Flour can come in many different varieties. The type of flour that is used to bake different items is vital to the finished product’s look, taste, texture and nutritional content.
History of stoneground flour
The earliest evidence for stones used to grind food is found in northern Australia, at the Madjedbebe rock shelter in Arnhem Land, dating back around 60,000 years. Grinding stones or grindstones, as they were called, were used by the Aboriginal peoples across the continent and islands, and they were traded in areas where suitable sandstone was not available in abundance. Different stones were adapted for grinding different things and varied according to location. One important use was for foods, in particular to grind seeds to make bread, but stones were also adapted for grinding specific types of starchy nuts, ochres for artwork, plant fibres for string, or plants for use in bush medicine, and are still used today. The Australian grindstones usually comprise a large flat sandstone rock (for its abrasive qualities), used with a top stone, known as a “muller”, “pounder”, or pestle. The Aboriginal peoples of the present state of Victoria used grinding stones to crush roots, bulbs, tubers and berries, as well as insects, small mammals and reptiles before cooking them.
Neolithic and Upper Paleolithic people used millstones to grind grains, nuts, rhizomes and other vegetable food products for consumption. These implements are often called grinding stones, and used either saddle stones or rotary querns turned by hand. Such devices were also used to grind pigments and metal ores prior to smelting]
Millstones were introduced to Britain by the Romans during the 1st century AD and were widely used there from the 3rd century AD onwards. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Millstone)
Stoneground flour VS rollermilled (industrially ground) flour
Stoneground flour differs from industrially ground flour in a variety of ways. Grains are milled gently using the stoneground method, being ground slowly between two stones. There are three parts that make up a grain – the bran, the germ and the endosperm. The bran provides fibre, protein and vitamins that are vital in maintaining a healthy digestive system. The germ provides B vitamins and fatty acids that are necessary for healthy brain function. The endosperm contains starches, carbohydrates, protein, iron and B vitamins. Stoneground milling, which is done in a cool and gentle way, retains these vitamins and nutrients.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, industrially ground flour is ground using high speed rollers that heat the grain. In this process the bran and the germ is taken away, and in doing this, important minerals, fats, fibre and vitamins are also eliminated.
When the steel roller milled flour was first introduced 1900s, people protested the new system due to the great loss in nutritional content of the flour. It lacked the proteins, fats, vitamins and mineral constituents present in the original grain. It also was said to upset our gut heath or intestinal flora due to the starchy content overload. In 1920, the first head of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Dr. Harvey Wiley who advocated for pure foods and drugs in the United States tried to outlaw refined, bleached white flour because of the processes involved with making it, and the loss of nutrition. (http://www.billsorganics.com.au/)
Stone-Ground White Flour Roller-mill Bleached White Flour
Extraction 81% 72%
Protein 11.20% 10.70%
Fat 1.20% 0.70%
Carbohydrate 67% 80%
Calcium mg. per 100 g 50 22
Iron mg. per 100 g 4 1
Vitamin A (units per 100 g) 200 0
Vitamin B1 (units per 100g) 150 22
Calories per 100 g 370 370
As you can see, Vitamins A and B1 are almost entirely lost in roller milled four. (chart – resilience.org, 2015)
As stoneground milling avoids overheating & dehydration, retaining nutrients and the wheat germ, this allows our unique & natural sourdough starter to slowly ferment over 18 hours. The dough is allowed to rise slowly in order for the beneficial lactobacilli (which aid digestion) to fully develop and the result is a unique, nutty flavour that can’t be obtained any other way.
Many of the health benefits of stoneground flour come from the milling process itself. The stones used stay cold, unlike industrial mills that effectively burn some important nutrients in the milling process. Wheat germ contains high levels of vitamin E, which has been suggested as a cure for many diseases. The nutritional value of flour that has been stoneground is high, as digestibility is increased through this process.
Health benefits of eating bread with flour that has been stoneground include lowered cholesterol and blood sugar levels. Studies have shown that by having a diet that has a low Glycaemic Index (low GI), weight loss may be easier, a reduction in body fat may be seen and there is a reduction in risk factors for diabetes and cardiovascular disease, all of which lead to a higher quality of life.
Now for Cold Stone Milled Chestnut Flour
In the past the chestnut was called “bread tree:” its fruits were so nutritious that they were able to feed farmers during famines, or the inhabitants of areas where grains were scarce. By virtue of necessity chestnut eaters found an effective strategy to stock up on carbohydrates. Pietro Andrea Mattioli, a great Sienese humanist and botanist who lived in the 16th century, narrates: “In the mountains where little wheat is harvested, chestnuts are dried and ground into flour which is skilfully used for making bread.” So, what today is considered a trendy product – used to make pancake dough softer or to enrich vegetable soups with added flavour – a few centuries ago was the only source of sustenance available to destitute families. This explains why chestnut flour has inspired numerous recipes and is preserved in the cooking manuals that have made the history of Italian gastronomy.
Chestnut flour: characteristics and curiosities
Like chickpea and almond flour, our chestnut flour is also prepared by finely cold stone grinding the product after having dried the chestnuts to 4%. Compared to the first two, however, chestnut flour has a different colour – ranging from light hazelnut to ivory – and a more decisive, slightly sweet flavour. In the kitchen, this ingredient, rich in starch, gives doughs a compact and dry texture, which is why it’s always necessary to add a sufficient quantity of water to dilute the mixture before baking.
Chestnut flour: properties and nutritional values
Do you know that nutritionists suggest using chestnut flour as a substitute for bread or potatoes? In fact, its nutritional values are characterised by high levels of carbohydrates (75-80%) and by a low quantity of fats (3-4%), with proteins of around 6%.
Chestnut flour is a real concentrate of fibres, capable of slowing down the body’s absorption of sugars and inducing a prolonged sense of satiety.
The absence of gluten is another advantage which makes it an ideal food to supplement the diet of people suffering from coeliac disease. Chestnut Flour also has high levels of potassium.
From chestnut flour to castagnaccio. Recipe and pairings
Born in Tuscany and “adopted” by numerous other Italian regions such as Lazio, Umbria and Emilia-Romagna, castagnaccio is one of the most popular dishes made with chestnut flour. Despite being a typically autumn dish, in Italy, this thin and dense cake is prepared by small village residents throughout the year, including summer. The original recipe features chestnut flour along with water, olive oil, rosemary needles, pine nuts and raisins (with the occasional addition of orange peel and fennel seeds). The “cake” contains no sugar: it is the flour itself that gives the dough sweetness, simple and genuine. The perfect pairing? Try it with our Chestnut Liqueur, which is a soft and fruity wine. Garnish your square of castagnaccio with a dollop of ricotta or mascarpone sweetened with honey and cacao powder.
Other traditional recipes that employ chestnut flour
Also in Tuscany you will find necci, fragrant crepes made from an amalgam of chestnut flour, water and confectioners sugar––usually baked in cast iron pans and traditionally stuffed with whipped ricotta––and manafregoli: a peasant dish from the area of Garfagnana, made by simmering cow’s milk with chestnut flour over low heat until a thick and nourishing cream forms. Among other worthy of mention regional dishes are taiette from Lunigiana which are tagliatelle kneaded from a mix of chestnut flour and “0” flour; gnocchi with chestnut flour from Valchiavenna, dressed with mushrooms and mountain cheese; sweet chestnut ravioli from Piceno, kneaded and fried at the moment during the Marche region’s Carnevale parades; sweet flour flan with chocolate, candied citron and almonds from Barga (a town in the province of Lucca), carefully described in Artusi’s Science in the Kitchen.
Chestnut flour: other culinary uses
How can we use chestnut flour to prepare something different from classic regional dishes? If you’re planning a quick lunch we recommend making crepes: just mix the same amount of chestnut flour and water with a whisk and cook the mixture over low heat in a pan greased with olive oil, flipping it over when the surface starts to ripple. To test your skills, instead, you can attempt making bread, like typical Marocca di Casola. There are many recipes for this, from a gluten-free version with a mix of chestnut flour and rice flour, to one that involves the addition of semolina durum wheat. Choose one according to your tastes and, if you want to go crazy, use sourdough starter. For Sunday lunch there’s nothing better than fresh egg pasta, softened by the sweet taste of toasted chestnuts (have you ever cooked chestnut tortelli?). Or a creamy soup made with flour thickened in the broth, rosemary, smoked pancetta and croutons. Any ideas for dessert? You will have a hard time choosing: from a chestnut and persimmon cream (here is Simone Rugiati’s recipe) to cake with chestnut flour and dark chocolate, up to the Aosta Valley chestnut biscuits, there is something for everyone. However, we suggest you try bardinsecco, a very special Tuscan biscuit: below is the recipe of master Paolo Sacchetti of the Nuovo Mondo pastry shop in Prato.
Bardinsecco recipe by Paolo Sacchetti
100 g extra virgin olive oil
100 g confectioners sugar
100 g chestnut flour
100 g egg whites
100 g raisins
100 g pine nuts
Pour the dry ingredients in a stand mixer with the leaf attachment or in a bowl and start mixing them (alternatively, use a spatula). Add the olive oil and egg whites previously beaten to stiff peaks in another container. When the mixture is homogeneously mixed, add the pine nuts and raisins. Spread the mixture as finely as possible on parchment paper or a silicone mat, then bake in the oven at 175-180°C for 8-10 minutes (until the biscuit turns hazelnut-coloured). Cut while still hot into equal sized squares. Once cool, store in a plastic bag or glass jar.