Grinding Grain Makes the Best Bread

Learn the secrets to grinding grain for your best homemade bread.


| March/April 2014



Grains, wheat and breads

Homemade baked bread surrounded by flour, grain bags, wheat, eggs and a rolling pin.

Photo by Fotolia/Alaettin Yildirim

In a quest for healthier, tastier eating, many folks have returned to the art of baking bread. What they don’t realize is that they go to all that trouble to get good flavor with flour that may be a bit short on nutrients when compared with the wheat it’s been milled from. That’s right — depending on the type, flour can lose up to 45 percent of its nutrients through oxidation within the first 24 hours of milling, and 90 percent within the first three days.

So what’s a home baker to do for best flavor and nutrition? Grind your own grain fresh, of course. With a hand-powered mill you can grind the wheat (and other grains) needed for a pound-sized loaf of whole-wheat in less than 5 minutes — and you’ll burn a few calories in the process.

Where did the nutrition go?

Of the 44 known nutrients essential for good health, only four are not found in wheat: vitamins A, B12 and C, and the mineral iodine. Commercial wheat milling to create white flour removes bran and germ, resulting in flour that is missing up to 80 percent of its nutrients. Manufacturers do enrich commercially made flour, but with only four nutrients. So what about the other 40? And the fiber?

Maybe you think all those nutrients would be destroyed in a 350-degree oven anyway, but not so, according to Sue Becker, founder and owner of BreadBeckers Inc. and former industrial food scientist. First, even though we bake bread at 350 degrees or hotter, bread is done when its internal temperature reaches 185 degrees. In a recent interview, Becker explains that the enzymes in the grains make the nutrients more bio-available when they are heated. Some nutritional value may be lost, but some is enhanced by this design. She also points out that the vitamin E found in whole wheat is not destroyed by cooking. Convinced? Let’s get started grinding grain at home.

The equipment

Before you go shopping for wheat, you need a mill to grind it. Grain mills come in two types: the electric impact mill that bursts the grain open, and the burr mill, which rubs the grain between two wheels of stone or stainless steel. Neither type of mill is better than the other; you simply need to know how you’ll use it before buying. If all you want is whole-wheat flour, any mill on the market can deliver. But if you want to crack your grains for grits, mill oily grains, seeds or beans, a burr mill might prove more useful. Generally, burr mills are hand cranked. Don’t let that deter you, though. Many come with motor and bicycle kits. With a little do-it-yourself spirit, most folks can handle this adaptation with no problem. The advantage of the impact mill is speed. It can mill enough flour for a batch of muffins in less than a minute — but it produces only flour.

The wheat

You don’t have to grow your own wheat to grind your own flour. If you want a local product, ask around at your local farm store to see if anyone knows a wheat grower in the area. If you can’t find a local farmer, check out the nearest bulk food supplier. I buy Wheat Montana wheat from a grocer that stocks bulk foods. A 50-pound bag costs $28 to $42 depending on the variety.





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