In this newsletter, I want to introduce you to Laura Phillips, an experienced home grain grinder. My daughter, Morgan, came downstairs the other day, stared at the kitchen counter packed with bags of hard red winter wheat berries I was dividing into smaller bags from a bulk bag, stared at me speechless, then just gave up and started laughing. I said, "If you didn't walk into the kitchen and come upon sights such as this, you would wonder who I was and what I'd done with your mother."
In other words, she'd stumbled into my latest obsession in old-fashioned and sustainable living practices--grinding my own grain (with my new Vitamix).
I blame Laura, who has been preaching the bible of grain grinding at retreats on the farm for the past few years. Here's an interview to give you a little idea of what it's all about.
Me: Why grind your own grain? Why not just buy flour?
LauraP: I do buy flour, both unbleached bread flour and all-purpose flour for anything that requires a white flour. I prefer the flavor and nutritional benefits of whole grains, though, and the economy of buying in bulk. Whole grain flour doesn’t have near the shelf life of whole, intact grains, whether they’re wheat berries, whole oats, or any other variety. Once that kernel has been cracked open, milled into a fine flour, and exposed to the air, its quality begins to degrade. The oils in the bran and germ portions of the grain can turn rancid within weeks in less than perfect storage conditions, especially in warm weather.
Me: What made you start milling your own flour?
LauraP: I grew up eating my mom’s wonderful homemade honey whole wheat bread. She bought her flour until she was in her 40s. After an illness, she became almost obsessed with getting the most nutrition possible out of every bite she ate. She made a lot of changes. Grinding her own grain in her Vitamix mixer was just one. Back then, the taste is what I noticed, and I made the switch as soon as I could afford a grain mill. My appreciation for the nutritional benefits came later. I’ve been grinding my own grain for bread for about 25 years now.
Me: What kind of grain mill do you use?
LauraP: My grinder actually is a Champion brand juicer with the grain mill accessory. The base unit is at least 25 years old and still working great. I did have to replace the grain mill a few years ago because the cutting plates were worn down.
Me: What are your favorite grains?
LauraP: I’m currently loving the slightly nutty flavor of emmer wheat, which is an ancient relative of our more familiar modern wheat varieties. It makes wonderful hearth loaves – rich, flavorful, and nutritionally rich. Spelt is a long-time favorite, and in recent years I’ve switched particularly when paired with oat flour. In recent years I’ve switched from the traditional red wheat to white wheat, which doesn’t have that slightly bitter aftertaste. I also use kamut, einkorn wheat, and rye berries – I love having such a variety of options.
Laura’s Emmer & Oat Hearth Bread
- 1 cup whey or milk
- 1 cup emmer wheat flour*
- 1 teaspoon yeast
- 1 egg
- 1 Tablespoon honey
- 1 1/2 Tablespoons vegetable oil or melted butter
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ½ cup oat flour
- 2 to 3 cups bread flour
*Emmer can be substituted with spelt, kamut, or other whole grain ground flour according to what you have available.
- Mix the emmer flour, whey or milk, and yeast together in a medium bowl, then let it rest for several hours or overnight.
- Stir in egg, honey, oil/butter, salt, and oat flour. Mix well. Add bread flour ½ cup at a time, mixing well after each addition until the dough is stiff and hard to beat. Let rest 5 minutes. Turn onto a well-floured surface and knead 5-10 minutes, sprinkling the dough and kneading surface with flour as needed to prevent sticking. The dough should be smooth and springy when finished. A slight tackiness is okay, so long as it’s not sticking to the fingers.
- Place dough in greased bowl, cover, and let rise until double, about 1 1/2 hours, more or less, depending on room temperature. Punch down, knead for a couple minutes to remove air bubbles, then shape into an oval loaf. Place on a well-greased cookie sheet. Let rise until double, about 1 hour.
- Bake at 375 degrees until done, about 35-40 minutes. (195-198 degrees F at the center of the loaf if you’re testing with a thermometer.)
Note: Get a taste of home grain grinding for yourself at a retreat at the farm! Laura will be back, grinding grain--as well as making cheese and leading herbal workshops--this August at the next five-day Cheese, Bread, Herbs & Soap Retreat. See below for more information.
Come learn at the farm!
Open NOW for registration:
Cheese, Bread, Herbs & Soap Retreat
August 28 - September 1, 2014
This five-day retreat, offered this year both in June and again in August, includes two days working with all things cheesy and the family cow, one day of yeast breads, biscuits, and pie, and two days of expanded herbal workshops including a full hot process soapmaking session. My teaching partner for this retreat will be LauraP, an experienced herbalist, soapmaker, cheesemaker, baker, and home dairy farmer. For this retreat, you can choose to attend two, three, or all five days. Three meals per day are included along with all your supplies, materials, and take-home projects. All workshops and activities will take place at Sassafras Farm in Roane County, West Virginia.
Get all the details on this retreat, including how to sign up: Go here.
Primitives & Pioneers Retreat -- Canning, Cooking, Arts and Crafts!
September 13 - September 14, 2014 OR October 11 - October 12, 2014
This retreat will span two days, offered in both September and October, taking you from the kitchen, to the woods, and to the art easel with workshops including "Oh, Pioneer"--including corn cob jelly, hand-dipped tapers, homemade potpourri, rustic breads, fresh lard, and burnt sugar cake, along with "Let's Paint Primitive"--an awesome art experience in which you'll be led step-by-step to create two works of art, one on canvas and one on a old-fashioned bucket. (No prior experience required!) My teaching partner for this retreat will be Kelly Walker, daily painter, experienced teacher, and writer of Life of a Daily Painter. Three meals per day are included along with all your supplies, materials, and take-home projects. All workshops and activities will take place at Sassafras Farm in Roane County, West Virginia.
Get all the details on this retreat, including how to sign up, here for the September event and here for the October one.
Retreats at Sassafras Farm are real retreats to a farm, and I'm committed to making it an awesome experience for each person who is here. I will be welcoming each attendee not just to the studio and the farm but to my home. Spaces are limited--come join us and sign up!
Let the adventure begin! See you at the farm!
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Thank you for your comments, your support, and just for being there. Here's hoping to see you on the Chickens in the Road Forum (make friends, have fun, come join us!) and every day on the farmhouse blog!