Why grinding grains for flour and baking is WORTH it, the best way to jump right in, and much wisdom from a grain milling expert.
Today’s interview is one I’m excited to share with you, and it’s the last in this Grinding Challenge Series, as we’ve explored how to bake with einkorn, incredible gluten-free baking tips, and why bioindividuality should be at the root of all of our food choices.
I had the honor and pleasure of interviewing Paul LeBeau who heads up Wolfgang Mock, the company who designed and created the Mockmill. He talks to me all the way from Germany, which does mean that we had some technical issues and decided to turn off video so that audio would be more consistent. Please forgive the fact that you can’t see his handsome face as he speaks! 😉
In this interview, you’ll hear about:
- why milling grain may be important to our health (what I mentioned in the post about mixing your own gluten-free flour blends plus more!),
- how it connects us to the land and our food,
- the beauty of freshly ground flour in baking,
- and especially how the Wolfgang Mock company is working to get a mill in every home.
Their design is pretty fantastic, and I’m very excited about the sustainability and practicality that has been built into the mill.
Paul has a wealth of experience and information, and I know you’ll enjoy our important conversation.
Video: “A Grain Mill in Every Kitchen” (Interview with Paul Lebeau)
If you can’t view the video above, click A Grain Mill in Every Home to see it directly on YouTube.
Grab the Audio:
Click here to download the mp3 version of the interview (to take with you) or just listen to it now without taking the resources on your device for video.
No Time to Listen? Skim Here!
I’m a busy mom too, so for those of you who don’t have time right now for a long interview, please enjoy these notes to help you both learn a bit just by reading, and also perhaps skip to certain parts of the video to get more details about something that truly interests you.
Tell us a little bit about your background and how you came to be working with bread? (0:52)
- 0:55 – Started in the medical field, for 35 years, showing doctors and other medical individuals there are better techniques available in the industry.
Paul’s tagline on Linkedin is: “We’ll all live to be 100, but how well?” (2:24)
The Wolfgang Mock brand has given itself the mission of “Seeing a grain mill placed in every kitchen over the next twenty years.” How did you decide to want to just change the world and get a mill in every home in the next twenty years? (3:30)
- 3:48 – This goal was originally set over 40 years ago.
- 4:10 – Paul lists several eating habits from past generations (powdered milk, concentrated orange juice, powdered eggs, etc.) that were considered normal eating behavior back then that are not obsolete. His hope is that like those eating habits we can change to encourage the use of grain milling in our daily lives as well.
- 5:54 – Pretty much everyone agrees that the fresher a product is the better it tastes and the more nutritious it is, this same principle can easily be applied to grains in our homes.
I’ve been testing out the Mockmill. I know that the Mockmill has come some cool features and some cool functions. The literature talks about five reasons to mill your own flour.
- It’s good for you.
- You are in charge.
- Better flavor.
- Our living culture.
Can we break each one of these down? What’s the difference between baking your own bread and baking your own bread with freshly milled flour? (6:13)
- 6:58 – “Imagine looking at a grain of wheat. Just take a grain of wheat and put it between your thumb and your forefinger and take a look at that. And ponder the fact that that’s a marvelous little treasure chest in nature. Inside there, there is a life. It’s a viable life, it’s a plant, it’s an embryo and it will stay nice and compact there doing nothing for at least a year, maybe years or a decade or maybe centuries and still be capable of sprouting when it’s time comes and it gets it’s warm and moist visit as it feels it needs to get. And it will have the sensors for that. And it will know it’s time to go. And when it does, it will have the food it needs, it’s carrying it on its back in this huge, huge, huge backpack of plant food to get going and sprouting it’s roots and start looking for food and water in its environment. So it’s a marvelous little package, the neat thing is, it will last that long because it is wrapped up in this sublime tapestry of tens of thousands of its phytochemicals that all have a job to do in protecting it against all the things that would destroy it. It’s got antioxidants in it, anti-fungal, anti-bacterial components. It’s all this wonderful package and all those phytochemicals as best we know are good for us.”
- 8:54 – Once you open the “treasure chest” all the good things stored inside of it start to leak out. The nutrient levels start to drop.
- 9:13 – Paul compares the “treasure chest” of nutrients found in freshly milled flour to that of the shelf stable flours we see in our grocery stores.
- 9:52 – Commercial whole wheat flour cannot be whole and unadulterated since it’s shelf life would only be three weeks then. Commercial flour makers will not tell us what is taken out to make commercial whole wheat shelf stable.
- 10:40 – Whole wheat does contain lipids and oils which will oxygenate if left by themselves so in order to make shelf stable you would have to either take them out completely or deactivate those enzymes that allow them to breakdown. In a natural state of being ground up, they naturally would oxygenate.
Let’s say I milled some flour and just put it in and left it in my cupboard for three months or even a year. Is it going to smell a certain way or taste more bitter or a taste that I would know ‘this is off’ or expired grain? (13:10)
- 13:27 – It’s going to go rancid. Paul explains how to know through the example of a rancid bottle of oil that you would still be using.
- 13:45 – Consuming oxidized food will be bad for your body as well.
- 13:50 – Your taste buds are there to tell you when something is not good since it will taste bad. Foods that are in there natural state, not changed by food scientists, should taste good and will good for you.
We are not naturally drawn to bitter foods as one year olds… (14:20)
- 14:27 – Bitter is generally something that is not necessarily good for you. Salt is an example of this taste but when used in small amounts it tastes good. If you eat a spoonful it will taste bad which is the body’s way of saying that you do not need this much. The same can be said about sweets. We like a honey but eating a full teaspoon by itself can be upsetting to our stomachs.
- 15:13 – Cutting down on sugar in Katie’s family has led the adults to really enjoy more robust flavors that are more bitter. They also experience that sickeningly sweet feeling about candy now which was not the case in previous years until they retrained their taste buds.
- 16:09 – Fresh ground flour will be the best for us since it has not oxidized yet and is retaining all of those nutrients that tend to leach out with time.
Talk about flavor a little bit. What do people find is different in flavor when working with freshly milled flour in their breads?(16:32)
- 16:40 – One of the first things that people notice is how amazing the bread smells. If you like that smell Paul suggests toasting some grains before you mill them so your whole kitchen smells of the wonderful aroma.
- 17:10 – By using whole grains you are able to get some really complex new flavors. The flavor of your bread is really a product of the yeast and how it broke down your flour not the flour in and of itself.
- 18:38 – Paul compares how the complexity of bread is similar to that of wine.
Are there any pitfalls to watch out for if you’re just thinking, “Well I already bake my own bread!” Maybe it’s white, maybe it’s kind of half and half, or maybe it’s whole wheat. Is there anything that those folks would want to take out for or be ready for when switching to freshly milled either on the positive or the negative? (19:18)
- 19:39 – Positive: a lot of different choices of ryes and wheat to choose from. You can keep a large variety of grains on hand but you would have more of a challenge keeping a lot of flour varieties on hand and fresh for use.
- 20:17 – Paul explains his journey in learning to bake bread. He has never used anything to bake bread aside from what comes directly out of his mill – including yeast!
- 23:09 – Katie and Paul discuss starting a gluten-free starter for sourdough and how you could go about doing it at home.
Do people find, let’s say you are moving from commercial whole wheat to freshly ground whole wheat, is there any more density because the bran is bigger or can the Mockmill in particular really get those whole grain berries down to as fine a particle as a commercial whole wheat? So then you would not have to do anything to your recipe, you would just use the same recipe you always did. (23:55)
- 24:23 – Generalizing the measurements is difficult since everyone’s whole wheat process is so different. Also noting that the single grinding done by the Mockmill is not the same as the dozens of steps commercial whole wheat goes through.
- 24:53 – Paul explains that the texture of your commercial whole wheat is really impacted by the type of particles that are put back into the flour (taking the finest particles only vs just a general mix). This is a FASCINATING explanation!! Must watch!
- 27:24 – Bran is reducing the size of the gluten chains that can form.
- 27:54 – Have you ever wondered how gluten really affects your bread? Katie takes a moment to explain how those gluten chains/strands work and form here. Kneading bread helps with this process. Making a gluten-free bread is challenging since the lack of gluten stops the yeast from being captured in bubble inside the dough, which can be more difficult in getting it to rise.
- 31:50 – There is so much science in having your own sourdough starter culture. Paul and his colleagues have worked to educate children on the process of milling from seed.
- 32:46 – Paul tells the amazing story of the Mockmills donated to a university in South Carolina. The donation of those mills has made the professor’s once least favorite day of teaching (about whole grains) into one of his favorite. It created excitement for the students to mill their grains and see where their flour comes from.
The Grinding Challenge also inspired ME to be excited again!
More Grain Grinding Challenge Series PostsThe Grinding Challenge Series is getting me to use my Mockmill grain mill! Here’s what we’re covering:
- Intro to the challenge and a video of setting up the Mockmill for the first time
- How to Translate Whole Wheat Recipe to Einkorn (and an interview with an einkorn farmer)
- Bio-Individuality – why it’s both the new face of health and the genesis of this whole project
- How to Translate Baking Recipes to Weights
- Why Baking with Weights Is the Best for Kids
- Testing Pizza Dough with Freshly Milled Grain: Whole Wheat, Einkorn, Gluten-free (whole grain and not-whole-grain)
- Interview with a Master Gluten-free Baker
- Testing Tortillas with Freshly Milled Grain: Whole Wheat and Gluten-free
- Why Mill Your Own Gluten-free Grains?
- How to Make a Gluten-free Sourdough Starter
- Whole Grain, Gum-Free Gluten-free Flour Blend (& a bit on whether xanthan gum is bad for you)
- Interview with a Grain Milling Expert
- The Official Kitchen Stewardship® Mockmill Review
One of my goals with the grinding challenge and just really getting back into bread, I really used to bake a lot and then it just kind of fallen off. And so this Mockmill challenge was a really great opportunity for me to get back into it and to fall in love with whole grains, gluten-free, Einkorn, we are just playing with all of them. I knew baking by weight was supposed to be more precise and that it is better than baking by measurement. I also saw that as an opportunity to remove a layer of complexity for children when baking. Google is showing a wide range of weights for a simple cup of a certain grain, sometimes up to 50 grams. I would love to know what tips you have for converting recipes in measurements to those of weight so we can be a little more precise with our baking. (34:06)
- 36:00 – A digital scale is very affordable today which helps to make this possible. Paul says it is best to just switch to grams and forget ounces.
- 36:54 – Here is how to convert your family recipes. Take your old recipe and your old ingredients, measure out the same way you used to and then weigh those ingredients so you know how many grams they would come to. Make a listing of all those personal ingredients just one time and then refer to it as needed. Note: weights will be varied based on brand of flour you use and also the type of flour you use (you may need a bit more water).
- 41:58 – Society has become very dependent on the food companies…
A challenge from Paul:
Are you ready to take back the control of your food and what you are putting into your body?
What sets the Mockmill apart from other home mills that are on the market? (43:35)
- 44:18 – It is a culmination of many features. Mockmill gives an attractive mill that grinds fine flour and is easy to care for in terms of cleaning. The Mockmill is also very affordable today for a family to purchase.
- 46:10 – They would like everyone to feel encouraged to use a Mockmill so they feel like they can do things that they never thought they could do.
- 46:39 – The main grinding apparatus is made from wood chip and other biodegradable materials that are not plastic, so it is good for the environment.
Totally fascinating…I love my job, that I get to connect with people of such experience from all over the world, literally, and ask them any question I want, then share their knowledge with you – people from all over the world! Love it!!
Recipes We’ve Worked on in the Series:
- Spelt Banana Muffins
- Einkorn Applesauce Muffins (with peanut butter variation)
- 100% Whole Grain Gluten-free Tortillas
- Whole Wheat Pizza
- Crispy Crust Gluten-Free Pizza (amazing!)
- Einkorn Pizza Dough
- 100% Whole Grain Gluten-Free Pizza Crusts (no gum!)
- How to Make a Gluten-Free Sourdough Starter
Don’t worry, if you don’t have a grain mill or couldn’t imagine yourself grinding grain yourself, I’ll be sure to address when any of these CAN’T be done with commercial flour. Usually, recipes are very compatible!