17 August 2015

Grinding grain

Once you start asking "What is in this?" before eating something, it's really hard to stop... Even with things I tend to think of as "healthy," I'm finding myself double-checking ingredient lists. It's shocking to realize, for example, how many "multigrain" and "whole wheat" bread products have bleached white flour in them! I try to bake all of our breads myself, but buying whole wheat flour with nothing else added to it can get expensive, at least at the rate that I like to bake. One way we've found to make it more affordable has been to buy whole grain to grind into flour ourselves.

Being super pregnant, then having a new baby, and then realizing that the lid on the bucket of spelt berries was stuck on super super tight have kept me putting it off all summer, but yesterday with Matt's help I finally set up my Mother's Day grain grinder. I know, those don't all sound like equally-good excuses, and they aren't, but in my defense it seriously took my strong husband more than 10 minutes to open that lid today. "You really weren't exaggerating," he grumbled. "Yes, please order yourself the attachment to put a screw-on lid on this bucket, because I am not taking this off again."

Lid finally removed, we ran our first batch of spelt through the grinder, and it turned out perfectly. I'm using a WonderMill, which has settings for bread (all-purpose flour), pastry flour, and a coarse grind like cornmeal. Yesterday we just used the bread grind, but I'm looking forward to seeing how much of a difference the pastry grind makes; I have a record of using regular whole grain flour in doughs that should be light, and having them turn out... not light.

In less than two minutes, four cups of spelt berries turned into somewhere between seven and eight cups of flour.

Opening the canister when the grinding was done sure took me back; it smelled just like my mom's kitchen on a grain-grinding day when I was in high school. I haven't had fresh-from-the-grinder spelt flour to work with in years!

And there's not much that smells or tastes better than fresh-baked bread made with fresh-ground flour. While Matt put Little Bear to bed, Kit and I set a batch of sandwich roll dough rising. Because time and exposure to the air have not yet broken down the lipoproteins and unsaturated fatty acids of the grain, dough made from freshly-ground flour behaves slightly differently than dough from flour that's been sitting on a shelf for months. My dough was softer, more pliant, and had a rich, almost buttery aroma. The resulting sandwich rolls rose remarkably, and came out soft and chewy with just enough crust. The speckles are the bran, which is less finely ground (and thus more pronounced) than it would be in commercially produced flour.

Sandwich Rolls

1 3/4 cups milk
4 1/2 teaspoons yeast
4 tablespoons sugar
2 1/2 cups spelt or whole wheat flour
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon salt
1/2 cup olive oil

Warm milk to roughly 120 degrees F. Stir in yeast and sugar; set aside to proof. In a mixing bowl, combine flours and salt. When yeast has proofed, mix into dry ingredients along with oil. Knead six to eight minutes, adding more flour if necessary, to make a soft, slightly sticky but manageable, dough. Cover and let rise until doubled, about one hour.

Punch down risen dough and divide into eight to twelve rolls, round or oblong. Place rolls on a greased baking sheet, leaving a good inch between them. Cover and let rise again while the oven preheats to 425 degrees F. Bake 12 minutes or until rolls are a deep golden brown. Remove from pan promptly and cool on a wire rack.


  1. Do you know if this would work with just water or any sort of milk alternative? I have the hardest time finding non-dairy sandwich bread recipes!

    I love the idea of grinding your own grain! So cool!

    1. I checked with my mom, who gave me this recipe, and she says that it would work with water instead of milk; it just won't be as soft. She recommended adding some dough enhancer to help with that; hers has whey in it, but I checked online and there are some brands of dairy-free dough enhancer.