Grind Your Own Grain For Bread
The Homestead Kitchen
Reading Time: 7 minutes
By Melisa Mink
Grinding your own grains may add more vitamins to your diet, as well as contribute to a better overall healthy lifestyle. Grinding your own grains puts you into a place of really being connected and informed in the area of your food. As more people become concerned about what they’re eating, it really is a good time to consider grinding your own grains and becoming more “hands on” with your own food. It’s a lot like walking; it goes in steps. With every step there’s a little more confidence and surety as to what you’re doing. Don’t get overwhelmed, just try taking one step at a time.
For instance, try focusing on the grain you and your family uses and enjoys most, like wheat or corn. Then after you’ve decided on where to start, try making one item you are already eating by grinding flour and baking it once a week—for instance, a bread item like rolls. Most of it is time management, not hard labor. Try grinding just once a week. If you have or purchase an electric grinder, you can let it do the work while you do something else, like clean the kitchen.
My family grinds our own grains for the week to follow every Friday, while we’re doing other chores. Just remember to check on it periodically. Wheat and corn being the most used in our house, we go ahead and have all we will need for the coming week, ground up on this day. This makes it so much easier to use when we need it. It’s ready and waiting. That said, we sometimes have to grind more depending on how much more we may use than planned. We also mix our hard red wheat with a light white wheat or unbleached white to avoid heaviness, and this produces beautiful bread every time. If you’re using grains for bread making or baking of any kind, I would suggest blending the two. We use this mix for breads, muffins, pastry, pizza dough, and most everything but cake.
It is well known now that we all need to be getting more fiber; and there is no greater way to ensure your own standard of quality is met, than to do it yourself. The average content of fiber in 1/2 cup of white flour is only 1.3 grams, verses the 6.4 grams of fiber in 1/2 cup of whole wheat. That’s about five times more in the whole wheat flour. Our American diet has been over processed and now the increase in intestinal tract diseases are bringing that truth home.
For those of you considering blood sugar and carb content of breads, you should know whole wheat is less likely to spike blood sugar because it takes longer to be absorbed into the blood stream. This is due to the fact it contains the whole grain, there is more to break down and digestion takes longer, better measured as the glycemic index (GI). The GI of whole wheat flour is 51. The GI of white flour is 71. Vitamin content in whole wheat is greater than white flour, or any processed flour that has set on a shelf for very long. Studies have shown that two weeks after grain is ground, an average of 70% to 80% of nutrients are lost. So even buying whole wheat flour will not be as healthy and vitamin rich as the freshly ground.
The basic dough recipe can be used in a variety of products.
We know many parts to the grain that are extracted during the cleaning process have proven to be an important part of a healthy diet, such as the bran and germ, but what about the vitamins? The term “enriched” has come to really mean: all original vitamins removed and replaced with a synthetic form. What synthetic form? Many studies show freshly ground wheat contains the entire B-complex vitamins, except B12. These give our bodies energy and digestion aid. What about bleaching agents not listed in the ingredients used on the grain/flour to make it whiter and lighter? Terms like Nitrogen Bichloride, Chlorine, and Chlorine Dioxide are common bleaching agents not listed on the package. It really makes me stop and think, what am I putting into the bodies of the ones I love—and my own? Now we are really seeing the medical and scientific community beginning to praise organics, natural, and whole grains. The health benefits far outweigh the inconvenience of having to do something from scratch. It isn’t just neat, or old fashioned, it’s smart to be able to do things for yourself. For better health, skills learned, and knowledge, I am glad we have made the plunge into what used to be a mystery. It’s pretty easy once you have the right equipment, and a lot easier on the pocketbook than buying flour or prepackaged mixes.
There aren’t many alive who will resist the fresh-baked goodness of homemade bread. Now go a step further and grind the flour for it.
A good grinder should also include the ability to grind nuts, beans, and corn, as well as grains. I use a red one called The Grain Maker, but there are many to chose from. After comparing many different designs, components, the materials it’s made of and abilities, my husband (a metal worker) decided this was the best bang for our buck. It is a big expense to purchase a grinder at first, but totally worth the health benefits. After paying for the grinder, we’ve probably saved over a thousand dollars making our own bread flour and cornmeal with it. We like things that are one-time buys; that means well made, and this one is great for the heavy duty grinding we do weekly.
After researching grains and grinders, the only thing left you’ll be needing is that “want to.” Healthier food on the table, made by hand, is my “want to.” It’s one way to say I love you. Nothing says lovin’ like somethin’ in the oven, so here is a great basic recipe to use for bread, rolls, doughnuts, and pizza dough.
Basic Wheat Dough
This will make 1 loaf, or 12 rolls, or 1/2 dozen doughnuts, or one large pizza crust. If you need more just double or triple. It does fine.
• 1 tablespoon yeast in 1–1/4 cup warm water, let sit in bowl for 10 minutes
• 1–1/2 cups of your own freshly ground red wheat flour
• 1–1/2 cups unbleached white flour or freshly ground light white wheat flour
• 1/3 cup light oil, safflower or coconut oil work great
• 1/4 cup honey or organic sugar (put in yeast water; this “feeds” the yeast and in my opinion makes better bread)
• A pinch of salt
Place all dry ingredients in heavy duty mixer, add warm sweetened yeast water, and oil. Turn on low for about two minutes, no longer. If stiff add a bit more water 1/4 cup at a time. If a little wet add flour 1/4 cup at a time. Don’t over mix, just mix until blended and tacky. It will make bricks if you over mix. Turn out and place in an oiled bowl to rise 45 minutes. Then when doubled, either roll out as two logs and place in a bread pan (9 x 5) or shape into rolls half the size you would like to end up with. Place in oven to rise 35 minutes, then turn oven on 400°F. Put timer on 35 minutes and check carefully when timer goes off. Should be golden with slightly darker browned top. Yum! Serve up with fresh churned butter and local honey. For pizza, just roll out to fit oiled stone or baking sheet. Top and bake 20 to 25 minutes at 400°F.
For a freshly ground corn recipe try skillet cornbread (non-GMO). Popcorn makes a great ground cornmeal, and Orville Redenbacher’s has a non-GMO variety. That’s what we use for our cornmeal and it’s so much tastier and healthier than prepackaged cornmeal. You get that old fashioned real toasted corn flavor missing from today’s pre-ground meal. Again keep it simple and plan to prepare real things your family already likes. I had given up one of my favorite dishes for sometime because I didn’t want to consume GMO corn. Now I have found that non-GMO popcorn makes great cornmeal. This is an old dish a lot of us grew up on, revived, freshly ground and now non-GMO.
Cast Iron Skillet Cornbread
• 2 cups freshly ground corn. If not ground fine in grinder, place in blender on high to finer grind. It doesn’t have to be a flour consistency.
• 1 cup freshly ground wheat flour
• 2 eggs
• 1/3 cup sugar
• 1 tablespoon baking powder
• 3/4 cup oil
• Water to thin batter
Place oiled skillet in 415°F oven. Heat skillet and oil so that it will make that searing sound when batter is poured in. If it doesn’t sizzle it won’t flip out good, so get the skillet hot. Once hot and batter is poured, place in oven to bake for 25 minutes.
Once you’ve got down the basics try a few differences, like sourdough. Also, when you’re grinding your flour, throw in a handful of beans to the wheat. This will help add to the ability to absorb vitamins easier. There’s so many other grains also to play with. Flax seeds, quinoa, millet, oats, barley, are all very popular now. Are you gluten free? No problem, try grinding rice. Maybe a rye pumpernickel would suit better. The possibilities are only limited by you!
More can be read on the health benefits of freshly ground flour at eap. mcgill.ca and healthyeating.sfgate.com