Whole Wheat Cookery
Reading Time: 6 minutes
By Jenny Underwood – I can’t remember exactly when I first began dabbling in whole wheat cooking, but it was about 20 years ago. My husband and I had started to make a change in our diet and lifestyle and bleached, white flour became one of the first things to go. However, my results with 100% whole wheat were not exceptional and I generally combined ½ unbleached all-purpose and ½ whole wheat.
Then I met a wonderful flour called Prairie Gold and tasted 100% whole wheat bread that was phenomenal! It was light, moist, and absolutely delicious. I began to experiment with baking completely with it and we loved it. After reading how much more nutritious the freshly ground flour was (some say the store flour has lost almost 90% of its nutrients) I began to feel the pull to grind my own flour. A few years later, I made the plunge and bought a grain mill which revolutionized my baking.
The first thing to consider when buying a grain mill is what type you will prefer: electric or manual. I have both. I use my electric one multiple times a week. It grinds eight cups of flour in under two minutes without overheating the flour. I paid about $250 for it 10 years ago and have only had one repair on it. We also bought an excellent manual mill that is capable of converting to electric. Our thoughts were if we lost power we could still have a mill and if our other mill went out, we wouldn’t have to be concerned about getting it replaced.
The second thing you should think about is price and ease of use. If it is outrageously expensive and hard to use, will you use it? If it’s super cheap and hard to use, will you use it? I recommend figuring how much flour you use on a daily/weekly basis and then determining how long that will take you to grind your own grain. I personally don’t want to spend five minutes on one cup of flour.
Make sure your mill has good reviews and can be repaired if necessary. Don’t buy from an unauthorized dealer if you’re depending on the warranty! I bought one online and found out later that the warranty wouldn’t be honored because the dealer wasn’t registered with the company. The company ended up repairing it anyway and only charged me shipping that one time but they didn’t have to. So check before you buy.
Think about the noise and mess involved in grinding. Mine is noisy enough but the flour is enclosed in a bin so it’s not messy. I can live with the noise for a few minutes.
I buy my wheat berries in bulk from a local Mennonite bulk food store. I generally keep between 50-200 pounds at one time. I place them in the freezer for a couple of weeks then store them in an airtight container to keep out bugs. Never store them in a damp place where they can draw moisture.
It’s best to grind small amounts of flour at one time to keep it from going rancid. I grind two to three days-worth at once. If you need to store it longer, I recommend the freezer for freshness.
There are many reasons to use freshly ground flour. First off, the taste is amazing! You will be shocked at the difference in flour ground two minutes ago versus six months ago. Secondly, the vitamins and minerals in old flour don’t even begin to compare with the fresh stuff!
Now it’s time to cook! A few tips to remember when cooking with 100% whole wheat: the flour absorbs liquid slower so don’t add too much flour thinking you need more; kneaded bread dough will be a bit stickier than white bread dough; don’t overbake or it will dry out. I have used whole wheat flour in place of white flour in several recipes including gravy, biscuits, muffins, rolls, bread, pancakes, waffles, pie crust, and cookies.
Breads made with 100% whole wheat will have a more complex flavor and after eating homemade bread that way, you’ll find that white tastes rather bland and chewy. I’ve found my whole wheat stays much more moist and fresh even several days after baking. Here are some delicious recipes for you to try:
½ cup olive oil (not extra virgin) or melted butter
½ cup maple syrup
¾ cup milk
2 cups whole wheat flour
2 tsp baking powder
¼ tsp salt
2 cups blueberries
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Combine oil, syrup, and eggs and beat.
Add milk and mix well.
In a separate bowl combine flour, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt and mix.
Add dry ingredients to wet. Mix well.
Fold in berries and nuts.
Spoon into greased muffin tins and bake for 20-25 minutes until golden. Allow to cool for 5 minutes then remove and cool completely.
Homemade Whole Wheat Yeast Bread
1 tbsp yeast
2 cups warm water
2 Tbsp raw sugar
½ cup olive oil
1 Tbsp salt
6 + cups whole wheat flour
Combine water, yeast, and sugar. Allow to sit until bubbly.
In an electric mixer or by hand beat in the eggs, oil, and enough flour to make a thick batter. Allow to sit covered for 20 minutes. This is your sponge and makes the bread lighter.
Next, add enough flour to make a stiff dough and your salt. Knead on dough setting until it forms a shaggy ball on dough hook (about 2 minutes), adding small amounts of flour as necessary to keep it from being too sloppy. If you’re kneading by hand this will take longer (perhaps 5-10 minutes). After it’s a shaggy ball, hand knead until smooth. Then place in an oil-coated bowl turning to coat and cover it. Allow to rise for 45-60 minutes or until doubled in a warm place.
Punch down and form into two loaves. To do this, divide the dough in half, then pat it out into rectangles about 8×10 inches. Roll up the dough on the long side and then tightly tuck in the ends. Place in oiled bread-baking pans, turning to coat and cover. Allow to rise for 45-60 minutes and bake in a preheated 400 degrees F oven for 15 minutes. Then turn it down to 375 for the remaining 20-30 minutes. The loaves are done when golden brown on top and hollow sound when thumped. Allow to cool for 5-10 minutes in the pans, then turn out to cool completely on a plate or baking rack. Try not to slice while it’s hot!
Another favorite in our home is whole wheat maple syrup chocolate chip cookies. These are super moist and have a delicious texture and flavor. They keep fresh for days (if they last that long).
Maple Syrup Chocolate Chip Cookies
½ cup melted butter or plain olive oil
½ cup maple syrup
¼ cup raw sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
2 cups whole wheat flour
1 package dark chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.
Cream together oil/butter and sugar and syrup.
Add eggs and beat well.
Add vanilla, baking soda, and salt. Beat well.
Add flour and chocolate. Gently combine until mixed but don’t overmix.
Drop by spoonful onto greased cookie sheets and bake for 7-10 minutes until slightly golden on top. Don’t overbake or they’ll be dry!
Remove from oven and cool.
Freshly ground flour is a superior ingredient in my opinion. I was somewhat skeptical that it would make a big difference when I started but I was proven wrong. And once I got the hang of it, cooking with 100% whole wheat became easy. As with anything, there is a learning curve, but I hope by reading this you’ll be more confident in making the switch to whole wheat cookery!
Originally published in the March/April 2022 issue of Countryside and Small Stock Journal and regularly vetted for accuracy.