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About ten years ago, when I was participating a lot on the Sonlight Homeschooling forums, some women there piqued my interest in learning how to make my own whole wheat bread. Specifically, I did a lot of research into whole grains, and grinding my own whole grain flours. I learned a lot, and here it is ten years later, and it wasn’t just a passing fad for me.
I am not a health food nut, by ANY stretch of the imagination. A quick glance through some of the recipe titles on this blog will reveal that clearly. But I do believe in good tasting food, and I do believe in making food choices that will enhance your health AND taste fantastic at the same time.
Since I’m making more whole wheat bread these days, following my husband’s heart attack and his need to eat healthier, and since my whole wheat bread tastes better than anybody else’s whole wheat bread that I’ve ever tried, I thought I would share my recipe with you, as well as what I’ve learned about grinding my own whole grain flours.
Over the years, I’ve learned enough, that I decided to do a 4 part tutorial, outlining all you’ll need to know for making your own delicious whole wheat breads. These contain the information I wish I’d had available, back when I was starting out on my bread baking journey. In this post, I’m going to explain why, after thorough research and experimentation, I went with buying my own grain mill.
For Great Whole Wheat Bread, Start With An Excellent Flour
If you decide you want to start baking your own whole wheat bread, you really need to start with an excellent whole grain flour. To understand why there’s a difference in the flours that are available to us today in our grocery stores, you need to understand a bit of science, and history. There are reasons why the flours you find in grocery stores are sold as they are.
Back at the dawn of the industrial age, when the power of the steam engine was harnessed to grindstones, flour mills discovered they could produce huge quantities of flour with great efficiency. The problem was that there are fatty acids in the wheat germ that start to oxidize the moment they are exposed to oxygen, and flours that contains the wheat germ tend to go rancid, quickly. Depending on the climate where the flour is stored, whole wheat flour goes rancid within 6 to 9 months.
That’s why flour companies started pushing white flour long ago. If they removed the wheat germ from the flour, then they removed the oil that caused their flour to go rancid. The product they produced, white flour, has a much longer shelf life. With less loss of product, their profits increased. And white flour seemed “fancier”, back in the early days of the industrial age.
Can I Use a Whole Wheat Flour From the Grocery Store?
When I first started making my own whole wheat bread, I used the best flour I could find in my grocery store. My advice is to not skimp on expense, and to go with one that has a higher protein level (you can find that out by reading the side of the package), and to use one marked, explicitly, as bread flour.
In fact, if you’re wanting to start experimenting with baking with whole grains, I think starting with store bought flour is a great way to start. After all, it’s possible you you could try it, and discover that you just don’t think you have the time or patience for it. So, no shame whatsoever in starting out with an excellent store bought flour. That’s what I did. Not only is the internet a wealth of information and recipes, there are also whole grain cookbooks that I have borrowed from the library on several occasions, when I wanted to go a little bit more in depth. That’s a great way to try out a few dependable recipes.
Below, you’ll see a picture of what I use when I grind my own grain. Meet Old Faithful, my 10 year old NutriMill grain mill.
But just below Old Faithful, you can see a picture of what I’m looking forward to receiving, in order to review it: The Nutrimill Harvest! I ordered one in white. They call it “Powdered Sugar”. Isn’t she a beauty???
This special package, the NutriMill Harvest Everyday Essentials Package. is available right now. With a coupon code from me, my readers can get $28.98 off either of the Nutrimill bundles you see pictured below. Click on the titles to view these on nutrimill.com
THATSUSANWILLIAMS-NM is my coupon code.
This is the second package where you can save some money. It’s called the NutriMill Family Milling and Seasoning Kit.This model is slightly more affordable.
If you’re close to being ready to dive in to the rewarding experience of grinding your own flour, I recommend one more thing. It’s what I did, because I’m the cautious type. And in return, I’ve helped others do the same thing. But to do this, you’ll need a friend who has a wheat mill.
Go to a health food store, and buy around six cups of wheat berries. Ask your friend to grind your berries for you. Then, take your flour home, and bake with it yourself. Make your recipe using the best store-bought flour you can find, and then make the same recipe using your the freshly ground flour that your friend ground for you, and taste the difference!
I am confident that experiment will convince you of the superiority in flavor of freshly ground flour. It certainly convinced me, and my husband.
After looking at several different types of flour mills, I settled on the Nutrimill. Here are some of my reasons.
There are hand mills out there, if you’re trying to do this thing on the cheap. My best advice? Do not go with a hand-cranked mill. When I was first investigating this, I went to a friend’s house, who had a hand cranked mill. She made her kids take turns turning the crank. Talk about tedious!!! My kids would HATE me if I made them do that, or at least, I’d get enough resistance from them that I’d give up trying to make them do it, and wouldn’t want to have to do it myself: it takes way too much time.
I don’t mean to yuck anyone’s yum, so if a hand-cranked mill is what turns YOUR crank, (wink wink, nudge, nudge), then that IS a more inexpensive way to go. But for MY part, my best advice would be to suck it up, save your pennies, and buy an electric mill.
The Nutrimill turned out to be a great choice. In fact, even though my own mill is running strong after 10 years of use (!), I’ll soon have the opportunity to review a brand new Nutrimill, the Harvest. Watch for that review in upcoming posts!
I had one problem with my old Nutrimill, about 5 years after we bought it. I called the folks who manufacture it, spoke to a REAL HUMAN BEING who actually repairs the machines himself, and he told me to ship the part that was broken to him. They repaired it, free of charge.
So, I effectively got a whole new Nutrimill 5 years into its usage. I am way beyond satisfied with that level of customer service. I now have a two-tone Nutrimill, as you’ll see in the photos, because Nutrimill was using a different grade of plastic 10 years ago, when I first started grinding my own grains, but I’m more than happy with it. I like to think my two-tone Nutrimill is making its own unique fashion statement.
The Difference Between Store Bought and Freshly Milled Flour
What’s the difference between store-bought flour, and my own freshly milled flour?
There’s a difference in volume, and in flavor. The flour I mill at home is much more fluffy, because it hasn’t had time to settle in a package. And the flavor is very different indeed. Freshly milled flour has no bitterness at all in taste. The oil hasn’t had a chance to oxidize. It’s sweeter; nuttier. I love my own freshly milled flour.
Ready to learn more? In Part 2 of this tutorial, I’ll tell you all you’ll need to know about wheat berries. You’ll be surprised by how much there is to learn.