For several years now I have made all of our artisan breads at home. I grew a sourdough starter several years ago and it was one of my first kitchen pets. Bread is definitely a passion of mine and like most homemade foods I just genuinely love traditional recipes that are simple, reliable and nutritious. You don’t get more traditional than bread and butter. Bread is life, it is wholesome, nourishing sustenance. When people “break bread” with one another, it is more than just sharing a meal, its sharing a part of yourself with others. Sharing bread with my family is a way to share my love and passion with them, its for their emotional and physical sustenance, and mine as well. I bake as an expression of love and care, and wheat can definitely help buffer our budget which is of course a
bonus necessity. Bread, like rice and other ancient grain based staples have sustained humans for thousands of years and even though I omit grains from my diet regularly, I believe that grains are a vital food source. Obviously not all grains are great options for everyone, but today we’re talking about wheat and how I prepare it for my family.
Organic whole wheat berries at times cost less than store bought flour but typically, if your a competitive shopper like me… you can find flour for about the same price as whole wheat grains. So why do I go through the trouble of buying, storing, and milling whole wheat at home?
Long Term Food Storage- I store bulk dry ingredients in case of a crisis, my family only has hunting available to us to sustain us if SHTF. If there’s ever truly an emergency where food storage is essential, our bulk storage can help to supplement our diet. Wheat is a wholesome grain to store, and if tended to it can last upwards of 30 years, or possibly more. It’s got the best taste and maintained nutrients if its used within 10 to 15 years, so I cycle my buckets. Ideally, you don’t store something indefinitely and hope not to need it. You buy what you actually eat. I keep a system where I date each shipment, and I pull from the front, then store new orders towards the back. You can buy whole wheat packed already in mylar bags with oxygen absorbers and with the right dry, cool storage wheat can last basically forever. Certain long term food storage like wheat, oats, raw honey, rice, beans, raw vinegar and sea salt are what I primarily focus on keeping. I do store freeze dried fruit, dry fruit, pastas, certain canned goods and vitamins, but to a much lesser extent. An added bonus to a long term pantry is that if there’s temporary outages or snow storms, I have no need to rush off and fight people for milk and bread. I have what we need at home already. I buy most of our organic grains from Honeyville or from smaller companies on Amazon. (I only shop Honeyville when they offer substantial discounts. I stock up when I catch the sales) I primarily buy hard red wheat or hard white wheat. I sometimes use white wheat for pancakes, muffins, cakes and cookies, but I primarily use the hard red right now because that is what I currently have the most of. Hard wheat is known for being easier to store long term because it’s lower in moisture, it’s high in protein, and I’ve found it to be pretty versatile. I know that Einkorn and ancient grains are talked about a lot these days, I’ve used them. I like them. I don’t get paid to use anything in particular though and I’m feeding a family of five. I go with whats most affordable and readily available to me.
Health Benefits- Flour was originally stone milled. Whether it be Masa in Mexico, Teff in Africa, or Wheat in Egypt, ancient cultures originally ground WHOLE GRAINS and as a result, they CONSUMED whole grains. There was no refining, no removing of the fiber, no bleaching, no synthetic vitamins or “enrichment”, and no preservatives were added either. People ate what they needed to consume on a day to day basis because if they prepared more than needed, it spoiled. If you don’t refrigerate fresh milled flour. It spoils. As the commercialization of food became a modern necessity, we found ways to preserve the shelf life of flour by bastardizing the grain and essentially stripping away all of the nutrition. Often times the hull was removed entirely, since it has a tendency to spoil. The hull, which contains the bulk of vitamin E and fiber, became a throw away! The most nutrient dense part of the grain, was discarded. As a result, this is when “enrichment” came into play. Bleached flour is essentially void of all nutrition, so they began adding synthetic vitamins back. Organic whole wheat flour is certainly a better option, but high heat milling can damage the vitamins in wheat, and fresh really is best. Once your wheat is ground, its nutrients begin to diminish. You have no idea how long ago the flour on the store shelf was milled, so in essence, it may not be very nutritious at all anymore. Truly fresh flour is absolutely the healthiest.
How To Grind/Mill Grain At Home- I grind a few pounds of wheat about once a week in my Vitamix. I prepare almost all of our breads, muffins, waffles, pancakes and desserts with this Whole-Wheat flour. Up until recently I maintained my starter using un-bleached organic flour, but in effort to grind my budget, I’ve even transitioned to a whole wheat sourdough starter. I rarely use white flour in my home. You do not need an expensive grain mill, or a high powered blender to make flour at home. There are videos on YouTube that explain how to use a standard blender to mill flour, and of course hand mills are available for around $50.
To grind flour in A high Speed Blender- Place about a pound of wheat berries into your blender carafe. Turn the blender on and slowly increase speed to level 6 or 7. Blend for about ONE MINUTE or until the the sides are collapsing down into the center of the carafe. DO NOT OVER PROCESS. If you are processing several batches, give the blender time to cool off or freeze your grains before blending to prevent them from getting too hot.
Soaking Whole Grain Wheat and Preparing The Flour for Baking- You can soak wholegrains to cook for wheat berry salads or porridge. If you do not have a high powered blender or a mill of any variety, regular blender recipes can be prepared that soak the grains whole before blending takes place. This works mostly for muffins or pancakes. For most of my baking I soak my grains in roughly even portions of water to flour (it varies) and I always add something acidic to pre-digest the grains. It’s easy to throw together some flour, water and vinegar before going to bed. At times I entirely prepare a recipe like waffles, banana bread or scones, and I leave them at room temperature until morning. It’s ideal to give whole wheat flour at least 10 hours to soak.
Why Soak Your Whole Grain Flour? Isn’t fresh flour already healthier? Sprouting, Soaking or traditionally “souring” bread by naturally leavening it (making sourdough), pre-digests the grain. This may sound awful , who wants A-B-C bread? Why do I want pre-digested bread? Priming the flour essentially makes it easier to digest and it makes the nutrients more easily metabolized. Phytic acid is found in the hull, or the bran of a whole grain. Soaking, sprouting or souring neutralizes the phytic acid, which typically prevents optimal digestion and nutrient absorption. Studies have also shown that traditional priming of the grains increases the overall nutrient density of your whole grain dishes. So, even though I’m using fresh flour, I try my best to always soak it. (I also always soak beans for the same reasons) It not only seems easier to digest for us, but it tenderizes the wheat. A major part of the struggle for most folks who transition to whole grains is the texture. There is a period of adjusting to whole wheat recipes, and making recipes adequately sweet and tender helps a lot. With that said, even for my family things like whole wheat spaghetti or brown rice are not favored. I love when I make a great dish that everyone loves, if they don’t like it, it’s not worth making again.
The bread on the table isn’t anything if you don’t have anyone to share it with. In good company, and good health together, we can live fuller lives. My kitchen is absolutely somewhat unorthodox. ( – “The whiter the bread, the quicker you’re dead” is a real eye roller around here.) In this fast paced world, I make a lot of slow, old fashioned food and it’s truthfully not hard! I just had to learn. We haven’t always eaten this way but anyone can learn. The only thing needed for forming a new habit is effort. Once a habit is formed it’s no longer hard. Our ancestors milled, soured and baked breads as often as they walked and talked. I love sharing these types of recipes so that other food traditionalists have inspiration, and I share to pass along my love of food.