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Who doesn’t love an amazing fresh, warm, loaf of bread straight from the oven?
As we set out learning more and more about nutrition, we have realized how much convenience has made us unhealthy in many ways, but food especially. Prior to the 1900 most bread baked in this country was made at home from freshly milled flour. 100 years ago our ancestors ate a diet consisting mostly of whole grains and real fruits and vegetables and people did not suffer from cancer, diabetes, heart disease and obesity like we do today. Why?
Fresh milled wheat berries contain 40 of the 44 essential nutrients (that come from food) needed to sustain life.
“Of the 44 known essential nutrients needed by our bodies and naturally obtained from foods, only 4 are missing from wheat–vitamin A, B12, and C, and the mineral iodine.” – Sue Becker (SOURCE)
In the book “Wild Bread: Sourdough Reinvented” by MaryJane Butters, she gives us a history of what happened to freshly milled flour and how it was replaced with commercially available flour. It is a wonderful read and a wonderful step-by-step on making sourdough bread.
In the early 1900s, there used to be many flour mills locally where you can go in and pick up flour milled just hours before. This flour was truly whole wheat containing the bran, endosperm, hull, and germ – all the parts that contain these essential nutrients. It was ground slowly and with low-heat to ensure the survival of nutrients. General stores had to sell their flour somewhat quickly as it had a short shelf life. Over time, commercial mills started popping up and pushing out local mills with their processes of removing all of the bran, hull, and germ and leaving the endosperm, the white fluffy substance we have now. Mass producing mills also use high-temperature, high-speed steel rollers to mill which results in the white flour being nearly all starch. They then put it through a chlorine gas bath (chlorine oxide) which serves as a whitener, as well as an “aging” agent. This helps it to have an exceptionally long shelf life which is great for the stores but not good for us.
Freshly milled whole-wheat baked goods contain ALL parts of the wheat, giving you healthy life-giving bread. (Bread of Life anyone?) However, even whole wheat bread you purchase in stores can be deceiving. The term “wheat bread” is sometimes used as a marketing tactic to give the impression of a product being whole-wheat bread, but this is at best an ambiguous term and potentially deceptive because most white bread is made from wheat flour, and thus could legitimately be called “wheat bread”. The majority of what is marketed in the USA under the name “wheat bread” has very little whole grain content and is made primarily of white flour, with caramel coloring added to them to give an illusion of a higher whole wheat content.
They took the bran and germ out of the flour and put it into livestock and animal feed, so our animals were eating better than us! It’s no wonder people began getting sick, especially with nutrient deficiencies. If you can find a bakery that grinds their flour fresh, you have found that elusive pot of gold, treasure it!
GETTING A MILLAfter reading and learning all of this, we knew we had to change things. We bought a little hand mill, ordered some grains and started trying it out. Well, that didn’t last long…have you ever tried to mill by hand? It’s not strenuous but time-consuming and we couldn’t get the flour quite as fine as what you buy. We knew that for the amount of flour we’d need to grind daily for 8 people, we needed one heck of a mill. So we stopped for a while and we bought organic heritage unbleached flour. Not the same thing but it didn’t have all the excess additions. We still have some of this as back-up when we can’t get any milled quickly. So we prayed that we could figure out a solution.
Thank the heavens my Aunt reached out and said she had one collecting dust! An electric professional Lee Household Mill that she happened to find in a thrift store! (She finds the coolest things at thrifts stores!) I promptly broke the stone while cleaning it, haha. So we ordered a new stone and it worked flawlessly. Perfect whole grain fluffy flour in minutes! I’ve since found some more affordable and highly recommended countertop mills like the Wondermill. It literally takes just a few minutes and we’re usually tinkering around the kitchen as it grinds. We grind what we need for the day, but if there is any leftover, it gets stored in the fridge and usually used to feed the sourdough starter.
Get a mill, it is SO worth every penny to have one.
CHOOSING YOUR BERRIESThere are lots of different grains you can use for milling such as hard red and white wheat, soft white wheat, spelt, rye, emmer, einkorn, brown rice, quinoa, kamut, and many more. We have a few of these that we’ve tried and used successfully. To keep it simple you can stick with 2 (or 4) main types:
- Hard Wheat – You can use red or white. Red has a nuttier/earthy flavor. White is more clean and light and probably what you’d be more used to. Use this for your yeast bread.
- Soft Wheat – Soft wheat is perfect for pastries and baked desserts.
- Brown Rice or Quinoa – If you are looking for Gluten Free options.
You can purchase whole grains online through Amazon or other retailers. If you have a natural foods store like Whole Foods or Sprouts, you can usually find it in their bulk bins. We order ours from Azure Standard in 50lb bags and store them in food grade 5-gallon buckets.
FIND A RECIPE
You can use your freshly milled flour to replace store-bought in any recipe. It will make it that much better! It has a wonderful complexity of flavors compared to bread you buy or all-purpose flours. Most people have a favorite bread recipe or you can find many on the internet that will suit your needs. I have a couple books that I regularly use that you may absolutely love, most which use sourdough starter. While we do have yeast here, we mostly use sourdough starter. Once you get the hang of it, it’s pretty easy. Azure also has a pre-started starter that you can use within a day of getting it!
Wild Bread: Sourdough Reinvented – MaryJane Butters ~ This is an excellent book, especially for beginner bread makers. She also takes you through using different flours as well as how you would need to alter amounts. She bakes with sourdough and teaches you how to start and nurture your sourdough starter.
Classic Sourdoughs, Revised: A Home Baker’s Handbook – Ed Wood ~ This is a little more advanced book but not bad. It’s very in depth on the process of sourdough baking.
Flour Water Salt Yeast: The Fundamentals of Artisan Bread and Pizza – Ken Forkish ~ An excellent book on beginning bread making as well as very detailed on the whys and how the different ingredients act together.
NOW GET TO BAKING!
I hope that you learned something new and continue to look into and even try to mill your own flour. It’s extremely rewarding and worth it! Let us know what you like to bake with your fresh flour in the comments!