I did my first grind of wheat today! About two weeks ago, I ordered a bag of wheat berries for testing our grain mill and for attempting to grow our own wheat. I have some more research to do on planting the wheat, but hopefully, we can have some success in that, if only to know that we CAN do it.
I haven’t played around with my little hand mill very much since receiving it, but only because I’ve been too sick or tired to work with much of anything pertaining to cooking or baking since getting pregnant. But I have enjoyed using it so far! If we do get to a point where we’d be growing most of our own grains, or even to a place where we wanted to just order all of our wheat berries and grind our own flour, then we may invest in a larger mill, but this is a good starting place for us to figure out if we have any serious interest or not.
Grinding the wheat was definitely more of a challenge than grinding the corn. With the corn, I didn’t need or particularly want as fine of a grind, because cornmeal typically has a bit of “grit” to it. The wheat, however, we did want a finer grind on. It took two passes through the mill to get a consistency I was happy with. The first was a fairly fine grind, but there were still quite a few large pieces in the flour, even after sifting.
We adjusted the grind and went a second time. There was still quite a bit of coarse meal left over. Grinding 6 cups of wheat berries produced 6 cups of a “whole wheat” flour, plus about 3 additional cups of the coarse meal (possibly called middlings?). I haven’t spent any time looking into what can be done with the stuff that was too coarse for the bread I wanted to make. If I figure that out (or if you have suggestions), I will be sure to share that with you!
All of the wheat was sifted through a strainer. If I had used something with a finer mesh, I could have had a finer finished product, but I was okay with having something with the body of whole wheat.
We really need to get a better setup for the grinder, as clamping it to the table is just not good enough. The table rocks, so I had to sit on it while the kids took turns grinding. The clamp wiggles on the table, too, so we’d like to clamp and screw it to the kitchen island, because then it will definitely not move around. It can be a little difficult to get the mill going, but once you do, if you keep it moving steadily, it’s not too difficult to do. Though, being pregnant, I was panting pretty heavily at the end of the last grind! We joked that whoever does the grinding will have big biceps and washboard abs.
Like I said, the final product was about what you’d get from a “whole wheat” flour. We used hard white winter wheat berries. I really don’t know if we would have ended up with different results using a soft wheat instead, so that may be something we play around with eventually. I knew in getting this mill that this wouldn’t really produce a pastry flour, but it worked well for baking bread, and I’m sure it would work well for making cookies.
I used the recipe I typically use for making bread, which is the Sweet Homestead Loaves I’ve shared before. I forgot to double check the proofing time on the yeast, and only gave it 10 minutes as opposed to the 15-20 minutes I’d normally give it, so I’m not sure how much more it would have risen, but everything rose nicely. This didn’t have nearly as much gluten in it as the flour I typically use, so it was far less stretchy than I am accustomed to. I probably could have given it another 15 minutes on the rise, but I don’t know how much of a difference it would have made.
The flavor was comparable to most whole wheat I have used, though it tasted fresh in comparison, which makes sense, given it was freshly ground. The color of the baked bread was more yellow than I anticipated. Most whole wheat I have baked is a little bit mor brown in color. Not that this didn’t have any of that, but it was somewhere between the color of the bread I’d bake using normal, unbleached bread flour, and the whole wheat I usually use.
The boys enjoyed the flavor of the bread quite a bit. I liked it, but I wouldn’t be as apt to polish off a loaf all on my own like I would with the flour I typically use. It was really good, probably more filling and satisfying, so I guess that’s a good thing! But each of the boys wanted another piece, so it was definitely a success. I could see ordering more wheat berries for grinding at some point down the road when I’ve used my stash of flour up, but that could be awhile. (Assuming we don’t have any that we’ve grown ourselves.) It’d be fun to just have some on hand for the kids to grind up once in a while or for company to play around with. In the meantime, we’ll just use corn for grinding, and maybe test grinding some other things, like peanuts.
Even though grinding the wheat was labor intensive with this mill, and I won’t be grinding all my own flour with it any time soon, it is something I’m definitely interested in pursuing further. Someday, when we’re better at all of these things that we do (from gardening, to canning, to making our own bread), and we have good routines established, and maybe life isn’t so hectic with little ones running around, I could see myself grinding flour daily to make bread, or even just doing a larger batch once or twice a week. If we do have success growing and harvesting wheat down the road, then we’ll definitely look into investing in a large grain mill.
I think the next step is to make a batch of corn bread using our corn and grinding some wheat berries for the flour, and see what kind of results we get!
Have you ever ground your flour? Do you use an electric mill or a hand-crank one? What’s your preference and why?
Love and Blessings~Danielle