Prior to switching to Shipton Mill, I used Doves Farm flours for some years, and I was perfectly happy.
I switched to Shipton Mill mainly because of their extensive range of flours other than basic white, and because their strong white flour is described as untreated, whereas Dove’s Farm’s version contains statutory nutrients**, added in accordance with The Bread & Flour Regulations 1998: Calcium carbonate, Iron, Thiamine (Vitamin B1) and Niacin. It also contains vitamin C which, as far as I’m concerned, is unwanted. The 25kg bag has no vitamin C – so why foist it on the rest of us?
**As I’ve since been advised by Shipton Mill, so does theirs, against their will.
In addition, the idea of buying directly from a small producer had its own appeal.
I’ve made three types of loaf with the Shipton Mill flour so far, 50-50 with wholemeal rye in a sourdough loaf; with 40% emmer; and my normal white loaf with 10% light rye.
The first two were fine, but the predominantly white dough felt very soft and flabby, and took less water than normal. Even on the second kneading I could feel very little gluten development.
The finished loaf looked OK, though, and I’m told it ate perfectly normally, but I had a mystery. Until today.
Freshly-milled flour, apparently, makes a very loose dough, because the gluten is relatively weak. This only develops with age and natural oxidation (source).
I also learned that flour is no longer bleached, but unwanted crap like broad bean flour and soya flour is added to achieve the same result (a lot of commercial bread also contains vinegar, which I sure as hell don’t want in my bread – unless it’s as a chip butty). I used to use cider vinegar when I used a bread machine to make spelt bread, in conjunction with baking soda, to give the yeast a helping hand, but the reaction neutralised the vinegar’s acidity. I’ve no idea why it’s in commercial bread (ah! – apparently it’s to inhibit mould – in my experience, it takes quite a lot of vinegar to do that*).
*I don’t eat a hell of a lot of bread, so even my own goes mouldy before it’s finished. As that takes a week, I can’t see that normal bread needs vinegar at all (and even almost week-old home-made bread is perfectly acceptable, sliced thinly, or dunked in soup – it still tastes good).
So, what to do?
I could stock up on the Shipton Mill product, and hope it would oxidise as it aged, but would it do that once it has been bagged? Even in their 2.5kg bags? I’ve no idea, and it could be expensive finding out.
They also have a couple of other white bread flour types, so I’ve emailed them, describing my problem and asking for advice on the advisability of changing to a different variety. That was almost a week ago, and no reply yet.
An alternative – very attractive from a making life easier perspective, if I don’t get a response from Shipton – is to revert to Doves Farm (the missing apostrophe is apparently optional – on their website the name appears with and without it). Their Organic Strong White Bread Flour can be bought in 5 x 1.5kg bag packs, at £6.50 plus delivery, which starts at £6.50 and diminishes with the size of the order. From Shipton, that quantity would cost £9.75, plus £5 delivery. Hmm…