I've been planning to write about whole grains for several weeks but I keep hesitating. Healthy eating is such a controversial subject and I don't claim to be an expert.
I almost hate to talk about nutrition because I don't want it to become an idol. God has the days of our life numbered and what we eat isn't going to change the fact that on an appointed day, our life will end.
On the other hand, I have stood in the grocery line behind a cart laden with processed nutrition-less food and almost cried, especially if there were small children also in the cart. I hate to see a mom lose the opportunity to build good eating habits in her children while they are young.
But then, if you looked at my cart, you would find numerous compromise foods. While I hope the bulk of our diet is "real" foods, we love our sweets.
Please know that we don't eat perfectly. I don't even know what "perfect" is! I attempt to feed my family a balanced diet with foods high in nutrition like God created. But I have in no way attained even my own goals. And I'm okay with that.
One of the foods we really enjoy is whole wheat bread. The basic daily bread we eat is made with 100% whole wheat flour. I will occasionally make white bread if others are eating with us that I'm concerned will not enjoy whole grains. In the past few months, I made more white bread than usual in an attempt to test recipes for this blog. But we really enjoy whole wheat bread the best.
Whole wheat bread can take a while to become accustomed to. The texture and flavor are different than bread made with white flour. Baking whole wheat bread can be a greater challenge than white bread, which is why I began this bread baking series with white bread.
Maybe we should stop and find out the difference in white and whole wheat flours.
A grain of wheat is comprised of three parts. The endosperm is the starchy white part of the grain. The bran is the tougher shell of the grain. The germ is the part of the grain that will sprout into a new wheat plant if the conditions are right. The germ is also what contains the vitamins and nutrients of the grain.
White flour is made by grinding grain and removing the bran and the germ. What is left is the endosperm, the starch. White flour is turned to sugars in our body and contains no nutrients except for the vitamins and iron that producers add to the flour. Most white flour is further whitened by chemicals unless it specifies that it is "unbleached".
Whole wheat flour is wheat grain that was ground into flour. The best whole wheat flour will contain all three parts of the grain, endosperm, bran, and germ. One problem with whole wheat flour is the oils in the wheat germ quickly becomes rancid. To give it a longer shelf life, whole wheat flour often has the germ removed. So again, all nutrition has been lost but at least the flour is not rancid and contains the fiber in the bran.
Another factor in the wheat germ is that after milling, the vitamin content quickly drops. Within a day or two nearly all of the vitamins have oxidized.
A home grain mill is expensive but personally I'd give up many of my appliances before losing my grain mill. My parents blessed us with a grain mill as a wedding present so I've never been without it. But if something happens to it, we'll be on the fast track to saving for another. I have a Whisper Mill which was renamed Wonder Mill. I think the name change was a good one because it is quite a bit louder than an whisper!
I buy Prairie Gold wheat from Wheat Montana. I can get 50 lb bags at my local bulk food store. We go through 50 lb of wheat in 2 or 3 months. That sounds ridiculous for a family of six but remember this wheat is used for all our bread, rolls, tortillas, waffles, cookies and more.
Because I only use Prairie Gold wheat, I have no experience with other whole wheat flours. You can purchase Prairie Gold flour at some bulk food stores if you don't have a grain mill.
Prairie Gold wheat is a white hard spring wheat. White means it is naturally light in color. It has the same nutrients as red wheat but not a strong of flavor or dark color. Most people do not believe my bread is 100% whole wheat since it really isn't dark in color.
Prairie Gold is a spring wheat which makes it higher in protein which results in a lighter baked product. It is a hard wheat which is best for yeast breads.
If you have struggled to bake whole wheat bread, I highly recommend trying Prairie Gold. I make no money from them, just have been a happy consumer of their wheat for years. Their customer service is tops. Last year I had a bag of wheat that contained a lot of chaff. I could still use it but I was sure it was a mistake as their wheat is always clean. I sent a short email alerting Wheat Montana of the problem. Wheat Montana immediately sent me a new bag of wheat with their apologies.
If you don't grind your own flour, try to buy your whole wheat flour at a store with a fast turn around. Hopefully the flour will be as fresh as possible. Freeze the flour as soon as you get home to keep it fresh.
Next I'll share the whole wheat bread recipe that my mom made when I was growing up. At one point she made twelve of these loaves every single week.