You can travel anywhere in the world and experience bread in some form. It’s the food that unites cultures. In the last two decades, though, many Americans, for a good reason, removed commercially processed bread from the table. Bread could reclaim its place back into the kitchen if we cultivate the practice of milling our grain at home.
It’s easier than you think. If you grind your coffee beans, then milling flour at home will be an easy culinary transition.
I have happy memories of watching my mother perform her bread baking wizardry. While growing up, at least once a week, the yellow Pyrex mixing bowl sat on the counter, filled with rising dough.
Even as a teenager, when domestic skills seemed low on my priority list, I stood in the kitchen as a spectator. I admired my mom’s ability to transform flour, water, yeast, and salt into golden brown dinner rolls.
It was like a magic show.
My mom used refined flour to make her bread. In the ’70s, processed and refined foods elbowed their way into the American kitchens, and we never looked back.
Julia Child tried to save us, but the introduction of processed foods seduced the cooks, well, the rest is history.
It’s time to replace “bad for our health” refined flours with whole-grains milled at home.
Why Grind Your Flour?
Lucky for us, we know about the nutritional deficiencies of processed grains. In the article, 6 Compelling Reasons to Grind Your Grain, I go into detail about the dietary reasons to mill your grain. Science supports that refined flour contributes to obesity, chronic diseases, and other illnesses.
I invited bread and baked goods back to my table once I started milling grain.
Commercial millers add bleaching and oxidizing chemicals, like potassium bromate, to manufacture white flour.
Another important feature, milled grains provide vitamin E, B vitamins, iron, and potassium.
To further enhance the nutrition of milled grain for baked goods, you can soak the flour in sour or cultured milk (yogurt or Keifer) at room temperature for 12-24 hours. Sally Fallon from Nourishing Traditions reminds us that soaking increases vitamin content and makes all the nutrients in grains more available.
With the right equipment, milling grain at home becomes a way of life. It’s a matter of pressing a button. The added convenience of a bread machine makes bread-making even easier.
The grain is real food not intended to last for months. You mill what you need and store the rest.
The purchase of a grain mill is an investment in your health. Think of what we spend on other household appliances that make little or no contributions to our health and wellness.
Reforming the way we view grain will require women and men to make cooking a daily part of their lives.
Journalist Michael Pollan suggests, that “the path to a diet of fresher, unprocessed food, not to mention to a revitalized local-food economy, passes straight through the home kitchen.”
The beauty of grinding your grain is experimenting with different grains.
Different grains offer distinct flavors and textures to baked goods and bread. You can combine several milled flours to achieve a unique character.
Grains with gluten/lower level of gluten
Barley is an ancient grain with a low glycemic index (The glycemic index (GI) is a measure that ranks foods according to their effect on your blood sugar levels.
Barley can be used to make cakes, bread, and pastries.
Buckwheat (not related to wheat) it’s not even a grain. Like amaranth, buckwheat is a seed. You can find it hulled or unhulled. Because buckwheat contains bioflavonoids, which are stable in anti-oxidants and anti-inflammatory properties, it is known to help keep blood pressure under control.
Einkorn is a lower gluten ancient grain variety. Einkorn and spelt tend to have a stronger resistance to diseases, which attracts farmers who want to grow sustainable and pesticide-free field crops.
Kamut (Khorasan Wheat), with origins from Egypt, is a relative newcomer to the American grain scene. Some people with gluten sensitivities find this grain tolerable. It is not a gluten-free grain. Because of the lower gluten level of Kamut, it performs better for bread when mixed with another grain higher in gluten content like hard wheat.
The buttery taste makes this grain perfect for baked goods.
Rye milled at home makes outstanding bread (using the sponge method).
Spelt, an ancient variety of wheat, is one of the most versatile and flavorful of all the grains available. Growing popularity among bread bakers, you may have to get on a waiting list for spelt.
Wheat, the most well-known, widely used, and most controversial grain in the U.S. Most of the literature and studies about wheat forget to mention that its the refined, highly processed wheat that makes America sick and obese.
Wheat (hard and soft), when milled at home, provides a long list of nutrients.
Amaranth is a gluten-free seed that behaves like a grain. Because of its tiny seed-like size, grind amaranth in a handmill or clean coffee grinder.
Don’t underestimate the small seed; it is a powerhouse of nutrients. Amaranth is high in essential amino acids, which earns this seed the name “super-grain.”
Millet, gluten-free grain, which probably makes you think of birdseed, right? In Africa, millet showcases as one of the most nutrient-dense foods available.
And we feed it to the birds?
Because millet does not contain gluten, it is not suitable for bread baking, unless, of course, you mix it with other glutinous grains. Millet’s high protein and magnesium content make this grain superb as a warm breakfast cereal.
Oats (generally gluten-free but suspect to cross-contamination in processing) are high in protein, cholesterol-fighting amounts of fiber, immune-boosting components, and healthy fats, so let’s be fair and call oats a superfood.
- Whole oats are groats.
- Steel-cut, Irish/Scottish oats ( two regions hospitable to growing conditions needed for this grain) are chopped oats.
- Rolled oats/old-fashioned oats are pressed into flakes.
It is best to avoid quick oats (chopped and processed) altogether.
Quinoa, known for its nutritional prowess, can be milled in a standard grain mill.
Rice has long been the gluten-free go-to grain. For baking, select the long and medium grain brown rice variety.
Teff, a tiny millet-like Ethiopian grain. Mill teff in a coffee grinder or slowly poured them into a grain mill.
Milling grain at home takes very little equipment. The initial investment is expensive, but over the long haul, you will save money by making bread and baked goods at home.
- Grain Mill
- Bread machine (optional)
- Airtight, food-safe 2-5-gallon buckets with a gamma seal lid
- Coffee/spice grinder
- Proofing baskets (optional)
Milling grain at home
Bread and baked goods made from freshly milled grain should reclaim a place at our table again. If we look at what industrially prepared food has done to our health, we might begin to consider cultivating new rhythms and practices in our kitchen that promote health.
Resources for whole grain