Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Bread Baking - Whole Grains

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.


  1. Well put Gina. We grow our own wheat and I hand mill most of it. I tend to pick a day and we take turns at it. You are lucky to have an electric mill. Ours is put in plastic containers and flash frozen for about 2 days. So it is milled in batches. Then the containers are put in the cold cellar, stacked against the outside wall where it is cold. I have never had it yet go bad.

    Oh and no one I know eats perfect. We are all sinful!!!

  2. Thank you so much for this post! I have heard bits and pieces of this information, but never all of it and all the details. I have seen the Prairie Wheat flour, I wonder, if I decide to grind my own, if I will be able to find it around here. I think I probably could.

    I like to use whole grains too, but always found them heavy and the kids don't always like it - I think yours sounds perfect!

    Thanks again.


  3. Thanks for sharing...I did not know about white spring berries...I just assumed there was only one kind...

    Do you buy organic grains??

    I will only buy organic as my father in law is a farmer in Saskatchewan and he shared an awful trick farmers use to ripen the grain on bad years...They spray it with round up chemicals...I was so grossed out!!
    Round up is used for killing weeds but I guess it also ripens grain!

    He thinks its no big deal but it is to me...

    I also have the same grain mill and use it 2 to 3 times a week...I could not be without it...

    We are a family of 4 and go through about 50 lbs of grain every 4 months...we too use it for everything we bake with...some yummyness..

    Last week I decided to play with my bread recipe and changed it up by putting 2 cups of organic unbleached made the bread a little lighter...but I still am finding it crumble very easily and haven't figured out what I am doing wrong...oh still gets all eaten up, it's just hard to make sandwich and spray mayo on them...

    Any clues as to what this problem could be?



    1. Try cutting it with whole wheat pastry flour or cake flour blend. I use king arthur flour. Since I am single its hard for me to buy in bulk. I make blueberry muffins with whole white wheat flour and cake flour and its better. Willcut next batch with ww pastry flour. Good luck.

  4. Thanks for information!!!
    Very informative!


    Debbie S.

  5. I would love to gain a mill and make the switch. Hopefully some day. This was great info though! Thanks for sharing!
    I was curious what you use when recipes call for bread flour?

  6. Nadine -
    The Prairie Gold wheat I use is not certified organic but it is grown chemical free.

    I will be sharing some hints to make whole wheat bread lighter, so check back!

  7. Annie-
    It depends on my goal. If I am taking a white bread flour recipe and converting it to whole wheat, I use whole wheat flour, a tiny bit of vital gluten, and increase the liquid in the recipe. Sometimes it works, and sometimes not.

    Bread flour is regular white flour with added gluten OR a wheat that is naturally higher in gluten content.

    Does that make sense?

  8. This is a fascinating article. I know nothing about milling wheat and making whole wheat bread. I actually really like a heavy whole grain bread toasted really well. Thanks for the information. It will take me awhile to process it. I also don't understand the role of gluten. I know so many people are becoming allergic to it. Perhaps as I continue learning to make more types of breads this will become clearer!

  9. I have the same grain mill and use it all the time. Wheat Montana Prairie Gold is the best for bread baking. I did see on their web site recently that they have it available organic now. I also like their Natural White flour and use about 3 cups of it with my whole wheat flour to make the bread lighter.

    A dough enhancer of some type helps with the texture of the bread and helps it last longer. The lady who owns the bulk food store where I buy my wheat told me she uses lecithin for a dough enhancer. It works great. You can also throw a couple of vitamin C tablets into your grain mill with the wheat - citric acid is also a dough enhancer.

    Your blog confirms everything I've learned about bread baking. Looking forward to your recipe.

  10. We go through a 50 lb. bag in about 1.5 months!

    I love my whisper mill! I miss my demension 2000 but I have a bosch compact so I am okay with it.

  11. Would you mind me asking where your local bulk food store is? I am looking for something in the area and have no idea where to begin. I know you can't live to far from me so perhaps I might be able to shope there also? :)

  12. Dear Gina,
    Greetings from Maine! I'm not sure how I stumbled across your blog...but I've read several posts and find it to be wonderful! I, too, get concerned when I am in the grocery store and see all the processed food that people are buying. And now with the rising cost of oil and gas, the food prices will continue to soar. It makes so much more sense, economically, physically, and spiritually, to be cooking from scratch as much as possible. Thank you for sharing all this wonderful information. I will be back to read more!

    Have a blessed evening,


I love to hear from you.


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