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Baking With Freshly Ground flour

>11 January 2011
 
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One of my goals this year is to grind 100% of the flour we need. I figure we’ve got the wheat, we’ve got the grinder, why in the world should I buy a bag of flour, or pre-made bread/dough products, when I can (and should) do it myself?! Not only is it much cheaper to grind your own, but the fresh wheat is so much better for you too!

I’m a little embarrassed to admit that up until now we’ve still been buying flour and most bread products at the store. Cans of refrigerated biscuits, crescent rolls, sandwich bread, frozen pizzas, and tortillas are frequently on my grocery list. The problem really boiled down to one thing… procrastination.

Baking bread takes planning. Grinding flour takes time. Two things I am so bad with most days. I’d start my weekly menu with good intentions, really I did. I’d purposely leave off any bread products from the grocery list so that I’d be forced to make it myself. But at the end of the day I’d always end up calling my husband and asking him to pick up this or that at the store on his way home, ’cause we were out and I didn’t have time to make more.

So, determined to really tighten our food budget belt this year, I’ve purposed in my heart that I would not, under any circumstances, fall back into my old habits of procrastination. Store bought flour is strictly forbidden. And I have to say I’m pretty proud of myself for sticking to this goal.

Okay, so it’s only been 11 days since the New Year. But hey, I’ve made a lot of progress!

My first attempt didn’t turn out so great though. My husband is an avid breakfast biscuit eater. Every morning he has got to have a turkey bacon and cheese biscuit.

I hate making biscuits.

Biscuits are my enemy.

Every time I try to make them I end up with so much dough stuck to my hands that it quickly becomes impossible to function, let alone try to knead the mound of glue-like goop, and I just wanna throw the whole glob across the kitchen and scream!

This is why we bought several cans of biscuit dough weekly. So that the children never have to witness their mother freaking out. However, I am determined to beat this. I will master the fine art of biscuit making.

I think I know what my problem was this time though. I used pastry wheat, soft white wheat, instead of a hard wheat. It didn’t rise at all, and the biscuits ended up being dry and crumbly. No good. At least the chickens enjoyed them.

But I was not to be discouraged.

My next attempt was whole wheat crescent rolls for our favorite chicken roll-ups. Again, I used the pastry wheat. They turned pretty good though! You could definitely taste the “whole wheat-ness” of them, but surprisingly the kids gobbled them up as usual. I think I’ll try hard white wheat next and see how they turn out.

For breakfast this morning I made whole wheat pancakes. (Sorry no pics… they didn’t last long enough!) I mixed the pastry wheat half-and-half with hard white wheat. You could taste the whole wheat flavor, but they weren’t hard to get used to.

For lunch we had homemade pizza. I used hard white wheat and pizza dough yeast. It turned out SO yummy!! Mozzarella and Parmesan cheese, beef pepperoni, baked in a cast iron pizza pan… so much better than a frozen grocery store pizza!

Next on my list was whole wheat tortillas for the burrito bake I made for dinner. Again, I used the hard white wheat. They came out good… though I think maybe I rolled them too thin this time, they weren’t quite as soft as usual.

And last but not least, I made a loaf of bread for sandwiches tomorrow. I used my mother-in-law’s delicious dinner roll recipe. But instead of pinching off the dough to make individual rolls, I made one big loaf in my cast iron bread pan. I also used the hard white wheat in place of the bread dough. Normally, I would have added vital wheat gluten to make it softer, but totally forgot. When I realized my mistake I was afraid the bread would be hard or too dense.

We were all very pleased though to find this loaf absolutely perfect!! Even the dog had to sample it. (Bad dog! This explains why two sides of the loaf are cut off. At least she only got a nibble.) I was relieved that it was soft, and fluffy, and super good. The kids could hardly wait for it to cool before they dug in and wanted more. And I felt really good knowing that the bread they were eating was made from fresh, wholesome flour.

So you see… I’m really, fervently trying! Now, if only I can get my hands on an electric wheat grinder!! Thank goodness Jerry was home today and helped me grind all of this wheat. It would have taken me FOR-EV-ER.

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31 Comments »

  • Valerie said:

    Good for you!!! I’d LOVE to have some of the recipes you made….will you post them? I bake with home ground flour all the time and we love it. I too am trying to avoid buying anything that I can make myself, next on my list are flour tortillas. I’ve made them in the past, but not regularly and never with whole wheat flour. That is my task for later this week. :)

    Enjoy your baking…and don’t let the biscuits win, they are too tasty not to make your own. :)

  • Kimberly said:

    I started doing almost everything from scratch, including grinding the wheat berries just about three years ago. I love it, but then I have an electric mill. :) Now I even make our crackers! Yes, there is a tutorial for that and bagels on my blog, if anyone needs them. I’m just sharing that bc I have learned sooooooo much from all the fellow bloggers out there. I bake in big batches and freeze a lot to try and keep it from getting overwhelming. Keep at it! You’ll find what works for you!

  • Save the Canning Jars said:

    Great job!!! Atta girl! Atta girl! Atta girl!!!!!!!

    If you need your biscuits to be lighter, you can sift your flour a few times to lighten it up. Yes this sifts out the bran, but take that bran and throw it in a sandwich bag in the fridge and use the bran on breakfast cereal OR toss it on a salad for some crunch! Don’t use one of those multi-screen sifters where you squeeze the handle (a typical grocery store model). It takes forever, clogs the screens and makes your hand feel like it is going to fall off. Instead, I use the style of sifter that our Grannies might have used, the kind with a little handle that turns on the side of the sifter. You can get them at Lehman’s, but I’ve found them to be much cheaper at the site listed below ( http://www.oklahomapastrycloth.com )

    There is an outstanding biscuit recipe on Oklahoma Pastry Cloth website. (If it is Okay to give a link, then here it is
    http://www.oklahomapastrycloth.com/blog/?m=201012 ) This is on the blog site and you’ll need to scroll a long way down the page, but well worth it for the color pictures and step by step tutorial. I made these the other day and they were yummy!

    Keep up the great work Kendra!

    PS: I don’t know what you will chose when you get an electric grinder, but I will say that I LOVE my Nutrimill.

  • april said:

    Way to go! I must admit that making our own bread products is not something I have ever been interested in. I made pizza crust once but it wasn’t that good. I am slowly getting into the habit of cooking more from scratch so myabe I will try to make pizza again. Kudos to you.:)

  • Kendra at New Life On A Homestead (author) said:

    Save the Canning Jars,

    Thanks so much for the tips and links!! I did try sifting the flour with one of those hand-crank style sifters like what you mentioned, but the bran just fell through! The flour was pretty course. The hard white wheat grinded so much smoother.

    I’ve been drooling over a Nutrimill… definitely my top choice! Now, if I could only get the money, lol! Those things are NOT cheap! I keep watching ebay and Craigslist for a good deal.

  • Kendra at New Life On A Homestead (author) said:

    Thanks, Kimberly! I’ll check out your recipes :) I need all the advice I can get!

  • Kendra at New Life On A Homestead (author) said:

    Valerie,

    Sure! Once I figure out the best way to do things, I’ll post the recipes :)

  • Pam W. said:

    Everything looks so yummy, Kendra!! I’ve been trying to use more of our own ground flour, too–it helps a lot since my husband rigged the motor up to our grinder. Hope you can find an electric one soon, then it’ll be a piece of cake to grind all you need. Your photos are so inspiring–everything looks like it came out great!

  • Jaime @ Like a Bubbling Brook said:

    Kendra, yay for you! I wrote about the benefits of grinding your own grains awhile back: http://likeabubblingbrook.blogspot.com/2010/04/why-grind-your-own-grain.html

    For quite awhile I was using a simple grinder that I’d gotten via Craigslist, and we kept saving a little at a time for a nicer grinder. We finally got our new “once-in-a-lifetime” mill several months ago (a Komo Fidibus Mill) and I love it! Save up, little by little; it’s worth that wait! We use ours all the time, and it’s much easier now. xoxo

  • Jaime @ Like a Bubbling Brook said:

    BTW, I think breads taste much better and digest better when you soak the ground wheat overnight first… I have more about that in the Recipe Index on my site, too :) You may be doing that already though!

  • Becky said:

    Could you do something like this? This looks like it wouldn’t cost that much money and you wouldn’t have to rely on electricity…=)

  • rachel said:

    There is nothing like homeade pizza. It is such a treat for us. I can’t imagine every buying a cardboard tasting $10 pizza from the store again. The tortillas look great also. We use a lot of tortillas and I’d like to start making them. Thanks for the post!

  • Monica said:

    Yes, please post some of these recipes! How do you know what wheat to use for what recipe? I would love to start this but and so intimidated by the type to use and if I should soak it etc.

  • Kendra at New Life On A Homestead (author) said:

    Becky,

    That’s so cool :) Wouldn’t work with mine though, our handle is different. Maybe we could modify it??

  • Kendra at New Life On A Homestead (author) said:

    I know Monica, I’m the same way. I was pretty intimidated at first too, but I’ve just decided to do it and see how it goes. I can tell you that soft white wheat (or pastry wheat) doesn’t rise, and is better for quick breads, pancakes, and most recipes which don’t call for yeast. Hard wheats can be used anywhere All Purpose Flour is called for, the only difference is the flavor- much more robust! The hard red wheat has a reputation for being a little more dense, so if you like a lighter loaf, some recommend mixing it with hard white wheat. Hope that helps!! I’ll be posting more as I learn :)

    I think that’s right, anyways. Please feel free to correct me anybody, if I’m off! This is just what I’ve read and gathered from others.

  • Jen @ 400 Calorie Dinners said:

    All your pictures are making me hungry!

    Have you ever tried any whole wheat recipes that require soaking? I have found that this really improves the texture and results in a better end product. The soaked whole wheat bread recipe in Sue Gregg’s Breakfast cookbook is by far the best-tasting I have tried.

    As for the biscuits, our favorite recipe is the sourdough one that was taught in the sourdough e-course from GNOWFGLINS. My kids just gobble them up any time I make them. You don’t knead them at all so you don’t get the mess as with regular biscuit recipes.

    We have a Nutrimill. We bought it last year with our tax return. It was a huge expense but it works wonderfully and I have been so pleased with it. Like you, I am resolving to buy no flour this year. I just need to get in a rhythm (and find a good source of bulk organic wheat berries).

    Keep at it. You are doing a great thing for your family!

  • Kendra at New Life On A Homestead (author) said:

    No, I haven’t tried soaking the grains yet. Guess that’s something for me to look into!

  • Kara said:

    Check out the “homesick texan” blog – she has an amazing recipe for bisquits… I used to make them all the time because they are sooo simple and yummy.

  • Megan P. said:

    Hi Kendra! Great post! I have a couple of suggestions. For the biscuits it might help to use a dough scrape to help you mix and knead the dough until it’s easier to handle. You can use it to help scrape the counters, yourself, and whatever else gets sticky. It’s a great thing to have around the kitchen in general… I used it a TON when I can to help pick up slippery tomatoes and peaches. There are a few different kinds. I have a nice metal one that was probably $5-10 (it was a gift so I’m not sure on the exact cost) and totally worth the money- that things not going anywhere for a long, long time so we’ll call it an investment. I also have a plastic one that I bought at the local food supply store that cost like 98 cents or something. I like it because it has a little bit different shape and is a little bit smaller and it’s always flexible… if only you could have that in one that wasn’t plastic. Anyway, definitely something you might find useful. My other suggestion on the biscuits is to make several batches at a time and freeze them separately and throw into big freezer bags or other containers and then take out only what you need. Hope it helps! Can’t wait to see what else you’ll be cooking/baking up!

  • Pam W. said:

    P.S. Here in IN, our local Walmarts have started selling 25 lb. bags of Prairie Gold hard white spring wheat! It’s in the flour aisle on the bottom shelf under the flour. I was so surprised to see that last week. It runs just under $13 a bag and is chemical free and is a “clean” food-grade wheat, as opposed to buying the bags from a feed store which are sold as animal feed, which may be somewhat cheaper but have not gone through as many cleanings as what you buy for food. Check your Walmarts, people!

    And Becky,
    We did something like that, first hooking our country living mill up to our elliptical exerciser, which worked great, but have since hooked up a used motor to it. We still have the wheel with the handle if we want to convert it back to grinding by hand.

  • Babychaser said:

    Oh bless your heart!!! It is so much easier not to fall into old ways when you have an electric grinder! We started with a hand crank… bought one that could be done either way. A few short (actually long… very long) weeks later, I had an electric one. It still takes a bit of time, but at least I can be doing something else nearby.

    Great work on all that bread making this year so far… I’m even more impressed now that I know it was all hand crank! I have found that the hard white works better on yeast breads… the pastry just doesn’t rise well. I do use the pastry flour for pancakes, cookies, cakes, etc. though. It’s all an experiment in the beginning. Golly… I’m still making changes.

    The only other thing I’ll say is that it’s harder to get started than it is to keep going. You’ve really done well in jumping in on everything. When we started several years ago, I started with just bread (a loaf for sandwiches and toast). Then I started making pancakes etc… but still bought buns and such from the store. We just didn’t (and sometimes still don’t as is the case of the biscuit) eat it if I didn’t make it other than that. Keep it up… before you know it, this will be the only way you remember. And you’ll be wondering why you can’t get as much done as other people (I always forget how much more time making everything from scratch and grinding my own wheat takes compared to others who are doing things the “normal” way.

    Ok… sorry, one more tid bit… I find it a real blessing to get as much bread in the freezer as possible before babies are born. It’s nice to have a week or so off from making bread. If you have a chest freezer or other freezer space available, try to double what you usually make for a month or so before baby comes and put one away! If you can’t do that… you can also pre-grind and freeze the flour. That saves you the time and energy later!

  • Deanna said:

    Biscuits seem easy but I have the same problem. I use lard and I know that is out for you. Try butter…yum but kinda of expensive. I use twice the baking powder and do have a little better success. Also when you cut your biscuits don’t turn roughly just wiggle a little. Makes for some fun with the kids in the kitchen. I make a huge batch and them freeze the dough. When I need some biscuits I just pop them into the oven for 10 min. longer than usual. I use prarie gold hard wheat but have used spring white and had good success also. Prarie gold has such a mild flavor that my kids don’t notice the harsh taste of whole wheat.

    Funny I find myself buying flour too. Just bought a bunch of sandwich bread…well I called hubby and had him pick it up. It is tempting to do :)

    Another thing that I found fun was to read old fashioned books about baking. Try this link for a free read.

  • Kendra at New Life On A Homestead (author) said:

    Pam,

    That’s interesting about Walmarts! I had no idea they’d started carrying wheat. We don’t really shop there anymore, but I’m curious now if ours sells it.

  • Kendra at New Life On A Homestead (author) said:

    Megan,

    Thanks so much for the advice! I’ll check Amazon and see how much they sell dough scrapes for. Maybe I can snag one for free with my Swagbucks :)

  • Kendra at New Life On A Homestead (author) said:

    Thanks everyone, for all of your encouragement and advice. Freezing pre-ground wheat, dough and loaves of bread ahead of time is a great idea!

  • Ann said:

    I have a Retsel mil-rite, bought it used off of ebay. It is great! Is is electric, but can be made into a manual if needed. It is easy enough that my 10 year old grinds our flour for us. (after training by me of course). Really helps out a lot! It is worth buying it! Also, it is made in USA for like the last 40 years or so!

  • Kendra at New Life On A Homestead (author) said:

    Thanks Kara! I’ve never visited her site, but I’m loving it :) Gonna print off her biscuit recipe right now! (She makes it sound so easy. Hmph!) I think the real key is the buttermilk. I haven’t been trying to make buttermilk biscuits… and they are definitely better that way.

  • Learning the Frugal Life said:

    Good job outta you! I am hoping to get a grain mill and start milling my own flour sometime this year.

  • Diana Tyree said:

    I have tried several times sprouting the wheat drying it and then grinding it like they suggest, and it has never turned out, it was like a brick. I’ve read the debate on this and have decided it is not something that makes sense to me to do. Sue becker on the breadbeckers site has an article on this subject that shows the other side of the debate. We each have to do what makes sense to us. Diana

  • Grubbs said:

    Awesome, I cant wait to try your bread recipe. I have been milling my own grain for over a year now but have yet to find a bread recipe that my husband deems acceptable. ;).

    And if you haven’t found a mill yet, I recommend looking into the wondermill as well. I was planning on the Nutrimill but everyone I know who has one says they “spit” flour, so I emailed BreadBeckers asking what they recommended and they said the WonderMill so I went with it! The only downside is that the mill and container are side by side. Here’s my review:

  • Kendra at New Life On A Homestead (author) said:

    Grubbs,

    Yes, I actually got a Nutrimill a while back and LOVE it!! I’ve had no trouble with it “spitting” whatsoever. I say user error :)

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