Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Member Spotlight: Grinding Grains with Trish Stewart

Council President and Daylily Garden Club Past President Trish Stewart holds up a bowl of freshly ground red wheat in her Durham kitchen. Stewart uses fresh grains and mills them herself for all of her family's bread.
Photos by J.S. Corser, Durham Co. Master Gardener.
Fresh biscotti made with soft white wheat.
Fresh rolls made with a combination of wheat.

Editor’s note: Council President Trish Stewart takes baking bread to the highest organic level with milling her own wheat and grains. Learn how to do it yourself with her account including tips and resources to get started!

By Trish Stewart
DCGC President

I grew up eating white bread like everybody else did. My husband and I switched to wheat bread years ago, and we really like wheat bread. We just became more and more conscious of organic products and what was in our food, and what is in bread (that is so not nutritious), and how there’s virtually 40 of the 42 nutrients that the body needs are found in the grain of wheat, and that flour processors take most all of these nutrients out when they mill the wheat. So we thought, if we’re going to eat bread, then maybe we ought to eat good bread, so we got into milling. It hardly takes any longer than to go scoop flour out of a bin at a grocery store!


I purchase only whole grains (not flour or pre-milled grains). I own a very wonderful small Komo Magic Grain Mill which sits on my counter, and I grind my own grains. There are schools of thought on everything, but one school believes that the nutrients and flavor dissipate quickly after milling. I only mill what I plan to use, and I store several different grains. Hard red wheat and hard white wheat is typically grown in the Midwest because it needs that kind of climate to grow best. They have a higher protein/gluten and are used for breads. Soft white wheat is grown in the South and is also called pastry flour as it is lower protein and works better for cakes, etc. When you use the entire grain, the germ actually "cuts" the rising dough and it is hard to get a light, fluffy loaf, like sandwich bread. I get past that by adding vital wheat gluten and powdered milk, and if I have it, whey from making Greek yogurt. We make our own Greek yogurt, and let it sit and drip out the whey. If I have whey, I use it in bread because it will make the bread stay fresher longer and it will make the bread rise a little bit higher. I love being able to add whey!

For about two days, the bread is great for sandwiches, and after that it is a little dry so a grilled sandwich is best, and a day or so after that it's gone moldy. I use coconut oil instead of butter or other oil in the ingredients and all my ingredients are organic, except yeast and salt which I have never seen in organic forms. I typically make bread with hard white wheat - red wheat is "nuttier" - and spelt is just incredible, with an expensive grain. I've had people eat my bread and while they know it's not plain white bread, they have no idea that it is 100% whole wheat, because, you know, they "don't like whole wheat bread" (or so they thought!).


I shop at The Bread Beckers outside of Atlanta about once a year and buy a supply - their vendor puts carbon dioxide in the storage barrel which removes oxygen and kills all the tiny critters. (I've bought organic from other sources and had a little issue once with "moving grain" --with insects...didn't like that, though a visit to the freezer and some sifting before milling takes care of the problem, it was annoying!) I use my soft wheat for almost everything... waffles, cookies, brownies, scones, pie crusts, most cakes (though I rarely bake cakes!), and even gravy, but I go back to a pre-milled organic white flour for popovers as I haven't figured out how to get the whole wheat to rise enough, and biscuits are fluffier with some white flour, too. The Bread Beckers also has organic spelt, and an ancient Egyptian grain branded as “Kamut ® Brand ORGANIC Korasan Wheat,” both of which are hard to find.


I have a really nice Zojirushi bread machine that can be tricky as once it starts. You can't adjust time, etc, and you can get problems from over or under proofing if the ingredient proportions are slightly off. But I weigh ingredients so that rarely happens. It takes 5-10 minutes to mill the flour—about four cups—and get ingredients into the pan. This can be done in the evening, set the timer on the machine, and wake up to a warm, fresh loaf of nutritious and delicious bread. Not much "discipline" required for that!

Other tools in my kitchen include an oatmeal flaker, the KoMo FlicFloc Flaker, which grinds oat grains, for fresh tasting oatmeal.

References for Bakers

I strongly recommend the following resources for people who want to learn about grinding their own organic grains. I took a class at The Bread Beckers in 2014 that was really informative. I’ve been milling grains since 2012, and baking organic whole wheat bread and baked goods—it’s not a complicated thing!

“The Essential Home-Ground Flour Book” by Sue Becker, May 10, 2016

“Whole Grain Baking Made Easy” by Tabitha Alterman, January 15, 2015

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