What in Blazes is Granary Flour?
What is granary flour? I purchased a bread book while in Ireland and the brown bread recipe calls for "granary flour." Any clues?
There you go again, thinking that Granary flour is a type of flour and not a brand of flour. You are just not commercial enough for the world in which we live. Granary is a brand of brown flour with malted wheat grains. It is milled by Rank Hovis Limited, "the UK's leading flour miller."
Now a brown flour is not to be confused with a whole-wheat flour it includes only about 85% of the original grain. Some bran and germ have been removed. But that's not the interesting part. The malted wheat flakes are what make Granary flour special.
How Granary flour is made is a closely guarded secret, of course. But it appears to have been around for hundreds of years. It is suggested that the Benedictine Monks of Burton Abbey originated a malting process for brewing ale, and, almost by accident, discovered that the malted flakes of wheat could also give greater flavor and taste to their bread. It is also rumored that this malted bread formed the major part of the very first ploughman's lunch, and was the bread that was taken by farmers into the fields along with their cheese and ale.
According to Rank Hovis, the process of making the malted wheat flakes takes 10 days. First, the wheat must be ready to sprout. Then it is steeped in water for two days, where it absorbs a lot of water and begins to germinate and sprout. The wheat is removed from the water and laid out on great tile floors for three days to continue sprouting. As the wheat sprouts the starch in the grain starts turning to maltose to feed the shoot. For the next two days, the wheat is put into the "ruck," (we're not making this up), which means it is piled up into deeper heaps on the floor. This increases the heat generated by the germination, which can rise to 130°F (55°C) in the middle of the ruck. The heat speeds up the germination process and transforms the wheat's starch into maltose, which is the key to obtaining the desired flavor.
The malted wheat grains are then rolled with heavy rollers to crack them and transform them into flakes. After flaking, the wheat is taken to a huge kiln where it is roasted for two days at 140°F to 160°F (60°C to 71°C). The roasting dries out the wheat, stops the germination, and caramelizes the maltose. The grains are then blended with brown flour to produce the unmistakable Granary malted brown flour.
Whether that is how the monks made it is unknown. The folks at Rank Hovis are quite sure that's not how their competitors make their flours either, and are confident that Granary flour is extra special among specialty flours.
According to our helpful source at Rank Hovis, bread made from Granary flour has a distinctive "malty" and nutty taste. It gives a slightly lighter result than whole-meal flour, and, like strong white flour [our bread flour], is ideal for making loaves, rolls, and "deliciously different" pizzas. As it is also a plain [all-purpose] flour, it can be used for some pastries, cookies, and cakes as well.
Now, quite frankly, we don't know of anything similar available in the United States. You might try experiment with mixing whole-wheat flour with a little all-purpose flour and a bit of malt powder in the hopes of approximating Granary flour on your own. You can also have the real thing shipped (anywhere in the world), from the British Corner Shop, and while the flour is reasonably priced, you can bet the shipping is not!
We would be delighted to hear from any of our readers of a flour available in the US that could stand in for Granary flour.
British-American Names for Flour
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What is Pastry Flour?
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