then upped the speed a little and after a couple of minutes the gluten was developing and it completely held together as a damp, but real loaf.

I folded and stretched twice before shaping.


Xabia Jim 03-06-2009 11:26 PM

Re: Historic Stone Flour Mill
I like the idea but I'm thrifty too when it comes to shipping. Maybe a package deal with a few flours would be economical.

Last year I posted shots of the old Mills here ( )and went up to them recently. It looks like they have restored one for milling but have yet to put in the mechanisms and sails to do the grinding...still hope it happens!

It would be nice to have some artesan flours!


dmun 03-07-2009 04:32 AM

Re: Historic Stone Flour Mill
When I was a student in Lancaster Pa, in the 1970's we used to drive out into the country to buy flour in big bags from a local gristmill because it was cheap. The flour, as far as i can recall, was ordinary AP flour, but it was ground in a water driven mill. I googled around and here is a site with 121 mills in Lancaster county: - Pictures of Mills and Historic Mill Information

We might have gone to the Lancaster milling co, which made Daisy flour until 1980, but that's just a guess.

From this site, there seem to be several still active grist mills in Lancaster Co., most of them making animal feed.

texassourdough 03-07-2009 06:28 AM

Re: Historic Stone Flour Mill
A beautiful loaf, James! It will clearly taste amazing! Look forward to that part of the report!

Wiley 03-07-2009 09:34 AM

Re: Historic Stone Flour Mill
James, most interesting. Personally I wouldn't be interested in buying the flour because I bought a Nutrimill and grind my own and SWMBO would not be pleased if I started buying flour (not at least with 150+ lbs of wheat berries stored). But a question or two on the flour you bought:

You said it was freshly ground, from what little I have learned one has a window of approximately 8-9 hours of time of milling that one can use fresh milled flour without gluten problems. During that time develops etc without problem. Between that 9 hours and several weeks (two to three or more) the guten won't develop well because the flour is not properly oxidized. Did they address any issue of oxidizing the flour at the mill when you bought it? The loaf you baked looks great how long was it baked after you bought the freshly milled flour?

And last: When changing from one grain to another there must be a period of mixed flour, a blend. Do they separate this off and sell as a blend or do they arbitrarily make the cut off and call one wheat and the other rye? As it only takes a small amount of rye flour to dramatically change the character of a loaf I would think this transition or change from one berry to another would be important.


james 03-07-2009 12:32 PM

Re: Historic Stone Flour Mill
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I can now see why some of you mill your own flour. The moistness and flavor are great -- and in a way, I think you can taste the freshness. The flour was milled on Sunday and I made the dough on Thurs, and baked it on Friday. The rye has a strong nutty flavor and the whole wheat taste almost chocolatey. The moistness of the crumb really stands out, and the crust is crunchy, but not dry and it has a nice elastic quality.

I'm going to keep going with this.

One last thing -- this was a 500gr loaf, with 220gr starter (100gr GP flour and 120gr water).

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