Flour is natural
This page will explain how flour is made. Flour is a natural product made by grinding grains (usually wheat) to release the flour inside.
The wheat grain
As with most fruits and vegetables, grains include three main components. Imagine an avocado. First, there is the outer protective layer – called skin in wheat. The seed is the part that allows the new plant to grow. This is the big stone in avocados, while the wheat germ is the main food source. The main food source is the green flesh in the avocado and the starchy endosperm in the wheat seeds. The endosperm is white flour inside a wheat grain, waiting to be extracted.
The history of flour milling
Since Roman times, grains have been ground into flour to make it. This dates back to 6000 BC. To remove the trash from the grains, they were toasted and then mashed between two stones. The flour that resulted was coarse and grainy. We know from evidence that sifting was used to make the flour.
Modern flour milling
This is the job of the millers to separate the wheat seeds into their parts, bran, wheat germ, and pure white flour. It is illegal in the UK and EU to bleach flour. The whiteness that you see is completely natural. You might find recipes calling for flour that has been bleached elsewhere in the world.
Modern millers don’t grind grain in the same way as the Romans. This makes it difficult to separate the bran from the germ of white flour. Instead, a series of machines is used to open each grain and then separate and grind each part. The process continues until all components are completely separated and finely ground. You could run the wheat through the machine up to 16 times.
Composition of flour
White flour is made from the endosperm only, accounting for about 75% of the grain. Wholemeal or whole grain flour uses all the grain. Brown flour is made from around 85% of the grain. For more information about the different types of flour, please click here.
All flour is not created equal. Each variety of flowers has its unique characteristics and properties, just like different apples. These properties make the flour more or less suitable for certain products. Some flours work best when making light bread, while others are better for baking cakes or biscuits. Others can also be used to make pizza.
Farmers cultivate different wheat types to produce flour with different properties so that the baker can choose the best flour for their products.
Transport and storage of grain
It is tested at the mill before it arrives to ensure that it meets the specifications required to make the flour the baker or other customers need. It is tested for quality, variety, moisture, specific weight, impurities and enzyme activity related to sprouting. It is cleaned to remove any impurities such as stones and nails. Then it can be dried and stored in silos according to the quality.
Evaluation of the wheat quality
The “Hagberg Falling Number” measures how long it takes for a plunger to descend through a heated grain-water mixture. This test measures the amount of alpha-amylase activity within the grain. This enzyme converts starch into smaller sugar units, which would fuel the seed’s growth.
The mixture will stay viscous if there is very little enzyme activity. It will take the plunger a while to descend, showing a high Hagberg Falls Number. Excessive enzyme activity will result in the opposite. High enzyme activity can cause bread to be very dry and sticky, which will lead to poor quality.
Conditioning and cleaning
Before wheat is taken from the silos for milling, it must be thoroughly cleaned. Powerful magnets can extract any remaining ferrous metal objects.
Separators that separate according to shape remove barley, small seeds, and oats. Gravity separation removes stones, and air currents lift dust and trash throughout the cleaning process.
After the wheat has been tempered with water, it is left in conditioning bins for 24 hours to adjust its moisture level. This conditioning helps soften the bran and improves the milling of the inner white endosperm.
Grinding is the process of combining cleaned and conditioned wheat. This involves combining different kinds of wheat to make a mixture that can produce the right quality flour for the customers of flour millers.
The grist is then passed through a series of ‘break’ rolling that rotate at different speeds. These rolls don’t crush the wheat but instead split the grain open to separate the white and outer skins.
A complex array of sieves separates the various pieces of wheat grain. The white endosperm particles (semolina) are channeled to a series of smooth “reduction” rolls for final milling into white bread flour.
This flour is made from wholemeal or brown flour by adding wheat germ and bran. Wholemeal flour includes all parts of the grain (endosperm germ, germ, and bran); brown flour may contain less bran but include wheat germ.
These nutrients, legally required in all white and dark flours, include iron, calcium, and B vitamins (niacin, thiamin). These nutrients are already present in Wholemeal flour, but it has a lower calcium content. The UK government announced in October 2018 that it would consult to determine whether flour should be fortified with folic acid to reduce the number of congenital disabilities. This consultation will take place in the early part of 2019. The consultation is scheduled to take place in early 2019.
Bread made from flour
Bread is the main purpose of most of the flour that is milled in the UK. Bread flour has the highest protein content to rise during breadmaking.
Plain flour is the best for baking biscuits, scones, and sauces. Plain flour is also known as all-purpose flour in the USA.
To make self-raising flour, baking powder (or raising agent) can be added at this stage.
The early reduction rolls produce the whitest flours. As the bran particles increase, the flour becomes less white later on. White flour is not bleached in the UK or elsewhere in Europe. Although this was sometimes done in the past, it was eventually stopped in the 1990s. However, it is still common in North America and other parts of the globe. For more information about types of flour, please click here.
A typical mill may have four break rolls and twelve reduction rolls. This leads to 16 flour streams and a germ stream.
The flour is then sifted and automatically packed in bags for distribution to shops or supermarkets.
The bran and wheat feed from the production of flours can be used for animal feed or breakfast cereals.
In the past, flour was made by milling wheat between two stones: one static and one turning. This simple process breaks down the wheat and then mixes the components. It is difficult to separate white flour from wheat bran because of this crushing process. Roller mills open the grain, making it easier to remove the wheat germ and wheat bran to make white flour.
The stoneground method accounts for less than 1% of all flour today. The milling method does not affect the nutritional value of flour. It determines whether the flour is wholemeal, white or brown. Both stone ground and roller-milled flours are equally nutritious.