Wednesday 14 May 2014

Stoneground Bread Loaf

Stoneground Bread Loaf
As part of National Mills Weekend we paid a visit to Stainsby Mill on Saturday. It does sound like we went to Stainsby Mill because it was National Mills Weekend but it was complete serendipity that of all days we should to go. We knew something was happening when we were greeted by Bess of Hardwick complete with her 'emergency pearls'.
Stainsby Mill Stoneground flour complete with free recipe booklet
Bess was on a walkabout as the mill for centuries has been the one serving Hardwick Hall just up the road. Bess built the new Hardwick Hall in the 1590s after the death of her fourth husband, George Talbot, 6th Earl of Shrewsbury. Over the subsequent years Bess' Cavendish ancestors in the form of the Dukes of Devonshire have used Hardwick more as a second home to the nearby Chatsworth House. After the 10th Duke of Devonshire died suddenly in 1950 the Devonshire estate was subject to death duties of 80%. This resulted in the Hardwick Estate being given to HM Treasury in lieu of Estate Duties in 1956. The National Trust was then given the house and the surrounding estate in 1959.

The current mill was built in the 1850s by the 6th Duke of Devonshire. The 'Bachelor Duke', as he was known, made it his mission to improve the eight stately houses he had inherited as well the 200,000 acres of land that went with it. Stainsby Mill is a water mill and the wheel was made of cast and wrought iron in Mansfield. The thick stone brickwork housing the mill ensured that the heavy winter frosts would not freeze the water and allow milling to be done all year round. At first the mill stones were quarried from Peak District stone but the Duke invested in expensive French stones. The high quartz content of these stones has meant they are still being used today.
Stainsby Mill
After the 'Chatsworth crisis' of the 1950s the mill stopped production in 1952. In 1976 the National Trust decided to do some renovations allowing visitors to experience the mill at work. It is no longer able to produce large quantities of flour but enough to sell to eager customers like myself. In fact the very knowledgable volunteer guide told me that the week before at the Great British Food Festival, which was held at Hardwick, they were asked if they could supply a commercial artisan bakery but had to decline.

I have found with stoneground flour that a loaf made entirely from stoneground or wholemeal flour isn't a hit with everybody. However, this 2/3rds mix seems to please everybody. This is a real back-to-basics recipe with just four simple ingredients. I don't have any fancy equipment so I knead by hand. Don't be put off by television programmes where you see the dough being slammed down on the worktop. The dough requires stretching rather than a brutal assault. Most recipes also state the dough needs proving twice but I don't find this necessary.

I am submitting this to Shop Local hosted by Elizabeth at Elizabeth's Kitchen Diary. The wheat Stainsby Mill uses is grown in the field next to the mill as well!

Equipment: 1 large bowl, sieve, clean tea towel, 1 x 2lb (900g) or 2 x 1lb (450g) loaf tins


6oz (175g) Strong white flour (plus extra for kneading)
12oz (350g) Stoneground or wholemeal strong flour
2tsp (10ml) Quick/fast action/instant/easy blend yeast (I use Allinson Easy Bake Yeast in the tins)
0.4oz (10g) Salt
12fl oz (350ml) Luke warm water (half boiling + half cold)

1. Sift the white flour into the bowl and then mix in the stoneground flour.
2. On one side of the bowl add the yeast and on the other side of the bowl add the salt. Mix all together.
3. Make a well in the centre and add the water. Using a spoon combine it all until it starts to come together into a dough. Add more water if required.
4. Lightly dust with white flour a flat surface and then start to knead the dough. I do this by stretching out pieces of the dough and then folding back in. Keep flouring the surface when required if the dough gets sticky.
5. It should take between 7 and 10 minutes to knead into a nice dough ball. Press lightly down on the dough with the tip of your finger and if it comes back up it is ready.
6. Put the dough back into the bowl and cover with a damp tea towel for five minutes.
7. If you are using two tins cut the dough in half.
8. Stretch out the dough lengthwise and then roll up. Fold the sides underneath. Place in the centre of the tins.
9. Cover with the damp tea towel again and leave to prove for about an hour in a warm place (I put mine in the airing cupboard).
10. Once the dough has expanded and filled the tins heat the oven to 220°C/Gas mark 7.
11. Cut a slit down the middle of the loaves and then dust lightly with flour.
12. Bake the loaves for 5 minutes and then reduce the temperature to 190°C/Gas mark 5. Bake small loaves for 25 minutes and 1 big loaf for 30 minutes.
13. Take out of the oven and remove from the tins before leaving to cool on a wire rack.


  1. What beautiful loaves and a perfect Shop Local post! I love that you've included the history behind the mill. Perfect, perfect! Thank you so much for linking your gorgeous loaves up with #ShopLocal :)

  2. This is a lovely story about the mill - I wish I could get out and visit local mills but I confess I don't know if there are any about - and they wouldn't have such a fascinating history. I can make my own bread though and should use more wholemeal flour but it does tend to make for a heavy loaf so I am a bit wary of it. I often do some white and some wholemeal for other baking and your loaf looks great


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