When I went home for break, my dad read me an article in the Wall Street Journal about the nutritional value of using freshly milled flour instead of white flour. According to the article, some bakeries around the country are turning to this method to make heartier, healthier breads rich with vitamins and extra fiber.
It also explained the differences between the different kinds of flours. Flour always begins with wheat berries—however, different types of flour use different parts of the berry. Regular white flour—which is used most often in breads and other baked goods—uses only the endosperm, which is the starchy middle part of the berry. Most whole wheat flours—despite what the name implies—uses the bran (or fibrous outer part) mixed with white flour, but omits the vitamin-rich germ entirely to increase shelf life. Wholemeal flour, on the other hand, uses the entire berry, making it more fiber- and vitamin-rich.
Hearing this article, I was hooked. I love bread (who doesn’t?) so I was intrigued by this opportunity to eat bread without feeling guilty about it.
So, my family and I, being the food nerds that we are, went out the grocery store and bought a big bag of wheat berries--found in our local grocery store with the specialty baking supplies (like coconut flour and wheat bran).
Attempt 1: Food Processor
We loaded about a cup of the berries in the food processor and turned it on high to see if we could crush them up that way. Turns out, wheat berries are pretty much hard as rocks, so the food processor did little more than create some wheat dust.
Attempt 2: Grain Mill
Since attempt one failed, we did the only natural thing and bought a grain mill KitchenAid attachment. (I mean, we already had the berries, so why not?)
This thing was phenomenal. We loaded up the wheat berries, set the knob to the desired coarseness, and then turned on the KitchenAid to high speed. It started cranking out flour at a pretty decent rate, and in a few minutes we had our very own freshly-milled flour that was only slightly coarser than store-bought whole wheat flour (we compared them, of course).
Meanwhile, I found a recipe online for 100% whole-wheat bread to test out the flour. After we had milled enough, I whipped up a batch and threw it in the oven.
The life-changing moment occurred when I finally took it out of the oven and sliced off a piece. The bread was still a little warm, moist, and smelled heavenly. This loaf was like the devil’s food of bread—hearty and rich, just chewy enough to keep you coming back for more. It tasted healthy, but not in a bad way—more like the way fruit straight from the orchard or freshly caught fish tastes authentic and wholesome. The entire loaf was pretty much gone by that evening.
I was especially astonished that the bread came out so well because I was baking at altitude (like 10,000 foot elevation, shout out to my fellow Coloradans) which often either makes things drop or dries them out. Maybe our homemade flour is more rich than regular flour, so it eliminates the need for high-altitude adjustments by making the bread denser to avoid dropping.
Deeming our initial test wildly successful, we used that grain mill constantly. We went through two whole bags of wheat berries and made more bread, rolls, pizza dough, banana bread, and naan.
Everything we made was much more filling and rich than their counterparts made with white flour. I would have definitely experimented with more goodies, but by that time I had to go back to school (and the sad store-bought bread that it offered).
In conclusion: If you’re someone looking for a better alternative to white or whole wheat bread, definitely give wholemeal a try. It still has gluten and plenty of carbs, but it also has way more fiber and nutrients than normal bread. The fiber does wonders for digestion and will help keep you full longer, which eliminates the need to eat a huge amount of empty carbs (which is what usually happens to me with bakery bread). The vitamins contained in the germ that get omitted from white flour also add to the general nutritional value of the bread. With my experiments, I found that you can just use wholemeal flour in almost any recipe that calls for whole wheat.
Even if a grain mill and KitchenAid isn’t in your budget, I would say that looking for wholemeal flour in specialty stores or buying from bakeries that use freshly milled flour is worth the extra dough.