Bread from English Flours milled at a Welsh Watermill

Made with Felin Ganol milled rye flour

I don’t know if the expression ‘ Sending Coals to Newcastle’  means anything to non British readers?  It’s an expression for sending something to someone which by definition they already have in abundance, so sending bread to a miller would seem to be a slightly crazy thing to do, like sending moon dust to the moon, but that’s what I did a little while ago.

Rye is not as popular in England as it is in the Northern European countries. We get less choice in the sort of flours we can get. It is nigh on impossible to find a shop that supplies cut rye grain, the only suppliers being the mills. The Rye flour generally available is quite coarse and while of course one can bake with it, I like to use a finer flour when I am trying to make European style rye.

I grew up eating rye breads, mostly the white bread with a little rye flour and lots of caraway seeds, often referred to as deli rye, or Polish rye or the flat vollkornbrot or pumpernickel style breads that are popular as the base of open sandwiches in Denmark and Sweden.

The wonderful breads that are baked in Germany and Scandinavia, Poland and Russia are rarely seen here in England; everyday rye breads which are made with lots of rye flour, usually acidified or soured with a natural yeast starter prior to mixing the dough.

Without getting too technical, rye flour really benefits from being prepared this way. Bad rye bread, and I have tasted far too much of it, is pasty and leaden and would put you off rye for life and unfortunately it is very common in England. There is a lots of information about baking with rye in Jeffrey Hamelman’s book Bread and I wrote a little about it on the post where I baked my favourite 60/40 rye which is one of the most popular of German rye breads.

A good high percentage rye loaf, though close crumbed, has a springy yet firm, sponge like quality to the crumb, a rich flavour and a crust that softens with a day’s standing. It should not taste pasty or claggy in the mouth.

So this is where the mill comes in :

The Parrys have restored Felin Ganol watermill to full working order and they mill English grown grain using proper stones. They have been exploring what they can do with rye grain and sent me a parcel of their experimental flour as I had moaned about not being able to get German style rye flour in England. I had sent them some of my German rye flour to compare with what they could mill. Fun!

I know that you can tell a lot about a loaf from the pictures, but I thought as they had been so very kind as to send me a parcel of rye flour to try and offer an opinion on,  that I should return the favour. Last week before I went away I revved up the starter and baked two loaves, one to take with me and one to send to Wales. They said they liked it and that made me ridiculously happy ! I have purchased other flour from them at Christmas but this is the first time anyone has ever given me flour and I felt very honoured.

Photo Copyright Anita Grey shown by permission. Visit her baking blog at and admire her wonderful photos!

You can read more about Felin Ganol’s story here. If you visit Azelias Kitchen and Carl’s Llyn Lines,  both wonderful baking enthusiasts, you can see many splendid breads being made with Felin Ganol’s flours and meal.


The medium milled flour that they produce from this English grown organic rye grain from Hammonds End Farm is light and fragrant and has a much more golden colour than the rye flour I usually get hold of. I think it is quite splendid. It made a smooth and creamy rye dough batter and baked up very nicely with a full bake.

If you are unfamiliar with working with rye flour here are a few notes:-

  • Most importantly it is nothing like wheat flour to work with and you really need to put wheat doughs out of your mind once you are mixing more than about 20- 40% rye into the dough.
  • Rye is incredibly sticky and slippery and coats your hands in a way that some people find really unpleasant and I know of one person who has an allergy to it. So if you are prone to allergies, or to dermatitis it might be worth doing a test patch before flinging your hands into a bowl of the stuff.
  • Because rye is different from wheat it really is unnecessary to attempt to knead this dough, once it is mixed, it is best left to hydrate fully for a while and then shape or tin and leave to prove.
  • It is possible to shape even the softest of batters if you are careful and gentle in your handling and use plenty of flour and a couche cloth or a basket to support the dough while it proves. But it is not easy and if this is your first attempt with rye I would recommend pouring the batter into a greased and floured tin and baking it that way.
  • I tip the batter out on to a floured board and divide it into two portions and work gently with it until I have it shaped and coated in flour. Then I move it with a flat board with a tapered edge ( a rolling board) onto a well floured linen cloth, folded up around the dough to support it. When it is time to get it into the oven, I reverse the procedure to get them there, sliding the rolling board gently under the loaf and then onto the trays. The loaves are too soft to lift by hand.

The formula for this Long Rye Loaf I owe to Nils,  and one can find the original together with many fantastic recipes and bread posts on his blog Ye Olde Breade Blogge and in his E-book Brot: Notes from a Floury German Kitchen;  here I have doubled the quantities to make two loaves. If you look at his loaf you can see that it is much darker, rye grain seems to vary quite a lot from country to country.

It worked out for me as a 67% rye bread with a hydration of 71%

Starter preparation (the day before you want to bake)

Stage 1
  • 20g mature rye sourdough (you could try using wheat if you don’t have a rye starter)
  • 240g luke warm water
  • 350g medium FG rye flour

mix the above to a smooth batter
Leave covered at room temp for 18 hours

Stage 2

The following day mix the starter from Stage 1 above


  • 240g medium Felin Ganol rye flour
  • 300 g Amaretto 2011 flour (this is a sieved wheat flour from Felin Ganol but you can use a strong bread flour of your choice)
  • 19 g salt
  • 2 tsps of active instant yeast (optional, those of you who never use yeast can leave it out of course but you will need to allow longer for the proves)
  • 400 g tepid or room temperature water
  • Once the dough is well mixed with no visible flour and the colour and texture look even leave for 40 minutes to ensure the dough is fully hydrated and actively fermenting once more.
  • Shape the dough into 2 x 800 g loaves using a generous amount of flour and supported them on a couche cloth to prove for another hour.
  • Look for little bubbles breaking in the surface of the loaves and  possibly a few photogenic cracks developing at this point. Dusting the tops of proving loaves with flour gives you a clue as to how they are developing from the pattern formed as it rises. The loaves increase in volume by maybe a third to a half, not the easiest thing to judge, they should have a soft puffy quality to them when you touch them gently with a fingertip.
  • Slide the loaves gently onto parchment lined trays using a rolling board and into the oven on trays.
  • Bake in a preheated oven with steam at 230º C for 15 minutes, then open the door to let steam and heat out and lower the temperature to 200º C for another 40 minutes.
  • Allow to cool on a rack before wrapping loosely in paper and leave for 24 hours before slicing.

The loaf I took with me was ready to eat after a night plus a trip on the train and we ate our way happily through it over about five days. It showed no signs of going mouldy. We ate it with paté and with cheese, with prawn cocktail and with butter and jam and it was a very well behaved guest at the lunch table.

31 thoughts on “Bread from English Flours milled at a Welsh Watermill

  1. Celia @ Fig Jam and Lime Cordial

    Jo, you really do have a great touch with rye. As you know I baked your Russian rye loaves a while back, and was delighted with them – the texture was deliciously tender but not gummy, and it definitely seemed to improve over a couple of days. These loaves look very impressive, with their floured cracked tops and open, elastic crumb!

    1. Joanna Post author

      You are kind and I really don’t make that much rye these days, it tends to go in phases. It was nice of you to have a go at the 100% rye, I was quite relieved that you liked it as I know what funny stuff it is to work with! You look at it when mixed up and think, ‘is that really going to make bread?’ But then all dough is like that, I think that is one of the charms of baking, the transformation :)

  2. hotlyspiced

    Your bread always looks so delicious Jo and it would be wonderful to sit down at your table and enjoy your baking. I love that photo too. What a great image. xx

    1. Joanna Post author

      Thank you – somewhere in the blogoverse is our meeting space where we all get to chat and nibble on each others’ goodies and pass the time of day, in the meantime we just carry on leaving our calling cards as we click our way around the world, which reminds me, I haven’t visited you lately – I’m on my way ;)

  3. Pingback: A Perfect Loaf in a Land of Workaholics « Watch Japan

  4. gillthepainter

    Zoiks Shaggy.
    Those 2 loaves look absolutely incredible.

    And the crumb is particularly creamy.

    I’m not a master rye baker like you, but I do appreciate a well crafted brown (and black) sourdough loaf.

    I’m on the hunt for a visit to a mill …. if you want to join me when I find one, Joanna

    1. Joanna Post author

      Thank you Gill! I would love to come and visit a mill (or two) with you. Have you looked on the Cornmillers Guild site for inspiration? I will look tomorrow and see what I can find xx

  5. peasepudding

    OMG, they are amazing loaves, I just love rye bread so I might to out some time aside over Easter to make these.

    1. Joanna Post author

      Thanks, that’s very kind of you. The shaping and moving the shaped loaves is the tricky part with this, use lots of flour on the board and on your hands and it does come together with a little luck. Good luck if you try it :)

  6. sallybr

    Zeb, forgive my very poor analogy, but baking with rye is a bit like playing golf – hard to explain to non-players the difficulty of the game and skills necessary for a good performance

    rye is not for sissies, but you mastered rye breads like a pro – I am always amazed by the results you get – and of course, I love when you write up very thorough posts like this one. I learn a lot from them

    gorgeous loaves!

    1. Joanna Post author

      I can’t play golf :) It is one of life’s mysteries to me. You know, every time I mix up a batch of a soft rye dough like this I think, “How am I going to shape this, surely it is impossible that it will hold a form while it proves?” but curiously I find it easier than ciabatta, which is easily as wet and floppy, at least this stuff stays put once you finally get it into a shape. Glad you liked the look of them Sally :)

  7. heidiannie

    I’m a great fan of sourdough ryes- and yours are always quite beautiful!
    I have never been sent flour to try, although I have received it for a gift, I love the idea of being sent/gifted with flour- it makes me feel like they know and love me.

    1. Joanna Post author

      You are very kind and I wish I could send you one too Heidi :) It was very exciting to get a flour gift, you are quite right !

  8. Ray

    Look great! I’ve not yet tried to do a rye bread – yet another loaf to try. I tend to stick with Dove Farm flours but it would be nice to source something more local. I am enjoying reading Carl’s posts about the various heritage flours he has been fortunate to be using.

    1. Joanna Post author

      Hi Ray, Carl’s posts are great aren’t they? He’s a wonderful source of information on so many topics and very kind and helpful as well. I made his nettle gnocchi last year which were delicious :)

  9. Mal

    Rye’s a sore point with me just now. After some freelance success I got a bit cocky and reverted to Andrew Whitley’s 100% ryes thinking the pullman would pull me through. Result – soggy doughball with a crisp crust and a gap between the two you could drive a bus through. May post .. if I have the courage!

    1. Joanna Post author

      Mal – oops your comment was hiding in the spam folder, but I have approved it now and it should be ok next time you comment and recognise you.

      I don’t have Andrew’s book so I don’t know the recipe you used. I make a 100%-er in a tin,(recipe and post here) that usually works, you have to acidify most of the rye first and then leave it in the tin. I tend to bake rye not too hot and for much longer than a wheat bread, simply because the rye flour absorbs more water than wheat and takes longer to dry out in the bake process.

      1. freezeedinburghallotmentrentsnow

        Thanks Joanna, I had a wordpress ID or two and every now and then one of them resurrects itself – hence the unrecognised ID. The Rye loaf makes perfect sense and I will follow your instruction religiously. In the meantim, to bolster up my confidence, I have remade my own hybrid recipe. It worked well, so pride restored!

  10. The Wild Wood

    Thank you for the information about shaping rye.
    I recently made a rye loaf from the weekend baker, which tastes divine, however, I was unable to shape it. Finally gave up and put into a loaf pan.
    I’m looking forward to trying your rye loaf in a banneton with a lot more flour.

    1. Joanna Post author

      I will see if I can make it again and take some photos of that part of the process for you, not always easy when your hands are covered in flour! Here is a shot of a different dough in the couche cloth which should give you a bit of an idea anyway :

      dough in couche

  11. teawithhazel

    i love the idea of being able to source flour from a water powered mill like you jo..i’ve looked into buying local stone ground flour but most of the mills have long closed down..

    your loaves look usual..i’m not sure i could make it last 5 days..:)

    1. Joanna Post author

      Thanks jane :) With all the interest in baking, driven by fashion, the downturn in the economy, and a renewed interest in simpler less industrialised food, I suspect, one of the interesting things is how many people have been looking at life changes and restoring old mills seems to fit the bill. I have heard of several old mills and new baking projects springing up round the country. You can find out about many of the old mills and whether they are being used at The Tradtional Cornmillers Guild website.

      and just googling now I came across a listing of windmills for sale !

  12. drfugawe

    Hi Jo. I’m doing all my sourdoughs nowadays with some yeast added – and I’ve noticed an interesting, unexpected result, namely that my breads can easily proof at cold temps all night long! Of course, with yeast alone, I could never do that – also, those loaves can sit out on the counter for many days with no suggestion of mold – another characteristic that sourdough brings.

    1. Joanna Post author

      Our bread making changes all the time doesn’t it? The old half sponge method, where you put half the flour and all the water with a pinch of yeast overnight to ferment/develop and then add the rest to make the dough the following day is a good way to use less yeast overall in a bread too. I like you have a fondness for the hybrid loaves. I used to be up at all hours waiting for the bread to be ready to go in the oven and using yeast helps me control the timing a bit as well as giving me a less sour final bread. B dislikes really acidic bread so I either have to use Hamelman’s very active but low acid starter method or make yeasted for him.It is simply a question of making what you want to eat at the end of the day :)

  13. The Wild Wood

    Hello Joanna,
    I just made your 67% rye; it was so much easier to shape than the previous 3 step rye I made.
    Can’t wait to slice and try! Ahhhh that will be tomorrow’s treat. Thank you for the recipe and all the very helpful baking advice

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