Monday, June 13, 2011

We got a grain mill!

Family Grain Mill is manual or electric!

We've actually had this grain mill since mid-April, so we've been using it for about three months.

We bought the Family Grain Mill from Pleasant Hill Grain upon recommendation from our local organic grain and flour supplier, Natural Way Mills. We had been getting our whole wheat flour there, but decided to take the jump into home-grinding our grain because of the health benefits. Grinding your own flour allows you to preserve much more of the nutrients. Organic Gardening and Homesteading website mentions that within 12 hours of grinding, your wheat loses all nutrients, and that if left out over a week, becomes toxic.


And that's why the flour you buy in the store usually contains lots of preservatives and synthetic vitamins, to prolong shelf-life, and though the flour may be kept from becoming completely "toxic," it most likely is fairly devoid of readily available nutrients that are found in freshly ground flour.

So, we made the leap to grinding our own grain.

We chose the Family Grain Mill because of the steel burrs used to grind the grain, which grind without friction and use the least amount of heat to grind the grain. Heat can destroy many nutrients in the flour. (Makes me wonder about what happens when you bake with it... but for some reason, it just makes sense not to destroy the flour's nutrients before it even gets to the oven.)

We had the option to buy a hand crank base, as well as an electric base, that hooks to the grinder, in case we'd want to grind flour without electricity. We also got the oat flaker, which takes whole oats and rolls them into oatmeal! There are other attachments, like for meat, you can buy that fit onto the electric or hand crank base. It was also fairly reasonably priced. We didn't want to get a super cheap one that was junk. It's not too loud, and not messy at all.

The option is there to do other kinds of grinding, like rice flour or cornmeal flour, or coarse-grinding grains for a chewier texture, but I've only ever adventured into using Hard Red Spring Wheat Berries and Soft White Winter Wheat Berries at the finest grind.

For the most part, I'm pretty pleased with our purchase. But I have to admit, it's taken some adjusting in how I do my baking. I still haven't completely gotten the hang of making My Fav Sourdough Bread Recipe with freshly ground flour. It just makes for a denser loaf using freshly ground flour, because, at least with our grain mill, it doesn't get quite as finely ground as what we were buying pre-ground. It seems that I usually have to use a little more flour than a recipe calls for, since the flour includes the rough bran which doesn't seem to soak up liquid quite as well. For me, it's not as big of a deal, since I tend to do a lot of "this and that" adding to recipes and go a lot by the look and feel of the dough... yeah, I'm not super great and adhering to a recipe word for word, which sometimes works out great. And other times, not so much.

I've been using a soaked flour recipe that I found from The Urban Homemaker, which is modified from her Hand Method recipe here. I also make my own modifications, like using blackstrap molasses instead of honey and no dough enhancers. It makes a much lighter loaf, while also giving most of the flour a chance to soak, making it softer and more digestible.

I'm still experimenting when I can, in between all my daily tasks. I've tried to do some research on tricks to baking with freshly ground flour, but have been coming up short. So if you have any suggestions, I'm all ears!

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