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Whole grain flours: How do I get started?!

Yehoshua, holding the mixer
Yehoshua holds the mixer for Eliyahu's birthday cake --
(whole wheat strawberry shortcake)

Jamie wrote:

One thing that has my interest piqued is all of the whole-grain flours that you use. I am curious about how to go about using all the different flours, but I have to say I am really very overwhelmed by it!! I would love to get a grain mill one day, but I don't know where to begin!! I am concerned about purchasing wheat in bulk and becoming overwhelmed. Do you have any suggestions of where I should start?

Hi Jamie!

I'd love to share about how I got started grinding our own grains. (And maybe some of my readers can chime in with their stories or encouraging tips!)

When I got married, I vaguely knew that some people ground their own wheat for bread -- but it seemed really "out there" to me! Who would go to all that bother and expense?! ;)

I do love homemade bread, though, and I started learning more about the nutritional benefits of using whole wheat flour for bread. After reading about the processing of white flour, and comparing the benefits, there's no doubt that whole grain flours are much healthier.

About a year ago, Joshua started talking about getting me something for my birthday/our anniversary. After a lot of talk and thought, I determined that a grain mill was something I really, really wanted -- to have the convenience of fresh flour at my fingertips!

A few months later, we ordered a Wondermill. I have enjoyed it so much!! Freshly-ground flour tastes so delicious; many people are amazed when they find out that what they're eating was made with 100% whole grain flour!

Before you buy a mill

Before making a larger purchase like a grain mill, I think you should evaluate how much use you'd get from one.

For someone who only occasionally bakes, buying a grain mill might not be worth the expense. But if you bake frequently and/or are determined to experiment with and perfect whole-grain bread or other foods for your family, then a grain mill would be very useful! :)

However, you can get started using whole grain flours even before you have a mill; check a bulk foods store, natural foods store, or even larger grocery stores: you should be able to get smaller quantities of various flours to experiment with!

Also, I have found that grain prices are usually very comparable for ground (flour) vs. whole grain, so (unfortunately? :D) grinding my own flour doesn't help my grocery bill, even discounting the cost of the mill to get started. So, I consider my grain mill to be an investment towards healthier eating, but not the most frugal route. It's well worth it to me, but everyone has to weigh their own desires and preferences. :)

If you're in the market for a grain mill

There are lots of reviews online about various grain mill models. There are a number of different kinds of mills, as well.

There are pros and cons to just about everything, so we had to weigh electric vs. non-electric, stone vs. micronizer, etc. Your needs or wants may be different from ours, so you'll want to do your own research! :)

We chose to get a WonderMill, which cost $239 (free shipping). We've used ours for 7 months so far, and I have been very satisfied with it. It is small (grinds 12 cups of flour at a time; you can empty the bowl and grind more right away) and fits in a cupboard (since counter space isn't plentiful for me); it's fast (takes just a few minutes) and supposedly quieter than any other micronizing mills -- although it is still quite loud, like running the vacuum.

After you have a grain mill

Life is full of new things to learn, and it doesn't have to be overwhelming. :) There's so much more I want to do and know, but I have to take things little by little. :)

I do buy my wheat in 50-pound bags, but only because I know we'll use that much in a relatively short amount of time (less than 2 months). I buy other things in smaller quantities, and trust me -- there are a whole lot of things I haven't even gotten to try yet! ;)

I try to take things slow and not jump into anything too quickly, which for the most part prevents waste due to whim. :)

So, to summarize: As with anything I share, remember that my life is a process of growing and learning! We're all at different places in life, and while what may seem overwhelming to you is "everyday" to me, there's plenty that you and other people do which I haven't even attempted to get into. :)

Comments

Homemade Bread

Mmmmm! I just made a large batch of bread and our house smells wonderful! We use whole wheat flour we have ground ourselves. I always add a tablespoon each of the following seeds: sesame, flax, and sunflower. I also add a little wheat germ. The bread has a nice crunch and there's a nutritional boost. If you've never made bread from freshly ground whole wheat, I encourage you to try it. What a difference!

mama's picture

I love the thoroughness of

I love the thoroughness of this post!! And LOVE the chef hat:)
Tereza

I basically started using

I basically started using whole grain flours for the health benefits as well. I originally would just buy whole wheat flour off the shelf at the store and always was dissatisfied with the flavor and texture of my baked goods. I thought that cooking with whole grains meant heavy and bitter. Then.....I was told that the stuff on the shelf is rancid because it is often very old. but if you grind your grains freshly...it is a whole other experience. So...I bought a bag of hard red wheat..but....I did not think through the fact that I didn't have a way to grind it. It was then that a friend introduced me to Sue Greggs blender batter baking. The pancakes produced with this method where yummy, still a little heavy but no bitterness. My discoveries went on from there. I learned that there are different kinds of wheat and they produce different products. I now use hard white wheat for all my yeast breads (they are light and have a delicious flavor) and soft white wheat for cookies, quick breads and pastries (In most recipes you can barley tell they are whole grain!). I now pretty much use whole grain flour exclusively and prefer the flavor. After I gained experience with blender batters...we got a vita mix with dry blade and I was able to grind small amounts of flour in that....but it was not as fine as I would've liked...then the Lord blessed us by having a friend give us their old grinder (that wasn't really that old) and the texture of that flour is fine and produces amazing baked goods. It is noisy and messy (K-tec) so we use it out in the garage...but it is worth it!

For more info on blender batters:
http://www.suegregg.com/recipes/breakfasts/blenderbatterwaffles/blenderbatterwaffles.htm

Sorry for such a long comment...but this is something I get quite excited about!

bread

I recently got a grain mill. I am finding that I really like the soft white wheat(pastry flour) for items likes cookies, quick breads, brownies, etc. I like the hard wheat for my yeast items. I think the soft wheat really makes a better product in non yeast items. Have you found this to be true or do you just use the hard wheat in all recipes.

Bread Baking

I, too, love making homemade bread with freshly ground flour! Even though I've been making bread for a number of years, I've learned new things from your blog! Thanks for all the details you share to help the rest of us become more successful bread bakers.

I shared my bread recipe on my blog here.
http://homejoys.blogspot.com/2009/01/our-daily-bread-100-whole-wheat-bread.html

I've been doing a series on bread baking - especially for those who are new to the bread baking process! And I've sent my readers to your blog several times!

Thanks for the great site! Gina

Another source of fresh flour...

My family is in the process of starting a business near Athens, GA that will sell bread made from wheat ground that day as well as all the wheat and supplies needed to make your own bread. One of the aspects of this business that we are most excited about is that we will also grind flour on our mill for people who want to make their own, healthy, homemade bread, but don't have access to a mill. Of course, this is only helpful to people who live near by! :)

I do have a question...

I read that you ladies use Hard white wheat for making bread...and soft white for everything else. So am I to assume that the soft white is similar to all purpose flour? Or is there a different flour that you use for a comparable AP flour?
~Jamie

hard white wheat vs. soft white wheat

Actually, soft white wheat is nothing like all purpose flour. It is used for making a pastry flour more often than not. It can be used for breads also.

...

Okay, so then would you ladies use in place of AP flour? or do you just decide to use the processed stuff?

~Jamie

I don't know much on the

I don't know much on the subject, but as a general rule, we grind hard wheat for yeast breads and other baked goods where the gluten is desired. We use soft wheat in things such as muffins and quick breads. In a pinch, we would use either one as AP flour.

If you have Great Harvest

If you have Great Harvest Bread Company nearby, you can buy freshly ground wheat from them.
-dawn

Tammy have you had a chance

Tammy have you had a chance to convert your bagel, tortilla or pita bread recip to whole wheat? Let me know if you do.

Wow!

I'm surprised it doesn't save on your grocery bill! Lots of times diy will save you money and I just assumed grinding your own flour would save you money in the long run. Sadly I don't bake enough to justify the cost of a mill but it's good to know I can buy whole grain flour for the same price it'd cost to grind it myself!

Depends where you live and buy grain

when it comes to saving on your grocery bill. it has saved me money, but when wheat prices went up and I had a stock of more than 50 pound of hard white wheat or a bunch of families in our church decided to go gluten free and i got wheat given to me, it did really help out!

All Purpose, Whole Wheat, Cake or Pastry Flour

All-Purpose flour is a mixture of both hard and soft wheat so that it has a medium amount of protein (between 9% - 12%). It is ideal for the majority of cooking because it is more universal.

Whole Wheat Flour (purchased from a store) would be ground from hard wheat. It is better suited for breads and yeast laden products. It is a heavier flour and will therefore not rise as much as all-purpose flour. It has a more nutty flavor and a higher protein content.

It is typically suggested to add 1 cup whole wheat and 1 cup all purpose flour, for every 2 cups of all-purpose flour that may be called for in a recipe (this will give you a more robust flavor, but also maintain the rising and texture strengths of an all-purpose flour). If you want to substitute straight across the ratio is approximately 1 cup of all-purpose flour to 7/8 cups of whole wheat flour.

Cake or pastry flours (purchased from the store) would be ground from soft wheat. It is better suited for more delicate items such as cakes, pastries, cookies, etc... The flavor is less noticeable and it contains lower amounts of protein.

You can also make flours from other nuts and seeds (barley, buckwheat, chickpea, corn, flax, oats, potato, rice, rye, soy, spelt... to name a few).

* It should be noted that store purchased flours may also add bleaching agents, wheat germ, wheat gluten and other elements to produce whiter flour, or self-rising versions.

** I have found in areas in which many others grind their own wheat, the price of wheat is less expensive... in other areas it is more of a specialty item and therefore the price is more expensive.

*** I have a nutrimill and love it.

Blender Batters

Thanks Cammie, for your comment. I looked up Sue Gregg's site straight away and was impressed by what I read. I'm going to start with the pancakes and see how it goes - it sounds great. It does seem the most simple way to start experimenting with whole grains instead of flour in baking.

Sue.

Tammy's picture

All-purpose flour, whole wheat bread and pastry flour...

Thank you all for supplementing my post about getting started with whole grains! :)

I did completely forget about blender pancakes! :) When I was first married, a friend of ours gave me her recipe for blender pancakes and I started making them that way (for the first time in my life!). :) I have her recipe online here:

Whole wheat berry pancakes

And, a commenter above answered the question about hard wheat vs. soft. Hard wheat makes a bread flour, for yeast-based things. Soft wheat makes a pastry flour.

Grinding the whole wheat, whether hard or soft, always makes a whole wheat flour, which is different from all-purpose flour in that it is not refined, bleached, etc... and still has all of the wheat berry in it.

I use whole wheat bread flour (from hard wheat) for breads; whole wheat pastry flour (from soft wheat) for quick breads, muffins, cakes, etc..

If I had to just choose one type of flour I would go with the bread flour/hard wheat since it makes a good cake whereas soft wheat doesn't make good bread! :)

I do still have all-purpose flour on hand which I use for pizza crust, challah, thickening gravy, and sometimes for bread difficulties. :)

Walnut Spinney's picture

using fresh ground flours

We've been grinding our own flour for several years. Started out using a VitaMix but eventually added a Nutrimill because I wanted to use fresh ground flour for all my baking.

The Bread Beckers (first heard Sue Becker speak at a homeschool convention and was sold on the benefit of making everything whole grain) and Sue Gregg cookbooks were a big help in the transition. Tho I've always been interested in whole grain baking it was never at the 100% level till the last couple of years. Recipes take some tweaking and some will never be the same. The thing is we've come to prefer this way so now foods made with bleached white all-purpose flour taste suspect. ;-) Like the difference between our homegrown vegetables straight from the garden and heavily processed packaged meals. YMMV

Here's a link to the recipe for a sandwich loaf made with 100% fresh ground whole wheat flour. I bake it in a pullman pan so it has a good texture and crumb reminiscent of a loaf of Pepperidge Farms whole wheat sandwich loaf. Means it didn't come across as "different" when we were making the changeover.

This link will take you to a post (recipe at the end) with our favorite pancake recipe adapted from one of Sue Gregg's blender recipes. It relies on oatmeal instead of wheat and makes the best light yet whole grain pancakes I've ever tasted.

And after trying to make a true crusty, chewy peasant loaf I finally found Jim Lahey's No-Knead bread recipe and adapted it to 100% whole wheat. Here's a link to my blog post where I included both recipes (regular and fresh ground) and pictures so you can compare the two loaves.

I've really enjoyed reading Tammy's (and Joshua's) posts about ingredients and more whole grain ideas, too. It's like having a ready-made testing lab available and I love the reinforcement of knowing others are on the same path.

old wheat

I have very old wheat, I mean it is over 30 years old. My whole wheat bread does not rise, could it be the age of the wheat? It is not the yeast, I have used the same with white bread and the results are good. Has anyone used wheat this old?

old wheat

I have a friend who also has old wheat- at least 20 years old. He came over last night and we used his wheat with a very successful recipe. There was a very little rise. We baked it, and there was no increase in volumn. The whole kernel looked different and when grinding the wheat it had an unusual smell. I am going to search this out. Good luck.

replacing store bought bread flour with home ground whole wheat

Can fresh ground wheat be used in equal parts and with equal success as regular bread flour recipes?

replacing store bought bread flour with home ground whole wheat

Well, I'm just now trying to use the flour that I ground fresh today in my regular white bread recipe. There are several things that I have noticed so far.
1-It's not quite as fine as regular bread flour.
2-It seems to need more water or less flour than the recipe calls for.
3-It's not rising as quickly, maybe due to it needing more water or less flour.
I've put it in the oven with a pan of hot water and I'm going to give it about 2 hours or so to rise. Hopefully it will do it's thing and be wonderful with our spaghetti dinner tonight.

Whole wheat

Hi Tammy! Thanks for your blog, I really enjoy reading your posts and trying your recipes. Where do you buy your whole wheat? We've been wanting to try whole grain, but we couldn't decide where to buy it from.

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