Dear hubby and I recently celebrated our 7th wedding anniversary. We kind of went overboard in our enthusiasm, but both of us ended up happy so I guess it was worth it. I bought him a 16′ fishing boat complete with 9.8 hp Mercury motor, trolling motor, and fish finder. It also came with a custom trailer that makes loading and unloading super easy. I have a feeling that once we are actually living on our land, that boat will see a lot of time on local rivers and lakes. Until then, it’s stored up at our land 25 minutes away. We’ve taken it out twice in the past couple weeks, and everyone had a blast. I think the biggest fish we’ve caught was a whopping 4″ from nose to tail.

My gift was a brand new Country Living Grain Mill with corn and bean auger. Yahoo!

Now I can put my money where my mouth is and start making truly homemade bread. It takes about 20-25 minutes to grind 8 cups of flour with my weak, flabby arms. I’m sure I’ll get faster the more I use it. The kids are still too little to effectively grind anything.

So have I experimented? Yes.

I find that to get a very fine flour I have to sift the first grinding and mill the big stuff at least once more. Consecutive grindings are MUCH easier than the initial one. So far I haven’t found any pieces of the milling stones in my flour. No stone dust. This was one of the reasons I admired this mill, because many of the cheaper versions take months of use to even out the stones, leaving you eating bread with rock dust in it for a long time. Yuck!

The results… have been mixed. I’ve been using hard white spring wheat from WalMart for my bread, which is naturally lower in protein and thus lower in gluten content. The breads don’t rise nearly as well as bread made with all-purpose flour. I’m currently looking for a good source of affordable hard red spring/winter wheat to experiment with. The taste of my homemade bread is wonderful! Even if it doesn’t look all nice and poofy like store-bought bread, it has a rich, nutty flavor that is excellent when toasted with butter and homemade jam. I’ve experimented with using a half and half mixture of all purpose flour and home ground flour. That seems to give me a better rise. I have some gluten on order. That might boost it even more.

The biggest issue I have is that this flour behaves so differently from store-bought flour. Not only the rise, but the texture, moisture level, taste, and weights are different. One cup of store bought flour is heavier than my home ground flour, so any recipe that goes by cups instead of ounces is automatically thrown off. I’ve also found that the home ground flour benefits greatly from a good pre-soak in milk or water for up to 24 hours before I made bread. If I skip the pre-soak stage, it’s not as moist.

Adding tins of water below the loaves of bread as they bake also helps with moisture.

I have a lot to learn about using whole grains. Eventually I want to break out into using multiple grains in my breads: flaxseed, quinoa, buckwheat, rye, oats, triticale, barley, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, and so much more! Until then, I’ll keep plugging along trying to find good recipes for common bread using one grain.

Today, I made a quick bread using a tweaked recipe I found online.

2 cups all-purpose flour
1.5 cups whole grain flour
1 T white sugar
1.5 tsp salt
5 tsp baking powder
1 packet onion soup mix
2-3 cups shredded cheese (I used a mix of sharp cheddar and Mozzarella)
2 cups milk
2 eggs
2/3 cup vegetable oil

I first mixed all the dry ingredients down through the onion soup mix. I tossed the cheese in to coat it near the end of the mixing. In a separate bowl, I whisked together the milk, eggs, and oil. I added the wet to the dry, mixed it well, then let it sit for 10 minutes while the oven preheated to 400 degrees. I buttered 17 holes in the muffin tins, then poured the batter in using a large spoon. Then I baked it for about 20-25 minutes. Honestly, I didn’t pay attention to the time. I just pulled them out when they browned on top and smelled done. If you’re doing a loaf instead of muffin cups, it might take another 10-15 minutes.

If these taste half as good as they smell, I’m sure I’ll be making a lot more of them. Yum! I think they’ll go well with some soup for lunch.  Mmm!

Do you have experience baking with whole grains? If so, I’d love to hear from you in the comments. Thanks for reading!