Now that you have the list of tools, details about the method and the bread recipe, you're all set to bake some of your best bread ever! And if you'd like to go a step further, you can try your hand at grinding your own grain, right in your kitchen!
This has been a goal of mine for a long time. At the beginning, I envisioned a large grain mill that I had to somehow squeeze into my back room because it would take up so much room.
I also stressed about how I would ever afford a top notch grain mill. They cost several hundred dollars.
Much to my surprise I found that I already owned an appliance that would grind my grain beautifully: my Vitamix blender. From the research that I've done, not just any blender will grind wheat berries in a satisfactory manner. It will have to be a high speed appliance.
If you own a major stand mixer (i.e. Kitchenaide), you could likely purchase a grain mill attachment. Check out all your options, but know for sure that you don't have to own a $500+ grain mill to grind your own grains.
There are numerous options for obtaining wheat berries (including growing your own). A search for wheat berries will give you plenty of options.
Because I prefer sprouted wheat berries (they are easier to digest), I buy them from To Your Health Sprouted Flour Company. I'll elaborate on sprouted grains in my next blog.
Wherever you purchase them, keep them refrigerated or frozen because they will quickly become rancid if you don't. The wheat germ in the berries contain oil, which isn't the case with white flour because the wheat germ has been removed.
Once you have the berries, you'll want to grind your flour before you're ready to prepare your bread dough. You could easily grind all your berries at one time; just make sure you refrigerate the flour.
If you plan to grind just enough for one loaf, grind one cup of berries for each cup of flour you'll need. You will end up with some extra flour, but that's better than not having enough. I refrigerate or freeze the extra flour until I need it.
If you're using a blender to grind your flour, you'll be pleasantly surprised to see how little time it takes to grind a cup of berries — maybe two minutes.
Just how fine you grind the flour is up to you. You probably don't want it too coarse because any bigger pieces of berry will be rather chewy in your bread. If you're working with a low power blender or grinder, you could use a sifter to sort out the biggest pieces of grain and obtain a finer grind by putting bigger pieces back into the blender until they're ground to the desired fineness.
Even if you use a regular grain mill or blender like the VitaMix (you do need the dry container), you can sift the flour if you want to. I don't sift mine because I don't mind a somewhat chewy consistency.
In measuring your whole wheat flours, you may want to consider weighing them to ensure greater accuracy of amounts. We tend to pack flour when we measure it, which can result in a heavy, dry, unsatisfactory bread.
One of the benefits of grinding your own grain is freshness; I've found a definite taste advantage. Depending on where you purchase your berries (organic and sprouted are more expensive), you may or may not save money by grinding grain. However, there's no significant cost involved in grinding your own grain.
If this is one element of bread baking that holds no interest for you — at least for the moment — you can still produce out-of-this-world delicious bread loaves with the whole grain flour you purchase. Make sure it's fresh and keep it refrigerated or frozen to preserve the wheat germ oil quality.
Loretta Sorensen makes her home in eastern South Dakota. Read more about her and her family's draft horses and hobby farm experiences at www.ourdakotahorsetales.com. And if you're loving this home-made bread tutorial, watch for the release of her "Bread Maker's Primer" in October 2018.
Photo property of Loretta Sorensen.