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Heritage flour is the latest thing


One thing we’re often asked by customers is how to best use the Lammas Fayre heritage flours. Given the current interest in heritage grains, it’s not surprising and we’re keen to help out with ideas and recipes. Some bakers it seems, are a little nervous about using these flours. It is understandable that they are worried that ancient wheat varieties might be more challenging to work with and some customers have voiced concerns that this kind of flour may not give good results when used for modern recipes.

I can honestly say that I have used Lammas Fayre flours in a whole range of recipes. Yes, they can take a little getting used to, but one good tip is to start by using them blended with higher protein, modern flours to help get a more manageable dough and loaves with a good rise. The really great thing about these heritage flours is that they bring bags of flavour to breads, cakes and pastries – something that is often missing in many modern flours. Some bakers report that they find bread made with these flours easier to digest, especially when they have used a long, sloe fermentation - but I’ll leave that to Vanessa to explain why this is since the digestibility and nutrition of bread is, after all, her specialist subject!

I’ve also asked Vanessa give us all some insight into how we can easily incorporate these flours into our everyday baking.

Baking with flour contemporary with different periods of history be that the Victorians or the Vikings, has always appealed to me. It’s like time travel in your kitchen.

There is, however, far more to growing a heritage grain than simply celebrating the past. They can be highly nutritious as well as tasty, especially when used in sourdough. I’ll try to unpick the reasons for this here.

What's a heritage grain?
Grains we today call heritage have been grown for hundreds or thousands of years. Landraces from Lammas Fayre contain dozens or hundreds of strains naturally selected through successive harvests to suit the conditions, often growing on marginal land without added irrigation, pesticides or fertilisers as they are able to seek these out with extensive root systems. This in stark contrast to modern grains bred for their uniformity and suitability for large-scale cultivation.

Heritage grains are the antithesis of modern varieties. Modern varieties need to be pampered, to have everything they need brought to them, from water to nutrients. A field of modern cereal will contain only one variety of that cereal (wheat, barley etc) and so is more vulnerable to extremes such as drought or even pests.

THE SCIENCE BIT


What does it do specifically for sourdough?

Heritage wholegrain British grown grain is typically enzymatically active. This makes it ideal for use in the flour mix for sourdough bread. The higher enzyme activity raises the availability of soluble carbohydrates which feed both the lactic acid bacteria and the yeasts, increasing organic acids and flavour. Further, the extra sugars released by the enzymes result in additional Maillard reaction (the caramelisation of the dough while baking adding flavour).

What about nutrition?

Another important benefit of higher enzyme activity is to enhance nutrition and digestibility. The higher level of enzyme activity releases more sugar, which in turn feeds the microbes and releases more organic acids. It is this process of long, slow fermentation that acidifies the bread. It is thought that the acidification is a key component in actively retarding starch digestibility leading to low glycaemic responses, which is interesting for anyone needing to control blood sugar levels.

The increased acidification of the dough also can also improve the bioaccessibility of compounds and increase mineral bioavailability, making more of the micronutrients available and therefore sourdough bread, made with wholegrain flour can be more nutritious. I’ve also been reading some small-scale studies that suggest that some heritage grains have higher micronutrients than others.

It has been indicated in various studies that acidification of the dough results in the degradation of gluten and that this may help to render bread more digestible for people sensitive to it leading to another reason why some report better digestibility with more enzyme active flours with increased acidification. (Please note this is not medical advice: I am simply summarising a study that may help explain why customers report that they find heritage flours easier to digest).

One further result of the action of enzymes during fermentation is the hydrolysis and solubilisation of the grain macromolecules. That is, it breaks down the flour, including proteins and cell wall polysaccharides to form new bioactive compounds such as prebiotic oligosaccharides. These actively help to support our digestive system and therefore our overall wellbeing.



Increased levels of digestibility?

I have three thoughts on why customers report that the heritage flours are more digestible.

Firstly it may simply be that baking bread at home cuts out bread “improvers” along with other ingredients use in commercial bread. For some this is enough to make bread easier to digest.

The increased organic acids produced in an enzymatically active flour facilitates the degradation of phytic acid, which is known to cause flatulence (sorry chaps, yes I do mean wind and bloating) in individuals with IBS.

That said, some studies on Heritage grains also show that early varieties have higher levels of phytic acid, which on fast-fermented bread might result in the same people with a sensitive digestive system finding this flour harder to digest... so to reiterate if you have a sensitive digestive system then look to using sourdough.

Phytic acid also restricts the body’s ability to absorb the micronutrients. It is the acid production by the lactic acid bacteria that is particularly beneficial in wholegrain sourdough as this is neutralised and so delivers much more minerals and potentially protective compounds.

In summary

It is actually the acidification of the bread that makes all the difference when it comes to the digestibility and nutrition of sourdough. Good quality heritage flours contribute to this process by having high levels of enzymes that increase levels of food available to the microbes and therefore increase the levels of acidity.

I typically use about 20 – 50% in my sourdoughs and blend with the Mulino Marino 00.

Sourdough though is not the only way to us these lovely flours.

Here are some other ideas for using the Lammas Fayre range of flours in your home baking this summer –

Heritage Blend Artisan Pizza Flour

Heritage Blend Artisan Pizza Flour is a blend of stoneground and roller milled flours that makes fabulous pizza dough. Why not jazz up your pizzas with some seasonal summer toppings, like this fig and blue cheese pizza or beetroot and goat’s cheese pizza.




The Medieval Peasant’s Blend Flour

The Medieval Peasant’s Blend Flour is milled from a mixture of wheat, oats and barley, with added flavour and nutritive value coming from broad bean and pea flours. John at Lammas Fayre has researched and recreated a flour that would have been eaten by peasants in medieval Britain. Try this medieval sourdough recipe and bring history to life in your kitchen… this kind of medieval baking can make a great summer holiday project that the whole family can get involved in.

Medieval Blend Beremancorn Flour

Medieval Blend Beremancorn Flour is another authentic medieval blend, this time milled from wheat and barley. The thing you will really notice with these heritage flours is the flavour. I would suggest using beremancorn flour in 50:50 mix with an organic strong white bread flour to bake your favourite loaf and taste the difference this flour makes. This heritage flour loaf is a good recipe to start with. You could also try this soda bread, which is a great recipe to have on hand for when you need a freshly baked loaf in a hurry.

Roman Blend White Spelt Flour

Roman Blend White Spelt Flour or Roman Blend Wholemeal Spelt Flour Spelt flours have become more popular in recent years due to their health benefits and, of course, their flavour. We stock both a white and wholemeal flour milled from a blend of heritage spelt varieties. I would recommend using these in a blend with a higher protein flour if you want to combine their great flavour with an easily managed dough. You can use either of these heritage spelt flours for making these spelt butter rolls with fresh herbs from the garden.

Heritage Blend Wholemeal Flour

Heritage Blend Wholemeal Flour is milled from over 200 (yes, really) varieties of heritage wheat, stoneground to produce a great flour for home baking. I use this wholemeal flour to add a rich flavour to breads, and it is perfect for making this malt loaf too.

 


Neolithic Blend Einkorn Wheat Flour

Neolithic Blend Einkorn Wheat Flour. Einkorn was the first grain to be cultivated by man, dating back thousands of years. This creamy flour is great for breads and crepes. Einkorn also makes amazing flatbreads – perfect for those summer barbeques. Try substituting einkorn for some of the white flour in this recipe for rosemary, garlic and parmesan flatbreads.

 

Anglo-Saxon Blend Wholemeal Rye Flour

Anglo-Saxon Blend Wholemeal Rye Flour and Anglo-Saxon Blend Light Rye Flour. These stoneground rye flours make wonderful bread. Used in combination with a strong white flour, rye flours add fabulous flavour to a loaf, and they pair especially well with dried fruit and seeds. Use the wholemeal flour to get a darker loaf and richer flavour, and the light rye if you prefer a less heavy texture. Try either of these heritage flours in this delicious apricot loaf recipe.

Medieval Blend Maslin Flour

Medieval Blend Maslin Flour is milled from a blend of wheat and rye grains, then sieved to produce a light brown flour. This is a great flour for sourdough baking, and also combines well with herbs – substitute it for some of the white flour in these pesto baps and you’ll have gourmet burger buns for your next barbeque.

 

Viking Blend Barley Flour

Viking Blend Barley Flour. Barley makes a lovely, nutritious flour that was used by the Vikings to make flatbreads. Use this barley flour in place of some white or wholemeal flour in many modern recipes. Try it in muffins, pastry or these scones.

 

 

Heritage Blend Wholesome White Flour

Heritage Blend Wholesome White Flour. Like the wholemeal heritage blend, this flour is a blend of over 200 wheat varieties. It’s very popular with customers for home baked breads, both sourdough and yeasted. I love this roasted pepper focaccia, substituting half of the 00 flour with heritage blend white, for an easy to make and very tasty bread.

 


Vanessa Kimbell runs the Sourdough School, Northampton


Do you have a sourdough question for Vanessa? Send it to us and the best ones will appear in our next postbag edition and receive a dough whisk.

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