Stone ground flour, a water powered mill and baccala’

When we want to bake a cake, bread or pizza we just head for the shops get any flour available and don’t think much of it as long as it is the right type of flour. Isn’t flour just flour after all?

Actually, it is not.

My visit to a traditional mill (and you know by now about my addiction for visiting small farms) opened up my eyes about flour. I used to feel quite confident about the subject only to realize that I actually knew nothing about it!

traditional water mill

Do you know those flashbacks that take you right back to your childhood? I remember very well visiting this place on a school trip when I was about 8. For some reason I never forgot it and I always wanted to go back there, so I finally did.

Meet Christian, the miller. Following the footsteps of his ancestors dating back to the 18th Century he has continued his family tradition. He really is what you would call a proper miller, one of those artisans you hardly see these days as sadly they have all been replaced by large industries which produce much larger quantities  for about half of the price. But is the end product just the same?

Christian the miller

The actual mill dates back to the middle of the 14th century and incredibly still preserves many of its features. The water wheel was then built by Christian’s great-great grandad bending the iron entirely by hand. Thanks to the force of the water of a canal passing by the grains are milled using a traditional granite stone.

water wheel millwater wheel

Stone ground flour is very different to industrial flour. To make it simple, stone ground flour comes from grains milled between two stones.

stone for grinding

As the grains are milled gently they don’t overheat so the nutrients are not “cooked away” in the milling process.  The miller puts the grains in at the top, the stones whir around and grind it and the flour is collected at the bottom.

stone for grinding

It is up to the miller how he wants his flour to be: if he wants whole grain flour he will leave it as it is, if he wants white flour he will sieve the flour catching the bigger bits of bran and germ in the sieve or he can include some bits of bran in the flour to give it a specific texture.

husk leftover after millinggrains ready for grinding

inside an artisan miller

The miller often works different types of grains like rye, kamut, corn and barley.

barley pearler

I have made tagliatelle, pizza and bread with some of this flour and the first thing you notice about stone milled flour is that the color is different. Even if it is white flour the color is beige.  It really looks like whole meal but it is not. It is darker because it is unbleached and the color impacted by tiny little bits of bran and germ which have been retained compared to industrial flours. That’s why it is more nutritious and more filling.

stone ground flour

Bake with this flour for a more satisfying, better tasting and healthier end result. Bread is simply fabulous. I will definitely be on the look out for local millers in the UK. I want this flour. Oh yes I do.

There is something else that Christian does. He beats baccala’ or salt cod representing the only business of its kind in Italy.

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baccala' or salted cod
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He buys the best dried cod from Lofoten (in Norway) and he beats it on a stone base. Salted cod needs to be flattened before being sold; flattening it makes it very tender and suitable to be soaked and cooked.

The fish is beaten on a stone smoothed by centuries-old activity, with 2 shots per second. Like this it remains smooth, its fibers are compact and when you cook it it absorbs the sauce very nicely.

Industrially beaten baccala’ you normally find around is ironed  under a press which crushes and breaks the fibers not allowing  them to resume their original structure so when you cook it it crumbles

stockfish ready to be beaten

Thanks for the time and courtesy shown by Christian and his father at:

Mulino ZORATTO
Via Molini n.70
Codroipo (Udine) 33033
Italy

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5 Responses to Stone ground flour, a water powered mill and baccala’

  1. gloria

    what lovely post cara!!
    Love read about this!
    bacio!

  2. la cucina di Molly

    Che belle foto, in effetti la farina macinata a pietra è tutta un’altra cosa! Grazie per la condivisione! Un abbraccio!

  3. Dottie Sauchelli Balin

    Dear Alida,
    How I love these posts that you show outside the kitchen. Such wonderful information and I learn something every time…I love the idea that Christian is using the “Old Way” of making flour. I can’t believe that this mill is from the 14th Century. Fabulous! I always use unbleached flour. Love his idea of the baccala. It really will make a difference with the flattening it will make it very tender. Great job….thanks for sharing this..I learned a lot…Have a beautiful week dear friend…
    Dottie 🙂

  4. Elisabetta

    I have great admiration for young people who are willing to sacrifice an easy modern-day job for sheer hard work in their ancestors’ tradition – they are an example to the world. Unless more people take these jobs up the beauty of natural and un-processed food will die out. Bravissimo, Christian! I’ve also found the info about flattening baccala by beating it on a stone fascinating. Love baccala! Grazie Alida

    • Alida

      You are right Elisabetta. Christian is a young guy who is extremely passionate about his job. I am full of admiration for him too and he knows so much about the subject, he would not stop talking about it. I have learnt a lot too during this visit. I know which flour to choose now!

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