Matthew's Eight Grain Flour

A bag of Matthews Eight Grain Flour
Put to the test: Matthew's Cotswold Eight Grain flour. Want to know how it went?

AND there's a neat little experiment to determine the perfect hydration (you can do this with any flour).

If you want to understand more about getting the best results from your flour, read on.

Matthew's flour was introduced to me a few weeks ago by reader, Tony - thanks Tony :o) I treated myself to some Matthew's flour to try. Recently, I reviewed the Cotswold Crunch (which was not dissimilar to Allinson's Country Grain). This week, it was time to try the Eight Grain*, "For multigrain bread high in fibre and protein," according to the packet.
*This affiliate link takes you to the product on Amazon so that you can see more details.

This flour contains malted wheat flakes, rye flakes, oat flakes, maize, linseed, millet seeds and sunflower seeds. Although it is a white flour (I'm rather partial to wholemeal) it is packed with fibre and nutrients from all those seeds and grains.

This week I did two things with this flour:

  1. Made a loaf, using Bernard
  2. Performed a short test to find out the optimum hydration level for this flour

First, The Bake

I used some of Bernard, the sourdough starter, to mix up a 70% hydration dough:

170g Bernard
400g Matthew's Cotswold Eight Grain flour
280g water
10g salt

This was mixed and kneaded before being left to ferment for about 12 hours. I made the dough in the morning and then went out for the day. It was late evening before I shaped the loaf. This is about right for Bernard at this time of year. He's taking about 8-10 hours to make my dough double in size. (See last week's post for how to know if your dough has doubled in size.)

I shaped the dough into a round loaf and popped it, upside down, into a proving basket (alright, a bowl lined with a tea-towel) and left it in a cool place (my chilly kitchen) overnight.

The following day I heated a casserole dish in the oven to about 230oC so that I could place the loaf onto the very hot surface of the casserole dish and trap steam in with the lid for better crust formation.

Dough that is going more along than up

This was the dough when I tipped it out of the so-called proving basket. It felt light and full of gas bubbles but it had an expression on its face that suggested it was going to splurge rather than rise. Oh well, I decided to press on anyway.

I scored the loaf with one slit across the top, to allow for rapid expansion. I thought I'd ruined it at that point because the score murdered the fragile inflated shape and then, to make matters worse, my clumsy transfer into the hot casserole dish caused further deflation.

The loaf was baked for 15 minutes with the lid on and a further 30 minutes at a slightly reduced temperature with the lid off.

Despite the butchery of the scoring and transfer process, the loaf did rise - phew! - and opened up quite well along the score line.

Beautifully browned round loaf

Alas, as suspected, it went more 'along' than 'up' which I think results from a combination of a) the high hydration of the dough, and b) insufficient gluten development which is something I am learning about but I know it involves more stretching and folding of the dough than I did in this case.

The resulting bread was a good texture inside and had a great (crunchy!) crust. Here's the crumb shot:

An even crumb with seeds visible

What about the flavour?

The seeds and grains in this flour give it a delicious flavour. I really loved this bread. It is mellower than the Cotswold Crunch and, for that reason, I prefer the Eight Grain.


Different flours work well at different levels of hydration.

Hydration, just to remind you, is the amount of water in the dough. Bakers express the amount of water as a percentage of the amount of flour. For a dough with 100g of flour, 100g of water would be 100% hydration. 60g of water would be 60% hydration, and so on.

Most of my recipes use 63% hydration and that's fine. It works well and you will get decent results.

Professional bakers are able to work with very high hydration doughs. This is how they achieve the huge air bubbles (they call it 'open crumb') that characterises baguette, for example. Being able to handle very wet dough is an art in itself (one that I am working on, so watch this space, as they say) but not every flour is really suited to high hydration recipes.

If you want to play around with hydration levels, there's a simple experiment you can do to determine what level of hydration you can comfortably work with, for a given flour.

Four small pots of flour and water mixture

  • Take four or five containers and portion out equal amounts of flour. For calculation purposes, 100g or 50g works well.

  • Add water to each portion at a different hydration level.

  • For my four pots of Matthew's Eight Grain I used 50g of flour in each with 60%, 70%, 80% and 90% hydrations (30g, 35g, 40g and 45g of water).

  • Mix the flour and water together so that they are completely combined but try not to knead them at all, otherwise you might end up kneading one dough more than an other, unfairly developing more gluten and skewing the results of the test.

  • Leave the mixtures alone for an hour or so.

  • When you return to the mixtures, test each one in turn by pulling the dough up with your fingers. This is where you will learn something. In the intervening hour, the gluten in the flour has developed into longer strands. These gluten strands are what will give your bread dough structure and capture the gases produced by the yeast, enabling the dough to inflate. Pulling on the dough in your test containers quickly reveals which combination of flour and water is the stretchiest. Choosing a hydration level close to that of your stretchiest result will give you optimum results when you come to bake bread.
For the Eight Grain, it was clear that the flour worked best at the lower end of the hydration range. The 60% hydration mixture was very stiff and didn't seem to have much elasticity but the 70% hydration mixture was able to stretch much more easily.

You can see how stiff the 60% hydration dough was. This was as far as I could pull it up:

A stiff dough which can't be stretched up very far

The dough at 70% hydration was appreciably more elastic:

This dough is being stretched up considerably higher

At 80% and 90% the dough was very sloppy and lacking in structure. It broke easily as I tried to stretch it, leading me to think that somewhere between 60 and 70% hydration would be better for this flour.

Here are the 80 and 90% mixtures. You can see how they tended to break rather then stretching.

The dough has broken immediately having barely stretched at all

The dough has stretched but is obviously breaking

Any Questions or Words of Wisdom?

Please leave a comment below if you like the Eight Grain too or if you have any other favourite flours to recommend.

What about hydrations? Have you tried playing with different ratios of flour and water? What did you think?


  1. Hi Rachel,
    I hope you and yours are all well.

    Thanks for your piece on hydration. Most informative and something you have given me reason to experiment with.

    You've also reminded me of sourdough starter. I made one sometime ago, and very successfully, I might add, but didn't have anyone to look after it whilst I was away. They do travel well - as in the Russian one that found its way to San Francisco decades ago, so I suppose I could take it with me.

    Although I have not yet tried it, I have some Matthew's Eight Grain I purchsed recently, so tomorrow I shall be baking with that and experimenting with hydration.

    Great and most useful blog.Many thanks.

    1. Hi Jake,
      Thanks for your kind comment. I'm glad you are finding this blog useful. Are you going to start off another sourdough? I think you'll like the Eight grain!

  2. I'm glad you like the Eight Grain, Rachel. It's certainly one of my favourites, although I also enjoy trying different flours. Sometimes I add some chia seeds and a bit more linseed to my Eight Grain dough, to make a very seed-rich loaf.

    As for hydration, I don't personally measure it very carefully - I tend to go by the feel of the dough as I make it (I use one of those Danish dough whisk things to mix my dough).

    1. Hydration can be quite intuitive, I think, if you're confident/have enough experience.
      I'm enjoying the seeds!

  3. I think I shall start another sourdough in the not too distant. You writing about it has rekindled my interest. Eight Grain proving as I type. One thing I learned very early on, is that dough is very sensitive to temperature and humidity and that baking on consecutive days, using the exact same ingredients, yields different results. Always different and always something to improve on.

  4. Just a thought on your recipe and hydration. I always count the starter in my hydration calculations. So if your starter (Bernard) is 50% water, 50% flour then your total hydration was 75% not 70%. You had 280g water divide by 400g water (70%) but you actually had 365g water and 485g flour so your hydration was 75% which might explain the sinking effect.

    1. Ah ha! You are right! Thanks for the calculation, Cyclobob! The funny thing is, I thought I had accounted for the hydration of my starter. I must have got distracted somewhere. So it was wetter than I thought!


Don't miss out

Bread In 20 Minutes