Don’t let the title confuse you, this WILL be a post about baking bread.
A book with the same name ‘No More Bricks” by Lori Viets was where I borrowed it from.
And as you will soon see, it is a most appropriate description of the goal you end up undertaking when you set out to learn the methods of baking bread exclusively with whole grain flour.
My initial bread baking journey began two years ago when Rob bought me this Bosch Mixer. I was able to mix up to six loaves of bread dough at one time in just 10 minutes. I would bake one or two loaves right away and then store the remaining dough in the freezer for later use as either another loaf of bread or pizza dough. It was so great! I vowed to try and never buy bread at the store again. It was somewhat more nutritious than store brought bread (no extra preservatives), super tasty, cheaper, and the baking process made your whole house smell wonderful!
But I was still wanting more nutrition from our bread and using the refined flour you buy at the store just was lacking big time in any sort of health benefits. So this year, we invested in the NutriMill Grain Mill so that we could mill our own flour. With a grain mill, you take the whole grain and grind it up into fresh flour. That way you are able to use all the components of the whole grain in your baking. But whole grain flour is very different than refined flour from the store; and my first baking results were rather disappointing.
This is the picture of my first loaf of bread I baked using freshly milled whole grain flour.
And what do you think it resembles???
Yes! A nice, rectangular, fairly edible, dry brick!! Rob was certain we could use my original loaves as lethal weapons because they were so dense and hard. Seriously folks, you could kill someone with these if you wanted to (and then with enough pb&j, you could just eat the evidence).
So my quest for ‘no more bricks’ began. And if you are really only interested in seeing presently how my baking is going, then you can just scroll down to the end and see the pictures that convey I am finally getting the hang of baking with whole grain flour. But if you have a bit more time and don’t mind some biology and agriculture, the middle part of this post will try to explain why I am even bothering with such an endeavor. The information on using whole grains is great (and convicting) and I can’t do justice to all the many facts that exist on this subject, but I’ll do what I can to make this worth your time; and I hope you find it interesting and intriguing. The main source that has truly enriched my knowledge on the matter is the book ‘No More Bricks” by Lori Viets . But because I cannot cut and paste her words on the pages to this post, I found a website that has basically the same information and is cut and paste friendly. So to give proper credit, I will use purple text when I am referencing this website.
So are you ready, here we go…
we’ll start with just a basic picture showing both some wheat stems (top)
and their tiny grains (bottom).
The heads of wheat hold the tiny whole grains inside their individual husks (chaffs).
Those whole grains (which have had their inedible husks removed) are made up of three parts which are shown in the image below.
To understand the benefits associated with milling grain, you need to understand what comprises a whole grain. There are three main layers: the bran, the germ, and the endosperm.
• The bran is the outer layer where all the roughage that helps move unwanted poisons and toxins through your system is found. The bran also contains numerous vitamins, minerals, and proteins.
• The germ is the health center of the grain, overflowing with vitamins B and E, as well as unsaturated fat and protein.
• The endosperm is the starchy white center.
Whole grains contain almost 90% of all the vitamins, minerals, and protein you’ll ever need. However, commercially milled products don’t offer you those nutrients. Why? Once milled, the oils found in the bran and germ oxidize and turn rancid within 72 hours. So for commercial purposes, both the bran and germ—and all the nutrients contained within them—must be removed in order to give products a shelf life. The endosperm is all that’s left of the original grain. So you’re basically eating gluten and starch when you eat products off the shelf. For PR purposes, you’ll see breads and cereals claiming to be “enriched with vitamins and minerals!” Don’t be fooled. The fact that a product needs enriching is a sign of how much of its health value has been diminished. Usually only 2-4 of the missing vitamins and minerals can be replaced anyway, and nothing can be done to replace the fiber and protein.
So when milling your own flour, you’re able to mill only the amount you need, so nothing goes to waste and you are left with fresh-tasting, chemically unaltered flour.
There are so many other more haunting facets of eating flour that is NOT from whole grains that I think you will find it beneficial to investigate. And if you are really interested in more, I can provide you with lots of resources.
But listing all the benefits of whole grains doesn’t give anyone insight as to why whole grain flour will produce bricks if you don’t alter a normal recipe and process. It is because when you are milling grains (of wheat, barley, millet, rye…) and try to bake with all three parts of that milled grain, you are working with the added weight and sharp texture of germ and bran. That means the yeast has a heavier load to rise and the bread needs extra help at holding it’s rise. There is an art to this process which is what I am slowing learning which involves lots of trial and error. I am glad I have a family (and some friends) that didn’t mind consuming all my outcomes even when they were still on the hard and dense and sometimes crumbly side. Again, the book ‘No More Bricks” by Lori Viets is the teaching tool I am using in this learning process and I highly recommend it to anyone interested!
The book has taken me from my first brick above to a few loaves that look like this
which were still lacking lots of rise but not completely flat on top.
And then finally to fairly consistent end results that looks like this. Voila!
From start to finish, the milling process all the way to a freshly baked loaf of bread (or 6!) takes right under 2 hours with only about 20 minutes actual hands on attention. Every other Monday has been my baking day. Two loaves are baked that day, one is given away, and the rest of the dough is divided into fourths and frozen for later use.
I still have much to learn in this process and once I master this whole wheat oatmeal recipe I have been using, I will move onto other grains. I have always loved a great pimento cheese sandwich baked on rye bread; so rye will be the next grain I start buying.
Milling your own flour is not just for the Amish! Many families are starting to do this in their homes as well because of all the great benefits. And you can too!
Here are just a few more reasons to consider…
After eating bread prepared from grain you mill yourself, there is no going back. Commercial products will taste stale, even if they’re “fresh” off the shelf. Freshly milled breads are lighter, moister, and can have a variety of taste depending on which grains you chose to mill.
There’s fun in experimenting with different grains in your recipes. Try adding or combining buckwheat, spelt (good for people with wheat allergies), oats, rye, wheat, quinoa, millet and many other grains for a never-ending variety of taste.
Does milling and baking your own grains take a little longer than grabbing a loaf off the shelf? Yes. But not that much longer, and the payoff in taste and health benefits more than makes up for it. Don’t let yourself be intimidated by the thought of milling your own grain. These days, grain mills come in a variety of sizes, are simple to use, and are adaptable to the average household, meaning you can buy big or small units depending on your needs. Plus, they eventually pay for themselves in money saved on buying commercial products.
Today when we struggle to find time to fit in the laundry, walk the dog, get the kids to baseball and soccer practice, the suggestion we mill our own grain may sound far-fetched. But today’s grain mills make the process easy, and the benefits associated with milling your own grain are tangible and ongoing. Investigate different types of grain mills, or find a friend or co-worker who owns one and ask to give it a whirl. Experiment with a recipe or two, and you’ll quickly understand why so many people are choosing to take the time to pamper themselves with freshly milled, home baked goodness.