As promised the other day a quick post about Stanway Mill
Stanway Mill is part of the Stanway Estate in Gloucestershire. It is a reconstructed, not a restored mill, with all new machinery. There has been a mill on Stanway Estate for centuries, though used for different purposes at various points in its long history.
I have been there twice now, one mild damp day with Gill the Painter and again with Brian on another rainy morning! Stanway is a fun place to visit – particularly on a rainy Thursday as you are warm and dry inside.
Its primary purpose, as I understand it, is to provide an educational service to the children of Gloucestershire. I am very bad at remembering facts and details about machinery but it is all clearly explained when you get there.
There is a great gadget which shows you how the runner or revolving top millstone) works with the fixed lower mill stone (the bed stone) , which makes you go slightly cross eyed while you watch it. There are two sorts of mill stones on show at the mill. The ones they use are made from French Burr, extracted in small pieces from a quarry near Paris, then fitted together like a jigsaw, cemented and bound with steel bands. The other type is known as ‘peak stone’ and was quarried in Derbyshire. These can be seen by the door in the top photo. This type of stone was more often used for making animal feed.
You can go up and down the stairs and see how it all connects up and peek through at the water rushing down from the pond on its way to the waterwheel.
There is a little handmill to play with and you can see how hard it is to grind even a small quantity that way and understand why we had so many mills at one point, powered by wind and water all over the country in the days when we all ate a lot more bread.
If you are in tourist mode in the Cotswolds and visiting Stanway House and Gardens, the lavender fields or Snowshill Manor it is worth a visit.
The noise when the mill is working at full pelt is deafening, reminiscent of steam engine fairs and maybe that is why I always end up a bit befuddled when I come out.
The water is held in the Mill Pond until it is needed to power the wheel and generate the energy to make the milling machinery work.
Stanway Mill produces a good quality bread flour from wheat grown on the Stanway Estate and I have been baking very happily with it for a few months. I find the flour easy to work with both for yeasted and sourdough. The dough holds its shape well without cracking in unwanted places on baking – and I get nice oven spring. It has a wonderful fresh flavour, I think maybe it has been sieved more finely than some stoneground flours I have used. Stanway have built all their equipment themselves as I understand it – but whatever the reason it suits my style of baking well. Sometimes I have problems getting good results with stoneground homegrown flour, and it is nice to find a flour that ticks so many of my boxes that is also relatively inexpensive. I recently took advantage of an offer from Big Barn and ordered loads (3 x12 kg bags) so as to achieve an economy of scale and it worked out at under 80 p a kilo with the postage. I am yet to receive my order as I write, so can’t comment on how well the ordering system works. I wouldn’t advise ordering flour like this unless you have already tried it out and seen whether it suits you and your baking either!
Apart from using it to bake my regular breads as in the previous post, I had a go at a sourdough Tomato Bread which is flavoured with tomatoes and spice, recipe from How to Bake Bread by Emmanuel Hadjiandreou. It went very well with these splendid spicy sausages!
I am not usually a fan of vegetable flavoured breads, I would rather have plain breads that taste of the grain and I often find them a bit overwhelming, getting fed up with them long before we have eaten the whole loaf, but this one looks so pretty that I am glad I had a crack at it. I was enticed into making it by Ray’s lovely bread photos on his blog garlicbuddha. Hmm, maybe I should try that beetroot bread too, Ray, it looks awesome!