Shelf life of whole wheat flour

My wholemeal flour has gone rancid.

I have gradually been becoming aware that my breads made with wholemeal flour have been losing their beautiful delicate flavours and aroma - but didn't really think too much about it till last night when I stuck my nose into the flour bin and recognised the strong and unpleasant whiff of rancidity.

This is Laucke wholemeal flour, bought maybe 5 months ago - and I still have 4 kilos left of the 10 kilo bag.

Now I'm wondering a couple of things:

• What is the optimum shelf life of commercial wholemeal flour (I say commercial, because home-ground has a much shorter life due to includ the wheat germ)?

• And the other obvious question is what can be done to extend its shelf life?

I also wonder if other whole flours - such as rye - deteriorate in the same way. I have yet to see any deterioration in my whole-rye flour, but it was a much more recent purchase.

I do know that whole wheat flour's life can be extended by freezing it - if you have the freezer space! That's not an option for me, for that sort of quantity. I do have a vacuum-sealing setup, and I would think that the reduction in available oxygen must have some benefit. Has anyone tried that?

Buying in smaller quantities more often would be better, but unfortunately you have to buy what you can get, and that usually means 10kg bags.

 

 

7 comments

I always buy small quantities because it is inevitable that flours lose quality over time. Worse, there is always the possibility of moth eggs hatching. Aren't there bulk supply places in your neck of the woods that allow you to help yourself from plastic bins or open bags?

If you have to buy 10kg bags for some reason, as far as I know freezing or baking enough to use the flour fast are the only ways to maintain flour quality.

They are at Heidelberg and I am pretty sure that they have smaller quantities available - certainly 5kg and maybe smaller as well.

Farinam

It would be cheaper for me to throw half of my flour out than buy smaller quantities from there. A 2kg purchase would cost $3.12/kg from M&M's, as against $1.20/kg to $1.40/kg I'm paying now. Even their 10kg bag price is still more than double what I pay - and I'm buying the top quality Laucke flour, no idea what brand theirs is. There are not that many mills in Australia, so they might well just be repackaging Laucke. So unfortunately it doesn't make sense for me to make the half hour drive across to Heidelberg just to pay twice as much. There might be other reasons to go though - they do have a good range of some of the less available flours.

For now I have bought another 10kg of Laucke wholemeal, and made two 3kg vacuum sealed bags, one of which is in the freezer. I have also separated off a small container as a control so I can compare its state/aroma with the vacsealed bags in a month or three. They are like rocks, so hopefully the reduced oxygen will severely curtail the development of rancidity. Will report back when the time comes.

One observation though - the rancid aroma doesn't make it through the fermentation and baking process. The result was not a rancid loaf but one without the lovely whole wheat aroma. It makes me want to try some freshly ground wholemeal, which everyone says is out of this world.

 

 

Rather pay extra and buy small quantities. We're not exactly talking huge outlays here. And even buying at $4 per kilo or so, home bakers are still way in front compared with buying from bakeries, not to even mention quality and self-satisfaction.

A couple of suggestions, not necessarily for panfresca, but for others looking on.

1. Why not try to get a little local baking group together and divide up a 10kg bag between you?

2. Source smaller bags as per Farinam's suggestion.

3. Switch to another quality brand that is widely available from bulk suppliers who allow you to buy as little or much as you want. Kialla is one that springs to mind. My favourite is the wonderful produce from Four Leaf in SA. You can get this all over the place.

I'm interested in your test ... keep us informed won't you?

Four Leaf is occasionally available in 500gm packs at Leos in Heidelberg in the "organic section" ... for a price!

 

For what its worth, Jeffrey Hamelman (Bread - p37 in my edition) says that the wheat germ has the oils that go rancid, and that freezing should extend the life. Not a problem for white flour.


Hi Mozzie

All 3 Leos are inconveniently distant for regular shopping, though I do drop in occasionally because they are so much nicer than Coles or Woolworths... the plastic inevitably suffers almost terminal damage though!

I would imagine the 500g price would make even less financial sense.

Besides, apart from the drastic price difference, the Laucke flour is such superb stuff I don't want to go elsewhere. I'm quite optimistic this way of doing things will be a good solution. I will be very surprised if the severe reduction in available oxygen doesn't put a dent in the development of rancidity even when not refrigerated, and I can find space in the freezer for one 3kg vacsealed bag, so the timing should work, fingers crossed.

Another problem may be your source did you check the freshness date when you bought the flour?

You really are what you eat, so eat wisely...