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Thursday, August 23, 2012

Grains & Fresh Flours

I've been a fan of and fed on fresh-milled grain products since I was just a tot.  My mother had a big stone-grind Magic Mill that she used every week to grind whole wheat flour for the bread she made.  (She also added that whole wheat flour to brownies and cookies, which gave them a super-delicious nutty flavour.)  I never gave much thought to having a mill myself until I recently remembered how satisfying bread making can be and got into a huge bread-baking kick.  Then I discovered and joined a local grain share (I have since discovered another, and they sell at the Amherst farmer's market sometimes), and my search for a mill began. (I've also been reading a lot of homesteading blogs, and I suppose they may have influenced me a little, too.)

I don't have hundreds of dollars to spend on a mill and I don't have a large family I'm baking for on a regular basis, so I don't need anything too fancy or large.  Plus, Mr Madley is wheat free, so my mill won't just be about wheat and wheat flour -- I want to be able to make grits and cracked wheat and steel cut oats, quinoa flour and rice flour and corn flour.  My first mill will need to be adaptable.

Since I've been refinishing my kitchen this summer, I have spent a lot of time online researching kitchen items, including grain mills.  I'm still not sure if there's one mill that would satisfy all my desires, but I did purchase a second-hand Victorio hand-crank mill that just arrived.  So excited was I that I tore open the packaging, put it together, and immediately set to grinding any kind of whole grains we had in the house.  I milled 1/4 cup each of brown basmati rice, rolled oats (not the ideal oats to mill by hand), quinoa, toasted buckwheat groats, all on the finest grind available; and then I also ground 1/4 cup buckwheat groats on the coarsest setting for cracked cereal.  You can see the results in the picture below.
Clockwise from the top: coarse-ground buckwheat, buckwheat, brown rice, oat, quinoa.

Even used, I like this mill.  The fine flour seems very fine, and I'm excited that when I purchase oat groats I'll be able to coarse-grind for hot cereal.  It's not super fast, but if I'm only grinding a cup or so, it's easy enough -- plus, I'll get to keep my arms toned.

Anyway, it's all great -- the high flavour and nutrition of freshly-milled local grain.  A loaf of homemade bread with homemade almond-flax butter and peach butter (both of which I learned to make this summer).  Can't get much better than that.  I'm not going to want to grind all my flour by hand, but all in all, it should be a very satisfactory starter mill.
Garden flowers, cracked oatmeal, zucchini bread from fresh-ground oats and quinoa and brown rice (with local zucchini and maple syrup), and peach butter from local peaches.
(1.5 days later: I've already made steel-cut oatmeal, gluten-free pizza crust, gluten-free zucchini bread from hand-milled grains.)


kris said...

Inquiring minds want to know more - tell me about the almond-flax butter - how do you make it?

emily said...

The almond butter is amazingly easy with a food processor. Dump some almonds and flax seeds in the food processor and grind. They will hit the almond-meal stage, which is great for baking, but if you let it go longer they will eventually start to expel their oils. Keep blending until you hit paste. You may want to roast the almonds first for better flavor and faster buttering. And it's useful if you have a processor you can leave on (I had to finagle mine with a clamp from the hardware store), because it can take quite a while (20+ minutes). At some point, depending on the processor and amount of almonds, you may need to scrape down the sides, add more almonds, and/or put in a few drops of oil. I haven't perfected this yet -- I'm only making it for the second time right now....