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Well, if I blurt out the truth—that the only way to get nutritious, delicious bread is to grind flour at home—you’ll be skeptical. After all, you should be able to buy the world’s best-tasting, most nutritious bread or flour in any mom ‘n pop store in this rich and bountiful country. Unfortunately, you can’t. And that’s why this book had to be written.
Now, the whole idea of home grain grinding may evoke images of bra-less, batik-skirted, long-haired earth muffins from the sixties. But this book isn’t like that. No unrealistic pleas to stop and smell the roses. No admonitions about the soul-withering pace of your life. There are just the facts about a quick, easy, delicious way to get essential vitamins, minerals and fiber back into your diet, without more time in the kitchen.
Most people are surprised at the idea of grinding flour at home. They ask, "Why bother?" As you’ll see, there are many reasons to mill at home, but let’s start with the two most important ones–nutrition and flavor.
HOW NUTRITIOUS IS YOUR BREAD?
In 1999, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) began to allow marketers to claim that their whole-grain products could reduce the risk of heart disease and cancer — as long as the product contained at least 51 percent whole grain. This slackening of the tight reins on the use of health claims in advertising resulted from a century’s worth of scientific evidence linking diets high in whole grains, fruits and vegetables — but fairly low in fats — with low incidences of many modern diseases, such as colon and bowel cancers, hemorrhoids, diverticular disease, hiatal hernia, varicose veins, appendicitis, and circulatory diseases. Americans have alarming rates of these and other diet-related health problems, so they are repeatedly urged by nutritionists, researchers, and doctors to cut down on fats and eat more whole grains.
All grains contain a rich supply of protein, fiber, vitamins, minerals, enzymes, and oils. Whole-grain wheat is similar to oats, rye, corn, brown rice, barley, millet and other grains, but is special in one respect — it alone has enough gluten to make light, flavorful loaves of leavened bread. Since bread is one of our favorite foods, we gladly eat lots of it. But if this is true, why are we constantly badgered to eat more whole grains? The answer to this question lies in the fact that most prepared foods in the "grains" category on the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA’s) Food Pyramid are made from white flour, which does not contain the whole grain. In fact, only about one of our daily grain servings comes from whole-grain products. The others come from items like white bread, corn and tortilla chips, and other overprocessed products that use ingredients extracted from the whole grain.
To make white flour, as well as corn and rye flours, commercial millers start by breaking kernels into the following three parts: the bran, which contains most of the grain’s fiber and minerals; the germ, which contains most of the vitamins and unsaturated fats; and the endosperm, which contains most of the grain’s protein. Only one part of the grain, the endosperm, is ground up to make white flour. The nutritious bran and germ are discarded — and usually fed to animals — along with most of the fiber and minerals. Any vitamins not purposely discarded are frequently casualties of the long, destructive flour-milling process.
Of course, some of the nutritious elements that disappear in processing are added back through the government’s mandatory enrichment program. But not all. The most significant loss is the insoluble fiber in the bran. This fiber is important because it has been found to help prevent and treat a throng of modern disorders, ranging from constipation to cardiovascular disease. The best way to restore this valuable fiber to the diet is to begin eating the whole grain again. And the quickest, most practical and delicious way to eat more whole grains is to grind flour and make bread at home.
But is it really necessary to mill flour at home? Couldn’t you buy commercial whole-wheat bread instead of white? Couldn’t you order your deli sandwich on whole wheat, or — at most — make whole-wheat bread at home using store-bought flour? There’s at least one problem with all of these plans: most commercial whole wheat flour has faced just as much processing as white flour. Even worse, many commercial whole-wheat products are made primarily from white flour, with just enough bran peppered in to give them a healthful-looking brown tinge. (This is why the government limited the whole-grain health claim to those products that get at least 51 percent of the flour from "whole meal.")
Okay, but you can buy whole-wheat flour from the health food store, right? Sure, it’s there. But how old is it? The nutrients in flour begin to degrade the moment the protective shell is broken and the inner components are exposed to air. Heat and moisture can accelerate the chemical reactions that produce nutrient degradation. How many nutrients were destroyed by excessive heat during milling, or while sitting in the back of a hot van or next to a heater in the back room at the store? More important, was the wheat used to make the flour the best available for bread, or was it an inferior grain, with only enough gluten to produce harsh-tasting little bricks rather than tasty light loaves?
So, if you can’t trust commercial whole wheat — and you’ll be certain of that after you’ve read the first chapter of this book — there are really only two ways to get more whole grains in your diet. You can learn to prepare (and like) other whole grains, such as brown rice, oats, millet, barley, spelt and amaranth; or you can find a quick, easy alternative to commercial wheat flour.
For most people, this is not a difficult decision. It’s hard to launch an exotic new diet. It’s easy to buy a home flour mill and a bag of wheat, and a bread machine if time is a factor. That’s all it takes to eat more whole grains naturally. But will your bread be delicious? Read on!
IS YOUR BREAD DELICIOUS?
Home-ground whole wheat flour makes incredibly delicious bread. You may be suspicious of this claim. In fact, lots of people think they don’t like 100-percent whole-wheat bread. They think it’s heavy and earthy tasting. But if I grind up three and a half cups of fresh whole-wheat flour from my good grain and make a loaf out of it, everybody who tries it loves it. Everybody.
So why isn’t whole wheat the hottest selling bread out there? Because store-bought whole-wheat bread just doesn’t taste good. Even bread made at home from most commercial whole wheat doesn’t taste good. This is because the same overprocessing that destroys nutrients also destroys flavor. That’s why the only way to make great bread is to start with great flour. And the only way to get great flour is to grind your own. In no time you’ll be making fluffy, light, delicious loaves of whole-meal bread that will win the hearts of your friends and loved ones!
WHY IT DOESN'T STOP THERE...
Many people are thrilled just to get nutrition and flavor back in their bread. They leave it at that. But others grip their grinders and dash into a bright new world of culinary possibilities. First, they start mixing wheats. Spring and winter wheats have individual personalities. A little durum or hard white wheat, or even fresh cornmeal, can add interesting flavor and texture to breads. Or for that hearty European flavor, freshly ground rye and wheat flours provide a slice of dark-bread heaven. Then, a delightful discovery for grain-grinding zealots is the incomparable flavor that soft white wheat gives to cookies, cakes, muffins and quick breads. Eventually, they move on to pizza dough, whole-meal noodles, buckwheat pancakes and polenta, then to bean or rice flours, and, finally, even grinding oily items like soybeans and nuts.
The right home grinder can turn a kitchen into a supermarket of exotic grains and flours — products that can be used not just for yeast breads, but many other delightful dishes, as well. Remember that gluten content pushed wheat to the top of the pop grain charts for some parts of the world, but rice, corn, rye, buckwheat, oats and millet have certainly had their centuries of fame, and are more popular than wheat in other cultures today. Many wonderful ethnic recipes that may be prepared only once or twice a year call for exotic flours. Small quantities of various grains can be stored for grinding when needed, so that the flour is always fresh and fragrant — as it should be. And there is nothing like fresh, fragrant, home-ground cornmeal!
But beyond nutrition, flavor and culinary exploration, some people like the idea of having a grain mill for food self-sufficiency. A store of grain — which keeps almost indefinitely under proper storage conditions — and a mill that converts from electrical to hand operation can provide a nearly endless food supply in the event of a natural disaster. The addition of powdered milk to dough turns bread into an excellent protein source.
Now you know how nutritious, delicious, and fun home flour grinding can be. All that remains for you to learn is how easy it is.
HOW EASY IT IS
Nobody seems surprised to learn that white bread is so bereft of nutrients that laboratory rats died when placed on a diet of white bread and water. Yet people are astonished to learn that the whole operation of grinding flour and baking bread at home can be an easy daily task. True statement. Grinding grain is no more complicated than grinding coffee beans for breakfast. And bread machines have reduced the time we have to spend actually working at the bread-making process from hours to minutes.
So now anyone — from a frantic working parent to a retiree who refuses to spend another minute in the kitchen — has time to make great bread. But how much time are we really talking about here? It depends. You don’t need a bread machine, but it’s the bread making — not grinding — that takes time, so many people do choose to buy one of these handy appliances. (At the very least, it does a superb job of kneading bread.) Then you need a grinder. Once you’re set up with these two machines and some good, high-protein wheat, it will take about 10 minutes at night to grind the flour, throw ingredients into the bread machine, and clean up. If you’re a coffee drinker, you can get that machine ready. Set both timers. Then, in the morning, the mingling aromas of fresh-baked bread and fresh-brewed coffee will lure you out of bed. When you get around to it, you can dump the bread out of the machine and fill the bread pan with soaking water. If you’re retired, you can plop into a comfortable chair with your paper and toast. The rest of you can rip off a hunk of fresh-baked bread, grab your mug, and sprint for the car.
IF IT'S SO EASY, WHY A WHOLE BOOK?
This is a good question, and it deserves a good answer. To begin with, although it’s not our fault, most modern people are seriously ignorant in the areas of wheat, flour and bread making. Once we turned flour milling and bread making over to professionals, we no longer needed to know which wheat made the best bread or cake or bagels — or why. We didn’t need to know how bran interfered with gluten and what adjustments were needed to compensate. We didn’t need to know which flour mill would do the best and most healthful job of turning grain into flour.
Similarly, although modern machinery has made home grinding and bread making an easy operation, most people don’t know how to buy the right machines for the job. Most bread machines can produce great bread using home-ground whole meal, but it’s important to know why you might want to pay extra for options like a timer or a stronger motor. As to grain mills, the basic technical requirements are fairly simple: something that produces flour without overheating or overgrinding it. But the choice is complicated by the existence of more than 30 grain mills offering many different styles and a surprising range of features. Which machine is best? Well, the real question is which machine is best for you and your lifestyle. If you buy the wrong one, you may be making a costly mistake.
The first problem you may encounter in picking the right machine out of this collection is finding the collection in the first place. Your local health food store may carry a couple of grain mills, but what about the many others that are sold through mail-order catalogs or the Internet? This book helps you find the entire collection.
What else will you find? To begin at the beginning, Chapter 1 traces flour processing from crushing grains between rocks to the "microsurgery" performed by today’s super-efficient roller mills, and explains why it is preferable to grind flour at home. Chapters 2 and 3 discuss the nutritional deficiencies of commercial flour and the impact flour milling losses have had on our national health. Chapter 4 moves beyond nutrition to other reasons why people choose to mill flour at home, such as achieving optimum flavor in bread, experimenting with grains such as corn and rye, adding whole grains to the diet of those with gluten allergies, ensuring food self-sufficiency and many more.
Chapter 5 shows how quick and easy home flour milling and bread making can be (with a "Quick-Pick Option" for those in a BIG hurry)and Chapter 6 offers some ideas for those who want to restore whole grains to their diets but doubt that they can afford the machines to do it.
Chapter 7 gets into the technical aspects of flour mills, from basic milling mechanisms to the advantages and disadvantages of virtually every feature that will be encountered in the selection process. There is also an in-depth questionnaire that makes it easy to evaluate any flour mill.
Chapter 8 is a primer on wheat, with special emphasis on its bread-making characteristics. You’ll learn why not all wheat varieties make good bread and how to select the right wheat for bread or any other baking project. Chapter 9 introduces other grains that can add variety and interest to the diet of a home miller. Chapter 10 gives tips on locating, ordering and storing grains. Chapter 11 discusses bread making and presents "secret ingredients" that make whole-meal bread light, airy and scrumptious, every time. Chapter 12 provides simple recipes for bread and related dishes, and Chapter 13 tells you how to use whole meal to make delicious desserts.
In addition, the Appendix contains a brief run-down on over 30 different mills, including addresses, telephone numbers and web sites where you can get more information. You will also find a list of those all-important sources for buying the best bread wheats, a list of sources for other grains and a list of books about whole-meal bread making.
There is no greater health and flavor bonanza than bread made from freshly ground grains. When modern flour mills and bread machines turned bread making into a minor kitchen task, even the busiest person gained the power to restore old-fashioned flavor and health to their diet. It is my hope that this book will encourage you to enjoy the power of flour every day for the rest of your life.
Posted October 21, 2001
An outstanding book full of information about grains, mills and nutrition. There is a comprehensive guide to purching a grain mill and some great recipes. The book is well written, witty and entertaining as well. A must have for anyone considering milling their own flour or anyone who enjoys baking with whole meal flours.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.