Monday, April 5, 2010
Let's talk about grains
I have strong feelings in particular about the unbleached all purpose flour, white wheat and semolina. I converted all of my baking flour to unbleached flour about a year ago. My brand preference, for those of you in Utah, is Lehi Roller Mills Turkey Blend, which you can purchase at Costco in 25 pound bags. It's got an excellent and consistent flavor. I didn't realize how accustomed I've become to unbleached flour until I went home to visit my sister and parents a few weeks ago, and my sister opened a bucket of bleached flour for us to bake with. The sharp chemically tang smacked me in the face immediately. No thanks.
My mom always uses red wheat. It's got a heartier flavor and darker color. There's no nutritional difference between white and red wheat - it's entirely a flavor preference. I personally far prefer the white wheat, and in particular, I purchase Montana Milling Company hard white winter wheat. I've tried a number of other brands of white wheat over the years that haven't been up to snuff, where the MMC stuff has been consistently good. The amount of gluten/protein in wheat varies widely depending on the grower and region, so once you find something that works well for you, stick with it.
Semolina is my golden girl, literally. It's a whole grain flour milled frum durum wheat, though as you can see in the photo above, it's a grainier flour and a texture that's difficult to mimic with a home use grain mill, so I purchase it pre-ground. I add a half or full cup of it to nearly all of my roll, pizza and bread dough recipes. I love the clean, bright flavor it lends. It also works well as a dusting flour on baking sheets for things like pizza and rustic breads and is far less gritty than cornmeal.
Lately, when I've been grinding my whole grain flour, I routinely mix multiple grains rather than using straight whole wheat. White wheat/spelt/brown rice and white wheat/spelt/barley are the most common combinations, but I've been known to throw in quinoa and rye. I find that if I'm baking a 100% whole grain loaf, I need to be a little careful about how much gluten free grain I add to the mix (like rye, quinoa and buckwheat), but when it's mixed with all purpose flour, it's not been an issue. The three grains that I add sparingly because they have a strong flavor are white quinoa, rye and buckwheat. I just purchased the red quinoa a few days ago and am anxious to try it. Right out of the bag, it has a milder scent. I'm not sure if it is simply due to it being a different brand or if it's a true difference between the two varieties.
The main point of this post is simply to encourage you to try something different. Don't be afraid of adding some whole grain into your current favorite recipes. If you're not accustomed to eating and baking with whole grains, I recommend replacing 1/3 of your all purpose flour in a recipe with whole grain rather than transitioning straight to whole grain. Your digestive tract, if unaccustomed to whole grain, will take some time to adjust, but ultimately whole grains are so good for you, and each has something unique to offer. My grain mill is the best wedding present I got, because you can't beat freshly ground flour. Because whole grain flour has the germ and oils mixed in that are lacking in white flour, you should store it in the refrigerator or freezer if you will not be using it within a couple of weeks.