Gilchesters, if you don't know it, is a small food company located in deepest, darkest Northumberland. The Wilkinson family who owns and runs Gilchesters are farmers who became millers when they could not find anyone to mill their grain in just the way they wanted it. And they were not being precious, they have very special grain (exhaustively researched, ancient varieties, organically grown, and lovingly tended) which they stone mill.
I was thrilled when Andrew and Billie sent me a sample of their different kinds of flour and could not wait to get started.
I made pizzas with my god-daughter using 2/3 strong white bread flour and 1/3 semolina. They were amazing. The crust had flavour, texture and structure and far from cutting it off and leaving it, everyone insisted that olive oil be brought to the table so that the crusts could be dipped in oil and savoured so they could enjoy the flavour without the pizza toppings running interference.
Then I turned to the spelt. The only word I have for it is "luxurious". This spelt makes dough that reminds me of a silken rope. Light, soft, and strong. I am not sure what it is about the grain they use or the way it is milled but this spelt is every bit as strong as most strong wheat flour - it is just as stretchy in the kneading and the shaping, just as active in the rise and - really a test of strength - lots of oven spring with absolutely no oven creep! The whole spelt loaf was exactly the same height as the whole wheat loaf made with Gilchesters flour - and higher than a whole wheat loaf made with a different brand of flour. That's performance!
Then, for fun, I thought I would play around and so I made bread using three of kinds of flour that Andrew and Billie Wilkinson sent to me. Beyond that, I kept it simple because I wanted the flour to speak for itself. The bread is fantastic and that is because the flour is fantastic. All of it. The curst is thin and crispy, the crumb is light and moist. There is a lot of flavour and, for the first time I can really taste the "nuttiness" that everyone goes on about when they talk about spelt. It's just really really good bread.
Click here, and just for you, I present the recipe for Northumberland Mash Up - potatoes strictly optional.
For more on Gilchesters and all that they stand for, please see this video interview with Andrew Wilkinson.
For more on the benefits of stone milling please click here.