Baking with Josey Baker’s Stoneground Red Wheat

A few months back I was called back out to San Francisco for work and before my trip I found myself following my typical routine: I planned on cafes for lunch, restaurants for dinner, bakeries for bread & pastry, and coffee shops to grab a cappuccino… You know, normal stuff. The problem with San Francisco is that there are too many good places to visit and it becomes an arduous task to eliminate items from your to-do list. I wish Albuquerque had this “problem”.

One stop I almost always make is Tartine Bakery, but I’ve already talked at length about the magical bread & pastry establishment. Another such place is The Mill, a spot that checks two boxes: it’s a bakery and a coffee shop. And a damn good one of each.

The Mill in San Fransisco

The line runs long. It snakes between the tables packed with patrons toward the door, but thankfully for me as I was inching closer to the counter for a cappuccino and slice of toast I noticed Josey had a few sacks of stoneground flour intermixed with his bread. Being the pathological baker that I am, and without thinking about my impending flight home, I promptly snatched a sack of red whole wheat and a loaf of bread. You can imagine the looks I got on the airplane as I boarded with a loaf of bread under my arm and my workbag in the other1.

I posted some shots of Josey’s bread on Instagram a while back, but I’ve finally reached the end of my supply and this entry goes into detail about the flour and my findings when baking with it. Instead of talking at length about attaining an open and lofty loaf, I decided I would talk more about Josey’s red whole wheat and that incredible dark, rich crust it can impart.

Josey Baker's sourdough and stoneground red wheat

But first, a few shots of the loaf I procured at his joint. The bread was incredibly light in the hand, the crust was thin but crackly, and it had this deep russet color with a sheen to it, almost a metallic shine. I want this color in my crust. Upon slicing I noticed the crumb was a deep yellow color with uniform alveoli throughout, save for a few larger ones here and there. Good signs of proper fermentation.

Josey Baker Sourdough Crumb

His loaf had an incredibly complex flavor with mild sourness and a deep, rich taste — quite a mouthful. With so much flavor it begged to be used with something simple, like a good slathering of cultured butter or a light spreadable cheese. File yet another loaf of bread in my Seriously Good Bread list.

After my wife and I ate almost the entire loaf that evening, with everything in my fridge I could reasonably pair it with, I resolved to try and pull out some of those flavors in my own bread using his flour. Now, I’m not even sure if the bread I ate was composed of the flour I had purchased, but I was determined to do my best. Let’s talk flour.

Flour Selection

I don’t recall if I’ve baked with stoneground flour before this sack of red wheat. Or perhaps I didn’t pay attention back then. Nevertheless, I’ve read that many bakers prefer flour milled by this ancient method, but why?

Stoneground flour is essentially just that: you take two massive grindstones, rotate them on top of each other, and feed in wheat berries. Out comes milled flour that contains 100% of the wheat berry in its original proportions: the germ, bran and endosperm. By rotating these two stones at a slow rate milling is accomplished at a much lower temperature than when done with a high RPM mill. That lower temperature helps to preserve protein levels and prevents oxidization of the germ’s fats which causes significant vitamin loss2.

I’m not sure if this flour was hard winter or hard spring, but I do know it’s red wheat and not white wheat. Red wheat is high in protein but also has red pigmentation in the bran layer of the wheat berry, which is where it gets its name3. This extra pigmentation causes the milled flour to be a tad darker in color but also has a slightly more rich flavor to it (some say “bitter”). Let’s take a look at how this stoneground flour visually compares to my typical whole wheat flour.

Comparing stoneground whole wheat

Above you can see a side-by-side comparison of Central Milling Hi-Pro Whole Wheat (right) and Josey Baker’s Stoneground Red Whole Wheat (left). Look at those huge bran and germ flecks in Josey’s flour! Even further, below is a picture of Josey’s flour (left) on top of Central Milling’s Type 70 White Flour (right). As they say, stoneground flour without sifting preserves 100% of the wheat berry.

Flour comparison

After baking several loaves using Josey’s flour, everywhere from 10% to 60% of flour weight, I never achieved an incredibly open and lofty loaf. After those two pictures above it’s easy to see why: those large flecks of bran and germ act just the same as they do when baking predominantly whole wheat loaves, they cut gluten at each turn. But this is fine, an open lofty crumb really should be a byproduct of an experienced baker, not the main goal. Bread is to be eaten, right? Flavor is paramount.

Now that I’m out of Josey’s flour I regret not having the insight to try sifting out some of the larger particles, and then later reincorporating them like I did with my previous 100% whole wheat loaf, or just baking with “high extraction” flour. Ah well, next time.

Ok, now that we have all that under our belts, let’s bake a loaf.

Prepare the 100% whole wheat stiff levain – 8:00am

I prepared a stiff levain (65% hydration) with a mix of Josey’s flour and Central Milling’s whole wheat: 50/50. Gather the following and mix together. This levain is a stiff variety at only 65% hydration. If you’re used to a liquid levain it may feel strange to knead the mixture. Alternatively you could up the hydration percentage to reach your normal liquid levain viscosity.

Weight Ingredient
50g Mature stiff starter
50g Josey Baker Stoneground Red Whole Wheat
50g Central Milling Hi-Pro Medium Whole Wheat flour
65g H2O @ 85ºF

Keep your levain in a warm area and wait about 4-5 or so hours until it’s matured enough to leaven your dough. If using a stiff levain you want to use after significant expansion has taken place but there is still a domed top (i.e. your “stiff ball” has not yet collapsed in the top-middle). If using a liquid levain you want bubbles on top and throughout and still a sweet smell to it, but almost tangy.

Autolyse – 10:00am

Prepare your flour and water (only) for a 2 hour autolyse.

Ingredients:

Weight Ingredient Baker’s Percentage
200g Josey Baker Red Whole Wheat 20%
800g Central Milling Type 70 White Flour 80%
825g H2O @ 80ºF 82.5%
20g Fine sea salt 2%
175g Ripe levain 17.5%

Perform the following for your autolyse:

  1. In a thick bowl add all the flour
  2. Add 775g of your water at 80ºF (the rest is reserved until later when we add in the levain & salt after the autolyse)
  3. Mix these ingredients by hand until all the dry bits are incorporated
  4. Cover with wrap and keep near your levain

Mix – 12:00pm

After our autolyse has finished break up the stiff levain on top of the dough, pour about half of the remaining warm water on top to help dissolve things. Squeeze in the levain with your hands until well distributed.

For mixing I performed two 5-minute sessions of slap and fold (a slap and fold how-to is coming soon!), with a rest between.

  • 5 mins slap fold after adding levain & a bit of water (around 25g)
  • 5 mins let dough rest in covered mixing bowl
  • Add salt and remaining water (around 25g) and continue with 5 more mins of slap/fold until dough holds shape and is tighter

If you prefer to mix in the bowl instead of using the slap/fold technique you can use a combination of the “pincer” method and stretch and folds. A “pincer” motion is bringing your index finger and thumb together as you work from one side of the dough to the other, when you reach the end we do a stretch up and fold over. Do this over and over until you feel like the ingredients have been incorporated thoroughly, after, you can simply do stretch and folds until the dough starts to feel a little more extensible, a little stronger. After about 8 minutes of mixing, pour on your 20g salt and pincer through the dough to mix well. I mixed for an additional 2 minutes with salt added.

Final dough temperature: 78ºF
Ambient temperature: 80ºF

Bulk Fermentation – 2:00pm

Transfer your dough to a container for bulk fermentation and let rest for the first 30 minutes. After the first 30 minutes has passed, perform your first set of stretch and folds.

  1. 2:30pm – Turn Set 1 (Do a fold at each direction, North, South, East and West)
  2. 3:00pm – Turn Set 2 (N, S, E, W)
  3. 3:30pm – Turn Set 3 (N, S, E, W)
  4. 6:00pm – Rest in container untouched

Stretch and fold

At the end of bulk fermentation you’ll notice some bubbles on top of your dough, a rise by some percentage (perhaps around 30%), slightly domed at the edges where the dough meets the container and it will be lofty and jiggly — alive.

End of bulk fermentation

Pre-shape – 4:10pm

Take the dough out of your bulk container and divide the mass into two halves. Pre-shape into two loosely shaped boules to rest for 30 minutes. As you can see below, we do a gentle preshape. It’s not terribly important to have tight rounded boules at this point, but if your dough feels extremely slack (mine did not) then a little extra tension here will help strengthen your dough. I just love the look of that taut and shiny surface at this point, look at those bubbles!

Preshaped boules

Cover with inverted bowls or damp towels to keep the resting dough moist.

Shape + Proof – 4:40pm, Then in Fridge at 5:10pm

After your 30 minute pre-shape rest, shape each dough mass into either a taut boule or a batard. Gently place them into rice flour-dusted bannetons or whatever proofing basket you happen to have around the kitchen (small mixing bowls work pretty well in a pinch). Cover with plastic wrap and pop into the fridge for their nighttime slumber.

It was a long day inside, get outside to walk the dog, play with kids or like me, all of the above plus pictures of garden plants as the sun set. And the typical evening cappuccino… Italians, I tell ya. Ok, ok, a “true” Italian would not have milk in their coffee after the morning, you got me.

Basil and maple

Intelligentsia Black Cat Coffee

Score + Bake – around 10:00am

Preheat your oven to 500ºF for 1 hour. I baked these directly on my baking stones with the method outlined in my previous post, Baking With Steam in Your Home Oven. If you prefer to use a Dutch oven, have at it, you will get excellent results that way as well. If using a Dutch oven preheat with it inside and open so one side is on the left and one side is on the right.

After 1 hour, pull out your loaves, we are going to bake straight from the fridge, per usual. Unwrap and place each on a piece of parchment paper. Score the top with your desired pattern to promote oven spring and get them into the oven.

Bake with steam for 20 minutes at 500ºF. After 20 minutes remove your steaming pans (if using Dutch oven remove the top, but leave in oven) and turn the temperature down to 450ºF. Bake for an additional 30 minutes or so, until you desired level of doneness. If you’re new at this and not sure how long to bake, go for a nice brown color (you can see below), or if you’d like to be more precise, internal temperature of your loaves should be around 212ºF.

Conclusion

This bake was a focus on crust, that wonderfully crackly crust with blisters and varying gradients stretching across, but also a step towards my goal of further research and experimentation with varying flour types. Josey’s stoneground red wheat was an excellent addition to this bake and the flavors were out of this world. If you’re in the San Francisco area stop in at The Mill and snag a bag for yourself.

Along those lines, soon I’ll be milling my own flour right from home and experimenting with these different wheat varieties… More to come on this front, stay tuned!

Crust

Lovely blisters, super thin crust and a crunchy exterior. Couldn’t be any happier. These loaves had this sheen to them, like I mentioned in the beginning of this entry when looking at Josey’s bread, almost a metallic shine in the light. Not quite as pronounces as his loaf, but still there. Additionally, that red wheat imparts a rusty and bold look to the outside — I love that.

Crust details

Crumb

Not a crazy open crumb, but I expected as much. Each bake I did with this flour (not sifted) yielded similar results. No worries, the absolutely incredible taste more than made up for it. The interior was soft and lacy, very light and open.

Sourdough Crumb Details

Taste

A deep and complex flavor to this bread. The red wheat and its added astringency shines through just a bit at the beginning but fades away to the more sweeter notes found in the white flour. A wonderful balance of both tastes. If I could obtain a steady source of this stoneground red whole wheat I’d surely do so.

I know it’s not possible for many out there to use Josey Baker’s flour but I thought this entry would shed some light on the differences between stoneground and roller-milled flour and show some results I’ve had using his red whole wheat. Buon appetito!




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  1. I wouldn’t dare risk smashing bread in my bag, and God forbid I were to check it into my suitcase — sacrilege!

  2. More information here.

  3. More information here.