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Monday, November 30, 2009

Making White Flour - Kinda...

Admit it.  Bread made with whole wheat flour is dense and heavy.  That's not necessarily a bad thing, but some people (especially kids, it seems) like a lighter bread.  Generally, that means you need to use some sort of a white flour - either All Purpose or bread flour.

While this is fine while it is easy to run down to the store and pick up a five-pound sack, what will you do if it were no longer available?  Remember:  variety in food is one of the important psychological aspects of preparedness.  If you're "stuck" eating plain rice, beans and whole wheat bread every day, you may soon find your fare unappetizing, and not eat sufficient amounts to maintain your health.

Making "white" flour at home is a bit of a misnomer - what we're actually doing is removing a signficant portion of the bran from the whole wheat plus adding a super-secret ingredient.  OF COURSE, that bran is saved, and used for bran muffins or just mixed into soups and stews to provide additional nutrition.

I started off with 1 pound of wheat kernels.  My Family Grain Mill has 4 settings - each producing a successively fine flour.  I ran the grains through on the most course setting - 4 - for the first pass.  This gave me basically "cracked grains".

I clicked it down to the 3 setting, and produced a rough milled grain -

I picked out any parts that didn't look like they should be there (mostly foreign-looking husks), then cranked the mill down to the 2 setting, and milled it all up again.

At this point, it was almost the texture of flour, but you can still feel the bran in the powder.  This is exactly where we want it! 

You will need some sort of sifter.  Be sure not to get one too fine, or it will take you forever to do this step.  Simply scoop up a sifter of flour and shake it over a bowl.  The fine "white" flour will go through the sifter, leaving behind the bran.

After I separated the bran from the flour, I ran the flour through the mill one last time on the 1 setting.  This made it very soft and fine.  Almost a white flour!

The 1 pound of whole wheat kernels produced 13 oz of flour and 3 oz of bran (roughly).  The 13 ounces was the equivalent of 3 cups of flour.

One more thing:  You know how they make white flour, right?  They literally bleach it with chemicals.  Nice, huh?  The 'old fashioned' way was to let the flour age for 2 or 3 months, allowing it to naturally oxidize and (somewhat) whiten.  This aging (and chemical) process actually makes the flour more "receptive" to becoming bread - it helps in making fluffier breads.

What's the super-secret ingredient?  There is a natural way to somewhat duplicate this process:  For every 6 cups of flour, add one tablespoon of lemon juice to your mix (I do it after I've added about 1/2 of my total flour).  Something about the acidity makes whole wheat breads rise up better, without giving the bread a lemony taste.

Accept The Challenge

Learn different ways to use your stored prep foods.  Test your recipes each week on your family.  Find out what they like and dislike before you find yourself with food no one will eat!

Copyright 2009 Bison Risk Management Associates. All rights reserved. You are encouraged to repost this information so long as it is credited to Bison Risk Management Associates.


Andrea said...

Love it! I cannot wait to get my grain mill!

A trick that I've picked up that helps a bit with the texure is adding either corn starch or a commercial dough enhancer. A couple tablespoons of cornstarch seem to hold onto the moisture so the bread isn't as dense and dry. And no, it doesn't affect the taste. I don't know what they add to the dough enhancers, but it's a miracle product if ever there was one!

Chief Instructor said...

I need to give the starch and dough enhancers a try. I've never used either of them in my bread.

We got our mill about fifteen months ago and love it. Be prepared for a LOT of practice. Fresh-ground flour acts very differently than store-bought. I made many, many hockey pucks while I practiced.

Corn meal, though, seems to be identical to store bought, at least in how it reacts to baking and other cooking (polenta, grits, etc.).

BTW, take a look at the second picture. In the background, you'll see 5 quarts of pickled veggies inspired by your post on the subject!

Andrea said...

Yay for pickled veggies! We've gone through a quart of them already and my mouth is watering for another quart!

My plan is to slowly get used to fresh flour by mixing it with all-purpose...I figure it will take a while for both palate and tummy to get used to all that fiber and nutrition :)

I highly encourage the dough enhancer. Your whole wheat bread will rise twice as high and in a lot less time. The bread feels a lot more like the Wonderbread we were raised on LOL.

Do you grind your flour immediately before you bake with it or grind some ahead of time and freeze it?

Chief Instructor said...

I grind it and use it immediately.

I just did some reading on dough enhancers - very interesting stuff. The ascorbic acid in the mixes acts like the lemon juice I mentioned. It aids in the rise/airiness of the bread. Most of the other ingredients aid in moisture retention.

I need to read a bit more on what the wheat gluten does. I use Winter Red Wheat, which is very high in gluten as-is. I wonder if it's primarily for low-gluten wheat varieties.

I've got some reading to do.

I also found a number of homemade dough enhancer recipes that I think I'll give a try. Thanks for the heads-up.

BreadMan said...

I know this is an old post but hopefully you can clarify this for me.

Are you using a roller mil, stoneground or blades?

I always thought fresh flour was best for home baked bread but I've been reading a bit about aged flour helping the final product. Of course whole grain flour will go rancid if it is left. I'm thinking of buying a stoneground flour mill but would prefer to find somewhere I can try it before I buy it over the net.