Here in the Creston Valley, we’re very fortunate to have locally grown grain available to us through community supported agriculture (CSA) and I’ve been enjoying mine so much already that I’d like to draw attention to it. To learn more about it, visit kootenaygraincsa.ca. I’ll be focusing on different grains in future columns, but this month is all about hard wheat.
Hard wheat is higher in protein, which makes it better for making bread. It has more gluten than soft wheat, which is what helps hold bread together and helps it to rise but also which makes any kind of pastries — like pie crust, cookies, cakes and even quick breads like muffins — tough and heavy. The two kinds of hard wheat available through the grain CSA are Red Fife wheat and the Hard Red Spring wheat. Both are excellent for making bread and taste great, especially when fresh.
As with all whole grains, they are best used the same day they are ground. Whole grains can be stored for years in a cool, dark and dry place while maintaining their nutrition, but once the grain has been ground into flour, it begins to lose nutrients and even eventually go rancid, which is why store-bought whole grain flours can smell off. If you don’t have access to a grain mill all the time, it’s best to grind your grains and store them in the freezer to slow the process down. It’s recommended that whole grain flours are only stored for up to three months in a freezer.
White flour that’s had all of the bran and germ removed has had most of the nutrients removed — whole grain flour has three to five times the nutrients and up to 25 per cent more protein, not to mention much more fibre. Synthetic vitamins are added back into white flour, which is why it’s referred to as “enriched”. While that is a good thing for preventing deficiencies that would be common if white flour were not enriched, it can never compare to the natural nutrition found in a whole grain. Whole wheat contains so many different vitamins and minerals essential to good health not to mention all the natural antioxidants and other compounds only found in whole grains as opposed to refined grains.
To increase nutrition and digestibility, grains can be sprouted by soaking a small amount of wheat berries overnight, draining completely in the morning and then rinsing and draining the grains two to three times a day and leaving them on the counter out of direct sunlight for three days until sprouts are visible. Then the grains can be used immediately, eaten as is or even mixed into bread before being baked as add-ins as whole sprouts, stored in the fridge for a couple days or dried and used any way that whole grains can be used. All wheat berries can be cooked whole after being rinsed by simmering in a pot of water till tender but still chewy. Then the grains can be cooled and stored in the fridge for up to three days or then frozen for later use. It can be eaten like any other grain and is a great substitute for pasta, rice or other grains in salads, pilafs, soups or side dishes.
Here is one of my favorite 100 per cent whole wheat bread recipes. Whole grain bread making can be very difficult if it’s not something you’ve done before, and this is a simplified recipe — find a more detailed recipe and many more tips for whole grain bread making this week on my blog at FoodDoodles.com.
100 Per Cent
Whole Wheat Bread
Makes 2 loaves
2 C milk
1 1/3 C warm water
1/4 C butter, melted and cooled
1/4 C honey
1 tbsp + 1 tsp salt
1 1/5 C add-ins — rolled oats, seeds like sunflower or ground flax, seven grain cereal, etc.
1/4 C gluten (optional)
7-8 C whole wheat flour from hard wheat (freshly ground if possible)
In a small bowl, add 1/3 C water and sprinkle the yeast over top of the water and set aside for 10 minutes. In a large bowl, mix the remaining water, milk with whatever add-ins you choose to use and 3-4 C of flour, plus the softened yeast. Once mixed, add the gluten flour if using and mix well, then the cooled butter and honey and salt. Mix well and begin adding flour until the dough cannot be easily mixed with a spoon.
Flour your surface and turn out the dough and begin to knead, adding handfuls of flour as needed. Knead for at least 15 minutes, even if using a mixer, slowly adding less and less flour to prevent sticking. When finished kneading, the dough will be lighter in color, springy and smooth. It will still be tacky to the touch — don’t add any more flour.
Add a couple tablespoons of oil to a large bowl. Add the loaf and turn it over to coat the loaf in oil to prevent it from drying oil. Cover with a towel and let rise in a warm draft free place until doubled. In a cool kitchen, this can take up to four hours (you can reduce this time by placing in a warm place or by increasing the amount of yeast slightly). Once doubled, knead well to remove all air bubbles and incorporate the oil on the outside of the dough. Cut in two, form into loaves and place in buttered or greased loaf pans. Cover and let rise again until the loaves are just over the edge of the loaf pans, which should take about half the amount of time as the first rise.
Preheat your oven to 400 F. Once hot, place your loaves in the oven and immediately turn the heat down to 350. Bake for 55 minutes or until the internal temperature reaches 190-200 degrees. Remove from the pans and place on cooling racks and cool at least 1-2 hours before slicing.
Heidi Bjarnason is a Creston Valley mom and blogger. For more recipes, ideas, pictures and kid friendly ideas and food, visit FoodDoodles.com.