Like most things in life, the finished product can only be as good as the raw materials one starts with and flour milling is no exception. We take great care in selecting our wheat, much of which is sourced locally but always blended with a proportion of high protein imported wheat. This achieves an end product with consistent baking and eating qualities. The wheat is tested both in a laboratory and through test baking.
After passing through a cleaning machine the blended grain is then ready for grinding into flour between horizontal millstones. The French Burr stone which we use is a natural limestone resembling quartz and originated from the Empernon district at La Ferte-sous-Jouarre. It has been regarded as the most superior stone for flour milling for more than two hundred years.
Although the stones don’t actually touch, after grinding several hundred tonnes of hard milling wheat they do show signs of wear and the stones have to be ‘dressed’. In the heyday of stone milling it was normal to have skilled stone dressers who would travel the country from mill to mill performing just this task but since the introduction of steel roller mills there is no longer a demand for this service.
Over the years we have acquired the proficiency of dressing our own stones. This involves removing any high spots on the working surface of the stone and ensuring the ‘furrows’ are of the correct depth and are well defined. During the milling process the bottom stone (bed stone) remains stationary while the top stone (runner stone) rotates. It is the furrows on the face of the stones which produce a shearing action on the grain as the runner stone revolves. The furrows also help purge the ground material to the outside of the stone and allow air to enter thus preventing overheating which can damage the baking properties of the flour. The slow and gentle process generates a warmth to the flour which ensures the wheat germ oil, naturally present in the grain, is distributed evenly throughout the whole flour maximising the retention of the natural vitamins and minerals as well as enhancing the flavour. During the 1850s there was a huge increase in demand for white flour. This resulted in the new and more efficient steel roller milling technology squeezing out the majority of traditional stone mills. Consequently production increased to meet demand but at the expense of the product’s distinctive character and complexity of flavours.
Once ground, the flour then passes through a mechanical sieve which depending on the grade of flour being produced removes a proportion of the bran (the outer layer of the grain). The flour is then weighed and sealed in our distinctive 1.5kg bags or 25kg sacks, as well as our popular 8kg sack for the keen homebaker..