Your mission, if you choose to accept, is to bake some homemade bread this week. If you’re already well-versed in the art of bread baking, it’s time to consider grinding your own flour.
I’ve felt a little bogged down by all this conflicting, sometimes depressing research on soaking grains. It’s time for a happy week – so let’s make some bread!
Childhood memories can come rushing back with just a whiff of a familiar smell. When we toast my mom’s homemade Cinnamon Raisin Bread, I can immediately sense the wintertime sun sparkling into her kitchen, loaves in bags all tied up with Christmas ribbon for our teachers, who would look forward to having one of us in their classroom just for that bread.
I never thought I’d be one to make my own bread regularly. I’m sure that sometime in the past year, I claimed, “See, I don’t make my own bread. I’ll never make everything from scratch.” I had good reasons for that.
I made whole wheat bread once. Rock.
I made an all-white flour braided bread once. Dense as a dumpling.
When I knead dough, I get all sticky and flour everywhere and frustrated (in no particular order). I imagined myself making bread on a regular basis and thought it would probably be so bad for my family that it might be sinful to even try. Crabby mommies aren’t any fun!
Now I very regularly make homemade whole wheat sourdough, surprising me most of all. It only took a few doorstops and straight-to-crouton loaves, and I figured it out! Next week I’ll tell you everything I know about sourdough starters and bread baking the following week, but for now, let’s warm up to the idea of homemade bread. If I can do it, believe me, you can too!
If you have a bread machine, Bosch or KitchenAid mixer with a dough hook, you’ll be surprised at how easy making your own bread can be. There are also now such easy yeast bread recipes that you don’t even need fancy equipment. (I’ll review Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day this week, hopefully with a soaked alternative.)
If you have a favorite homemade yeast bread recipe, it can be modified for soaking easily. Find a short tutorial here.
If you don’t have a favorite recipe, here are a few options:
- Lindsay’s Soaked Whole Wheat Bread
- Phoebe’s 100% Whole Wheat Bread
- Money Saving Mom’s Whole Wheat Bread (no gluten or dough enhancer)
- Two “best ever” recipes from a reader:
Sandra’s Bread(Link no longer available)
- Want something easier? The breadmaker rolls we love around here from The Happy Housewife.
- Note: I haven’t tried any of the breads, but they’re in my “to try” folder here on the computer. Someday!
- Vital Wheat Gluten is often called for in whole wheat bread recipes. You should be able to find it under that name near the flours in your local grocery store. It will help the rise and fluffiness a lot.
UPDATE: I almost forgot a great bread baking resource! Urban Homemaker has a free eBook called Steps to the Best Bread, which includes ways to soak the grains. Marilyn Moll, the boss lady over there, is truly a master of bread. UH also sells products to help you bake your best, and I’m super excited that she’s working with KS to share one of them with you guys next week when we tackle sourdough! (No, it’s not a grain mill. Maybe someday I’ll be that cool!)
Why Make Homemade Bread?
- Great taste.
- Total ingredient control.
- Saves money.
- House smells great.
- Butter delivery to your mouth.
I want to try the recipes in my ‘to try’ folder too! Sometime in the fall I’ll run a series called “Seeking the Perfect Homemade Whole Wheat Bread” and try one per week, giving points for nutrition, soaked/not, sandwich quality, toastables, fluffiness, kid-appeal, and more.
What Kind of Flour to Buy
You can bake bread from any flour with gluten, but wheat is the basic choice. Hard red winter wheat is the proper name for the whole wheat flour we purchase in a store. Hard white winter wheat is the name for my favorite wheat, sold as “white whole wheat.” I like my bread half traditional whole wheat and half white whole wheat to get the best of both worlds: red wheat is slightly higher in gluten for a better rise, and white wheat has a lighter taste.
Be sure to look for unbromated whole wheat flour – King Arthur states that on their package, and Gold Medal claimed to be unbromated when I called the company. Potassium bromate is a preservative you don’t need to be dealing with.
I know many of you are already baking bread, either regularly or occasionally. For you, an extra bonus challenge:
Consider a Grain Mill
It’s quite oft quoted that a grain loses a ton of nutrients to oxidation in the first 24-48 hours after being milled. The only way to get all the vitamins and minerals from your whole grains, then, is to mill it yourself. I was contemplating a grain mill at Christmastime, but having (1) one more thing to do to bake and (2) one more appliance in a house we’re trying to sell convinced me I had better wait a year.
I know where I’m going for answers when it’s time to buy one:
- GNOWFGLINS comparison of grain mill options.
- Heavenly Homemakers talks about why to get a grain mill and the various options out there, including: Bosch Nutrimill Grain Mill and The WonderMill Grain Mill, among others.
- Buy Grain Mills at Amazon.
- Passionate Homemaking sings the praises of her Blendtec blender, which can grind a cup of grain at a time.
Why is Freshly Ground Flour Important?
This might be enough to convince me to get a grain mill sooner rather than later…
- Keep your nutrients: light and air destroy B vitamins, and other substances, both fats and proteins, deteriorate quickly after the protective coating of the seed (wheat berry or likewise) is broken.
- Phytase is activated when the kernel is cracked, therefore freshly ground wheat has more phytase activity than stored flour. (The Role of Phytase in Soaking Grains)
- Don’t let your flour go rancid because of the oil in the wheat germ.
- Don’t be a dead rat: in a study, rats fed white bread and bread from flour that sat only 15 days were infertile within four generations. Rats that ate freshly milled flour and bread were healthy. (source)
- It apparently tastes better…
You can grind a lot of grain at once and then immediately freeze the outcome to preserve all the nutrients and save time when it’s time to bake.