I have been baking my own bread off and on for about 6 years now. When I first started doing it, I used unbleached all-purpose flour, then I moved to whole wheat, then I started grinding my flour, and recently I started soaking the grains beforehand. Baking breads was the first step our family took to eating real foods.
The main reason why I do this is because my daughter has had so many digestive issues and I find that grinding flour and soaking the grains has helped her tremendously (among other changes in her diet, such as going dairy free!).
Fresh ground flour: How and why?
I buy hard white wheat berries because I feel that they have the best flavor, they rise well (less dense), and the nutrition is practically the same as hard red wheat (“typical” whole wheat).
I use a grain mill attachment with my Kitchenaid stand mixer. It works pretty well; though, I will say that I wish it ground it a little finer. But for now, this is what I have to work with! All you have to do is pour the wheat berries into the mill and turn on the mixer. I put the mixing bowl underneath to catch the flour.
I have talked about grinding my own flour many times, but I don’t think I have ever explained why I grind my own flour. Commercial flours are missing a great amount of vitamins and minerals. The bran is taken out, which is what is necessary for colon health and weigh control. Within 24 hours, 40% of the nutrients have oxidized. Within three days, 80% of the nutrients have oxidized. So, what you buy in the store has very few nutrients left in it.
It costs quite a bit less to grind flour. I can buy a 50lb bag of organic wheat berries for $35, and this will last forever… 4-6 months at least. I use 2 cups of berries for 3 cups of flour, so they go a long way.
This quote from Sally Fallon (author of Nourishing Traditions) sums it up well: “Such processes neutralize phytic acid and enzyme inhibitors. Vitamin content increases, particularly B vitamins. Tannins, complex sugars, gluten and other difficult-to-digest substances are partially broken down into simpler components that are more readily available for absorption.”
Simply, the process aids digestion by breaking down starches, tannin, and proteins that are difficult to digest (including gluten). The soaking process allows the intestines to absorb the maximum amount of nutrients possible.
Why Use a Bread Machine?
Okay… I realize that not everyone would agree with me here, but I have found the bread machine to save me a significant amount of time. I probably wouldn’t bake bread as often as I do if I didn’t have one. I use it for the “soaking” and dough part of the recipe, transfer the dough to loaf pans, allow it to rise again, then bake. It comes out great every time.
What is a Dough Enhancer and Why Do I Use It?
My dough enhancer is made up of vital wheat gluten, citric acid, and ground ginger. The benefits of the dough enhancer are worth it to me: these ingredients act as a preservative and the bread is lighter and fluffier. Also, the vital wheat gluten adds quite a bit of protein to the bread. Obviously, if you have problems with gluten, you wouldn’t use this… but would you be baking whole wheat bread anyway?
I have tried time and time again to not use this, but my bread doesn’t turn out well at all… it is much fluffier, lighter, and much less dense when I use the dough enhancer.
My Bread Recipe, Including Soaking Instructions