|Henrietta Inman, author of The Natural Baker, and resident cook and baker at Wakelyns Agroforestry, is currently exploring the use of whole crop rotations and whole harvests in baking. Here she suggests some ways to use bran and semolina or 'milling offal' - the waste that's generated when making white flours.
Bran and semolina are both great additions to recipes using wheat, spelt or rye flour, you can use them to replace a proportion of the flour too.
As bran has a very low density it is hard to swap out an equal amount of flour for bran and use it as a direct substitute, I realised this when developing biscuit recipes. Bran is also a lot more fibrous than either semolina or flour, so it does require a bit of experimenting with and getting used to.
As well as in biscuits, I have found good results when using it as a ‘scald’ or ‘mehlkuchstück’, a porridge made from flour or bran which can be added to sourdough for extra depth of flavour and nutrition. It also adds extra softness to the loaf . Simply boil up 210g bran with 500g water until the bran has absorbed all the water. Leave it to cool and then add to your dough just after it has been mixed and before leaving it to prove - you want the scald to be in the raw dough when you are folding it and leaving it for its bulk rise.
From a few tests I have done so far with a wholemeal YQ and Q flour bread, I have been adding about 30% of the flour weight in bran scald to a relatively well hydrated loaf (80% hydration). Bakers' percentages and formulas can be confusing; in practice that means that if your loaf contains 1kg of dry flour, add 300g wet bran scald. Ere on the safe side and start with less if you want to but I really encourage you to have a play around and get creative in your kitchen and just see what works best for you and your bread.
Once you've started experimenting you won't want to stop, scalds are flavour-nutrition bombs and could be added to lots of things. Add a bit to flapjacks to soften them up or to a moist cake or muffin-like mix; add to oats in your morning porridge or soaked overnight oats with lots of seeds including chia and a little camelina; maybe even to pasta dough. I haven’t tried adding scalds to pastry and biscuit dough but I think anything is possible!
I've tried making bran flakes too. For these I've used 140g of the above scald with 80g YQ population wholegrain wheat flour, 60g honey and a pinch of salt. Mix all the ingredients together and roll between two pieces of paper. Remove the top piece and bake for about 10 minutes at 180C then lower the oven temperature and dry out. It was a tasty first recipe test, maybe you can continue its development?
I suggest making a batch of scald and keeping it in the fridge for the week, adding it to recipes that you think it might work well in.
At Small Food Bakery in Nottingham, the wonderful team of bakers there use it for loading the bread into the oven - dust your peel or wooden board with bran, turn out your loaves from their bannetons and it will slide off easily into the oven. It will fill your bakery or kitchen with a beautiful wholesome smell!
Wheat semolina is a little easier to use than the bran when substituting flour. I’ve been using it in biscuits and pastry, swapping out about a third to half the flour for semolina, and had great results. It adds an extra crunchy texture and bite. Try adding a bit to pasta dough too. As well as using wheat bran and semolina from Worsbrough Mill, seek out some mills near you and see if they have any by-products from milling that you could try out.
And it's not just wheat. Recently, Lindsay Wright from Maple Farm, Kelsale gave me some rye bran and semolina which are both delicious. I made some pastry for a quiche with 400g YQ population wheat flour, 275g wheat semolina and 275g rye semolina, 525g unsalted butter, 15g salt and 3 eggs and it worked wonderfully - nibbly, crumbly, crunchy, flaky! Experiment!
As well as the Small Food Bakery, there are a few other Instagram accounts that are worth looking in on for inspiration. Mahala Le May @dough_club, has some beautiful biscuit ideas with bran, middlings and semolina that she shares often, they’re some of the best biscuits I’ve ever eaten. Over in Canada wholegrain champion Dawn Woodward @evelyns.crackers often shares amazing recipes and ideas.
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