Pantry Paratus knows bread; it is probably what we do best! In fact, if you sign up for our newsletter, you get a half-hour bread baking tutorial video in your inbox (in about 24 hours). If you are new to baking or to baking with home-milled flour, that video is a great place to start! Below, we share some of our favorite Pantry Paratus recipes, but below that you will find some other excellent wheat bread and gluten-free bread recipes.
Pantry Paratus Radio, Episode 021
Interview with Millie, from Real Food for Less Money Part I
Millie joins us from RealFoodForLessMoney.com and she is incredibly wise. Nothing like a seasoned Wyoming Mom who shops in bulk, prepares wild game for her family and can make a healthy-food-choices dollar stretch to provide great conversation. The upside is that you get to listen in as I chatted with her and took copious notes. She has learned the value of a dollar and she shares many of her tips with us. I think for me, I enjoyed our discussion of the “why” even more. Come join us, and share your thoughts about it in the comments section below.
We talk about:
-Chaya’s transition to real food and changing her shopping habits
-Are organic foods actually real food?
-Getting to know Millie from RealFoodForLessMoney.com
-Making the transition from traditional American food diet to real food
-Answering the timeless question: “What is for dinner?”
-First line of defense for saving money with food: menu planning
-What is for dinner? What Millie keeps on hand as “quick meal” starters: frozen pizza crusts, canned salmon, canned antelope, etc.
-Protein: okay, let us get down to brass tacks on the “less money” part
-Making use of wild game
-Living between seasons at the farmer’s market
-“Dirty dozen” and the “Clean fifteen” lists
-Prop 37 just failed and some of the surprising sponsors of the negative PR campaign behind its demise
-Offering yourself out as the “clean up” person for the extra produce or game that other people do not want
-Herdshares, what it is and the raw milk situation in WY
-Raw Milk foodies are generally well informed and yet their protests are not as well publicized
-“Our freedom is our heritage”
-Why store food and what prompted Millie to stock her pantry
-Building community through preparedness
-Getting the tour of Millie’s pantry
-Preparing, the why
Menu planning with Millie from Real Food For Less Money (learn the benefit of “stretchy beans”)
Menu planning guest blog with Chef Nancy
Chaya’s blog The Chronicle of a Reformed City Girl
Nothing in this blog constitutes medical or legal advice. You should consult your own physician before making any dietary changes. Statements in this blog may or may not be congruent with current USDA or FDA guidance.
At a end-of-semester Christmas party in college, the kind where everyone brings in something to share, one girl in that class brought in cookies. She looked almost apologetic when she announced, “I know that not everyone is going to like these cookies. They are made from a non-fat recipe.” I consider myself an adventurous person (not like Adam Richman level of adventurous), so with the belief that I had never once meet a cookie that I did not like, I took one and ate it.
That was the day that I met a cookie that I did not like. Some things belong in cookies, like fat for instance. And other foods in nature belong with all of their accessories as well—like the wheat berry.
Baking is both science and art. Believe me, Chaya is an artist in the kitchen with bread baking—and no two batches are the exact same. Now compare homemade bread (with flour that you ground in your kitchen) to store bought bread. Trust me, I could never go back to store bought bread; it lacks soul.
Whenever possible use whole grain products, ideally stone-ground. Whole grain flours are nutritionally superior, plus they have more flavor. “White” wheat flour has the “good stuff” taken out—the bran, wheat germ and “shorts” are removed; then to get the “bleached flour” the flour is treated with such things as oxides of chlorine, acetone peroxide, potassium bromate, nitrogen, nitrosyl chloride, chorine dioxide, benzoyl peroxide, azodicarbonamide, plaster of Paris, or ascorbic acid to whiten and “mature” the flour, rendering a “more tender final product in baking” (Mitchell, 1991).
Okay, let us dive right in here. Can you call home ground flour, “processed food?” I am going to say, “No and Yes.”
“No,” in that home ground flour is nearly orthogonal to the stuff you find in the bread aisle at the grocery store. That “bread” is not bread that you could produce in your house because you probably do not have Phosphorus in your kitchen cupboard. Phosphorus makes incendiary products and tracer ammunition possible, but is not an ingredient in our go-to bread recipe at our house. It may be a stretch to call that “bread” bread at all because real flour (the kind you grind at home) goes rancid at about the same rate as milk if you leave it on the counter. This is a problem for bread companies to bake it, transport it and have it meet up with consumers in the grocery store at the height of its freshness. So the more calcium sulfate you add to your bread, the more “processed” it becomes on the real food continuum. However, you can also add calcium sulfate as a soil amendment or use it to comprise plaster or sheetrock—the possibilities are endless.
“For example, sometimes a recipe ends up needing to be modified with a little extra calcium sulfate or flavoring to balance acidity. Whatever it might take in Wayne [New Jersey], it would be a big challenge to the Twinkie bakery” (Ettlinger, 2007).
“Yes,” in that it alters the wheat from the form you find it in nature. I do not digest raw hops really well, but I love beer. Raw meat is not my thing, but I do enjoy a grilled steak. In the same way, flour baked into bread is a “process” that our house employs to derive nutrition from a wheat berry that would be plain roughage if swallowed whole.
A home use grain mill, like the Wondermill for example, is giving you a product that is 100% usable. Since most of our bread that we bake is derived from wheat flour, we are able to use 100% of the flour from 100% of the wheat berries put into the mill. The wheat berry comes in three main parts: the bran, the germ and the endosperm.
The bran is the wrapper that encases the wheat berry and keeps it sealed. The germ is the engine that starts the wheat plant when it germinates. The endosperm is the starch, or to the germ it is the fuel that powers the wheat plant until it can absorb the nutrients from the soil and metabolize the suns energy. Just like the fat in likeable cookies, the bran and the germ are part of the wheat package. Since you pay for the whole wheat berry, why not eat all of it?
It turns out that commercial flour strips the bran and the germ out because these are the parts that will go rancid. Rancid flour does not sell. However the bran and the germ can be sold as cattle feed. So the bread you buy in the store is not nearly as complete in nutrition as what is in the manger.
Most of today’s mass-produced foods are seriously depleted of nutrients and are highly chemicalized with additives. Processed foods today are not just more sophisticated and more convenient versions of the foods eaten by our ancestors. A wide spectrum of essential nutrients has been removed in the manufacturing process. The basic molecular structure of what remains is also degraded and nutritionally inferior. Until recently, grains were ground between large stones to make flour. Everything in the original grain remained in the finished product, including the germ, the fiber, the starch, and a wide spectrum of vitamins and minerals. The final product contained all the naturally occurring vitamins, minerals and micronutrients (Cranton, 2011).
So if it is not nutrition that we are buying, what exactly are we paying for? Answer: Convenience.
“We do not need unhealthy foods to be more convenient or less expensive” (Pino, 2011).
Oh, but they indeed are both more convenient and less expensive—hence the appeal. You may remember the old food pyramid:
Now here is the new one:
Guess what the USDA is asking you to eat more of? What appears first in each pyramid—you guessed it grains. Where do most people get them? Already ground, stripped, baked and value-added-ready-to-eat on the shelf.
I can remember that when good homemade baked bread was a regularity in our house, we all felt much better after dumping the mass-produced bread in the store. Getting off the cheap starch is the one truly effective resolution that can change your life for the much better this week! Blood sugar spikes, inflammation of every kind all are effects of being on cheap starch. There is nothing wrong with fructose when it comes from fruit (eaten in moderation). When you amplify a good thing like fructose with another good thing like corn you can get a bad thing like high fructose corn syrup.
So how can you tell which source of grains are best? The answer is complex. Not that the answer is difficult to understand, the answer is complex carbohydrates should make up any carbohydrates taken in at all.
Simple and complex carbs are the two main forms of carbs. Carbohydrates provide the body with its main source of energy. . . . Simple carbs are single- or double-linked sugar molecules, and complex carbohydrates are three or more linked sugar molecules, according to MedlinePlus. Simple carb foods usually come from fruits, table sugars and dairy products. Complex carbs commonly come from starchy vegetables and whole grain breads and cereals. The energy from simple carbs is used faster by the body while complex carbs last longer because they are made up of more sugar molecules than simple carbs (Gulezian, 14 ).
Carbohydrates that give us energy also are what fuels the plant to grow initially. The body is an incredibly well designed machine, that needs high octane quality fuel—do not put the cheap stuff in your body.
Interested in more about bread? Check out some of our other bread blogs:
Pro Deo & Patria
Grain by ml1gU02
Cookies by n49fTlI
first Bread by mgid8Bm
second Bread by nfAVg1Y
anatomy of a wheat kernel
old USDA food pyramid
new USDA food pyramid
Mitchell, P. (1991). Grist mill quick loaf breads. (p. 3). Chatham: Sims-Mitchell House.
Ettlinger, S. (2007). Twinkie, deconstructed, my journey to discover how the ingredients found in processed foods are grown, mined (yes, mined), and manipulated into what America eats. (p. 84). London: Hudson st Pr.
Cranton, E. M. (2011, March 15). Modern bread, the broken staff of life [Web log message]. Retrieved from http://www.drcranton.com/nutrition/bread.htm
Pino, D. (2011, August 31). Why sliced bread was never a great invention. Retrieved from http://summertomato.com/truth-and-marketing-why-sliced-bread-was-never-a-great-invention/
Gulezian, T. (14 , July 2011). [Web log message]. Retrieved from http://www.livestrong.com/article/293310-high-complex-carbohydrate-diet/
I thought I’d show off; I’d learned how to bake at sea level, but I was staying with friends in Colorado, at roughly 7,000 ft. Disaster. I had to learn quickly about altitude baking. After I’d moved to Montana things evened out for me at just less than 3,000 ft. I did not find much difference between sea level and Montana as far as the outcome of baking, even though a few minor adjustments were still necessary along the way.
That’s Pike’s Peak in the background.
We are visiting our friends now, and I baked two loaves of rather concave bread yesterday. I have to laugh at myself, at how much I’d forgotten—the formulas for re-writing the recipe, the texture of the dough while kneading. Every two minutes I was showing the dough to my friend: “Am I done kneading yet?” I would ask. So much of baking for me is in the hands.
If you find yourself above 3,000 ft altitude, my bread recipe might not work entirely well for you. You may have to try a few substitutions until you create your own perfect recipe. For a more complete understanding of high altitude baking, let me suggest this high altitude baking site to answer your bread baking questions.
The science of altitude changes things. The boiling point is lower (it drops about a point for every additional 500 ft incline). The air is drier and moisture evaporates much more quickly. It’s extremely difficult to have a muffin top or a dome on a loaf of bread. Although baking is as much art as science, ignoring these changes will not work to your favor. One of the more notable differences is the need for extra moisture. This makes the dough stickier and wetter.
My recommendation is to start with a high altitude recipe instead of attempting to modify a sea level recipe, if you are higher than 3,000 ft. Here are a few tips for you if you are higher than 3,000 ft and really want to try modifying your own recipe:
*Decrease rise time to once, and only approximately 30 minutes!
*Decrease fats, increase moisture--since the moisture decreases faster, the remaining imbalanced ratio of fat will weaken the bread.
*Increase the baking temperature by 10-15 degrees to keep the leavening gases from collapsing your beautiful loaf of bread.
My friend graciously gave me her recipe, which she adapted over time from a local breadbaker.
Her one comment was, “I wish my bread held together better”. A typical troubleshooting tip I give is to add an extra egg. I did that yesterday and the bread was much more “cakey” than I had anticipated, but it does make great toast. Thought I’d pass that along to you—I think next time I would adjust the cooking temperature. If anyone plays with this recipe, please comment and let me know what you have tried!
High Altitude Bread
Preheat oven to 375˚
Makes 2 loaves
2.5 cups warm water
1 ½ Tbsp yeast
¼ cup oil
½ tsp lecithin
½ Tbsp lemon juice
½ Tbsp salt
5 cups hard wheat flour
- Proof your yeast in hot water and a tablespoon of sweetener for approximately 10 minutes.
- Combine other ingredients.
- This batter will feel much moister, will require more stirring initially to thicken the batter.
- Oil your hands before turning out onto the counter. Avoid adding more flour, and knead bread for 15-20 minutes.
- Immediately put dough into bread pans and let rise. I used the Excalibur dehydrator for the temperature-control factor.
- Bake for 30 minutes.
The Role of Each Ingredient in the Final Product
I would like to explain what each of the ingredients does and how it interacts in my bread recipe. Once you understand this, it is easy to modify a recipe and make it your own. Perhaps you avoid eggs, or want a product with less gluten, etc. If you understand the interplay of these ingredients, you can make substitutions, and create your own variant.
I prefer to start with natural ingredients as much as possible. I will mill my own flour before I get started to ensure that I have the highest nutrient density in my family’s bread. Where possible, I highly recommend pastured eggs. The Omega 3 is clear to see in the bright yellow yolks—bugs and sunshine make the best eggs! Lastly, if you can use filtered water you will get better performance with your recipe ingredients (and you will not miss the Chlorine).
Water—Beyond joining the bread ingredients, water temperature is very important for activating yeast. You want your water to be approximately 110-155˚F. Again, filtered water is going to give the best results.
Altitude is another consideration on how much water you need to add to your recipe. Higher altitudes are dryer climates (lower boiling point for water) and will require a higher ratio of water to the dry ingredients. My recipe worked for me at both sea level in North Carolina and at 3,000 ft here in Montana . . . however I have to use a slightly higher water-to-flour ratio here at 3,000 ft. When I tried to bake bread at 7,000 ft in Colorado Springs, my low altitude recipe failed. Click here for a tested high altitude bread recipe.
Oil—Next to flour, the quality of the oil has the most direct effect on the quality your bread, both in flavor and in nutrition. I almost exclusively use olive oil, because when you examine the finished product, you will know the recipe by ingredients used to make it. It is this fat content that makes a tender and moist baked good. The fat interacts with the strands of gluten to shorten (why we call them “shorteners”) the length of the gluten strands. This allows the gases more freedom of movement so that your baked goods are more “airy”. Egg yolks also help serve this purpose.
Honey—I always add the oil first so that the honey will slide out of the same measuring cup without mess or waste. Traditional cookbook recipes just use plain white sugar, which is good for plain white bread. But why, when you can take your bread from “boring” to “rich”? Honey within itself is the original antibiotic—it is extremely healthy for your immune system, it is easily digestible. Yes, it is one of the more expensive items on the ingredients list—but if you did a blind taste test between two loaves of bread, you would know which one had the honey. I have baked with a variety of sweeteners over the years, to include agave nectar, stevia, and molasses. I find that the honey has the least finicky response in the recipe and is the most versatile.
Flax Seed—this is a completely optional in my list of recipe ingredients, but one I choose for the Omega 3 fatty acids. I know that it is difficult (depending upon your geography) to fill your diet with excellent seafood. If you do not grind the flax seed, you are basically only getting the fiber and the rest of the nutrition passes through undigested. It is an excellent source of both soluble and insoluble fiber. If you grind it in a coffee grinder (you can typically pick one up cheaply for about $10.00 at a box store or pharmacy store) that you have reserved only for your herbs and seeds, you will get many precious phytochemicals in your bread. Flax, like other seed grains, has a lot of antioxidants, including lignans.
We like to use bread for sandwiches, but I commonly hear the complaint that homemade bread can crumble too much for this use. Here’s a great trick: grind your flax seed and add a tablespoon of water to it and let it sit in a bowl for a minute before adding it to your dough. It will work as a binder–just like egg–and will help hold your bread together even while giving you the great nutritional benefit of flax.
Lecithin—This one ingredient single-handedly transformed my early breads to something edible. I did not know WHY back then. Since then I have learned that it is considered a health supplement for its ability to break down fats, to improve memory, and for its promotion of healthy gall bladder functioning. It lowers cholesterol and has been linked to improving women’s reproductive health. In cooking, it is used as an emulsifier to prevent sticking (such as what you find in a cooking spray and chocolate). It provides a tenderness and (perhaps the most important thing of all), it extends the shelf life of the bread! I get several more days at room temperature out of my bread with lecithin, than the bread I have made omitting this ingredient. “Lecithin” is a generic term that can mean any emulsifier and it can be made from many sources. Although I typically avoid soy due to the GMO factor these days, I have used soy lecithin in my bread in the past. You can live without this ingredient, but its shelf life extension, texture improvement, and health benefits make this one you need to weigh personally.
Now that I’ve mentioned all the benefits and how I never baked without it in the early years, I must fess up and tell you I do not use it now. I can “read” my bread dough better with years of experience and don’t need the lecithin to help hold it together for me any more. I do have some on my shelf but I rarely reach for it now.
Salt—I have forgotten it more than once. Your bread is flavorless without it, entirely. I have also overdosed on it, and that makes the bread inedible at best. Salt also tempers the effect of the yeast; you usually realize you have forgotten the salt when your bread will not stop rising! Stick with sea salt if you can; it greatly enhances the flavor and nutrition of your bread. It makes it something richer.
Flour—The single most important of all the ingredients, which is why I only use home-milled flours because of the marked health benefits. Store bought flours, even the gourmet ones, have had to strip some of the nutrients out in order to give it shelf life. Flours in the frozen section maintain most of the nutrition but freezer life will take its toll on that as well. Milling your own flour is easy, affordable, and the most nutrient dense way to bake bread. You can substitute bean and other flours (chickpea, for example) for some of the wheat, but do not go over 25% (you will likely need to add gluten) of the entire flour content or it will not rise properly.
Not all wheat is the same. “Hard” wheat has higher gluten and is best for yeast breads. “Soft” has lower gluten and better for lighter baking products like cake that use other rising methods, such as egg yolk, baking powder, and baking soda which also appear in quick breads.
Hard Red—this has the dark, wheaty flavor. I started with Hard White and began adding this in slowly. This can be an acquired taste, now I love it! Hard Red wheat responds very well to yeast recipe breads.
Hard White—Less wheaty flavor. Very tasty, excellent to use in yeast products.
Soft White—This is the best for quick breads, cookies, baking items with lighter structures. I sometimes mix some in with bread flours for yeast bread, but never more than 10-25% of the total flour.
Durum—This is your pasta wheat! Very tasty and you will see a difference, but in a pinch, use soft white instead.
Spelt—This is delicious and versatile wheat substitute. You can use it in both breads and quick breads. Some people who have sensitivity to wheat breads do well with this flour.
Eggs—This is the binder in your bread. I have tried to live without them and I have tasted several loaves from other bakers without it and I come to the same conclusion every time—use eggs (even better, get your own chickens)! The bread crumbles more easily without it—so if you want sandwich bread you cannot skip this step. You might want to play with how many you use. Eggs also provide another source of healthy fat for your bread, which helps lighten the overall texture.
There are likely thousands or even tens or thousands of bread recipes across the world, but each one will differ based on the ingredients. The food science is the same though, so choosing recipe ingredients that are fresh, quality and wholesome will yield a superior product. If you come across a recipe that you want to modify, you can as long as you which bread ingredients do what and why. If you come across any ingredients that I did not mention here, please leave a comment below and let me know what you like to see in your bread recipe.
Pitcher of water http:/www.freedigitalphotos.net/images/view_photog.php?photogid=1857%22%3EImage:%20zirconicusso%20/%20FreeDigitalPhotos.net%3C/a%3E%3C/p%3E
Nothing in this blog constitutes medical advice. You should consult your own physician before making any dietary changes. Statements in this blog may or may not be congruent with current USDA or FDA guidance.
Pantry Paratus Style
This is my personal homemade bread recipe; I hope you enjoy it. I use this dough for many purposes as it is the base for herbed breads, rolls, hamburger buns, stuffed loaves—YUM.
I have worked with this recipe for bread over the years and am confident with it. It also continues to evolve from time to time. Get creative, and leave a comment below telling me what you have tried and how you have modified it to fit your family’s needs. If you need a high altitude version click here.
If you avoid all soy, skip the lecithin. Use it if you want to give your bread a longer shelf life or if you have had problems with the bread being too crumbly in the past (and you had difficulty using it for sandwiches). If you want to skip the soy but troubleshoot crumbly bread, consider grinding flax seed and letting it soak in a tablespoon of water for a minute–it will serve well as a binder.
Recipe for Whole Wheat Bread
Yields: three loaves in 10’’ pans
- 4 cups warm water (leftover water from boiling potatoes is great)
- 3 tablespoons yeast
- ½ cup flax seed, ground (optional)
- 3 tablespoons lecithin (optional; if omitted, consider 3rd egg as a binder)
- ¼ cup gluten (recommended but optional)
- 2 tablespoons salt
- 14-17 cups hard red or hard white flour (I use 15 cups at 3,000 ft altitude, average weather)
- 1 cup olive oil
- 1 cup honey
- 2-3 eggs
- Sesame seeds (optional)
Pull out all ingredients and have them handy to speed up the process and cut down on the mess.
I Crack my eggs into a separate bowl, stir, and let them warm to room temperature for best results.
Step 1: Add yeast to warm water (approx. 110-115 degrees) and proof to ensure the yeast is viable. Add oil and honey (oil allows the honey to pour easily from your measuring cup). Let this sit until you see bubbling yeast activity.
Step 2: Stir in flax, gluten, lecithin, salt, and eggs.
Step 3: Add flour. If you want to proof your flour (to lower the Phytic acid content) do this now by only adding 5-10 cups of the flour, stirring, and letting it sit as desired. Otherwise, add all the flour you can still stir. I recommend that you mill flour fresh for highest nutritional values.
Step 4: Oil or flour your work surface. Dump your flour out onto the table, adding the rest of the flour. Remember to oil your hands to eliminate sticking as you knead the dough.
Step 5: Knead the dough approximately 10-12 minutes (I sing through “The Lord’s Prayer” twice), or until the dough is soft to the touch, firm and yet still pliable. Avoid adding too much flour during the kneading process—it is a common mistake that can make your bread dry.
Step 6: Place the dough back into the bowl and cover. Let sit for one hour. If you have a cold kitchen, remove the trays from your Excalibur dehydrator and proof the bread in there at approximately 80°.
Step 7: Punch down your dough to release the gases. Then form into loaves with the seam down and place into the greased or floured bread pans. Lightly oil and add seeds if desired.
Step 8: Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
Step 9: Cover your loaves again and let them sit for 15-30 minutes longer (not necessary at higher altitudes).
Step 10: Bake for approximately 30 minutes. Check for even browning and rotate if needed (every oven is different). If they brown too quickly, cover with foil for the first half of baking.
I also did a separate blog entry to give the why every ingredient appears in the wheat bread recipe, some science behind the reactions and what happens if you omit or substitute an ingredient. Bread baking is so much fun, I hope that you enjoy it as much as I do.
For best nutrition results, use a whole wheat bread recipe like this one to ensure that you are getting the healthiest results. Flour that you mill at home has superior nutrition to the dead flour that you buy on the shelf at the grocery store.
High altitude tip: I thought that I knew how to bake bread until I tried it at my best friend’s house in Colorado Springs. If your altitude is anything higher than approximately 2,000 ft, you might find you need to add more moisture to your bread dough, adjust your rise time, and adjust your cooking time. Try this high altitude bread recipe variant.
If you would like to see a video of this bread recipe, simply sign up for our news letter and you will receive a video link in your email walking you through step by step. I recently had tasted someone’s second loaf of bread (ever) that she made after watching my video-and it came out great!
If anyone modifies this specific recipe, or if you have another bread recipe altogether, please leave a comment. I would love to hear what works for you!
Whole Wheat vs. Hole Wheat
Ingredients found in fresh ground whole wheat flour and why they matter
The wheat kernel (or wheat berry) has three components: the bran, the germ, and the endosperm. White flour that you purchase in the store is simply the endosperm. Actually, it would simplify so much if they called it “wheat starch” instead of “flour” so that you would know it was a kissing cousin to corn starch. The bran and germ sections have been sifted out, and are sold to you again as health supplements (or additives in healthy cereal, granola bars, salad toppings, etc.) or other value added products like animal feed. It is quite a racket: to sell the same thing to you three separate times.
The bran is the outer shell or wrapper consisting of 3 fibrous layers that protect the dormant nascent plant inside. These layers are rich in fiber and in minerals. One of these layers, the Aleurone layer, contains protein as well as high levels of vitamins and Phytic acid.
The germ is the embryo (remember, the grain is a seed of a plant), therefore it is high in both protein and fat, as well as containing the highest level of B vitamins. This is the engine inside the seed of the wheat kernel that will propel the new plant upwards. When the seed receives moisture and the plant starts to germinate, it is the germ that forms the new plant shoot.
The endosperm is all starch and protein. If the bran were to represent the fuselage and the germ the engine, the endosperm would be fuel for the new plant to start growing until it can metabolize sunlight on its own. When you buy enriched flour in the store, this what you are actually eating. It is the starch in the endosperm that contains gluten, giving baked products the composition to hold together.
A quick history of flour
The history of how white, deconstructed flour became “all the rage” is really quite fascinating. Basically, sifted flour was the European Royalty treat (think “corsets and fainting women”) and the robust peasants milled their own, hearty flours. Sifting (or boulting) has been a method employed since Roman times (they had seven grades of sifted flour). Sifting into “white” flour is nothing new, but it was never industrialized because the labor involved to go from raw wheat flour to refined sifted flour was so intensive.
Enter the Industrial age—then an American figured out how to sift it commercially, and it became the thing in 1928. At about the same time, scientists discovered the causes of Pellagra, Scurvy and Rickets were deficiencies in niacin, vitamin C and D along with phosphorus respectively. The population at large was simply malnourished, and viola—“enrichment” became the Band-Aid® commonly practiced by 1938, and eventually the law in 1941. Flour enrichment was intended to bring ordinary flour back closer to whole wheat bread. This process is also credited with lowering the Pellagra rate from 10.5% in 1933 to only .5% by the year 1949. Even in recent history (the 2000’s), enrichment of folic acid became law and the number of babies born with neural tube defects decreased by 26%. Short version of the story, when you need to get some trace element out to the people, write a law and put it in the flour.
The Stripping and Enrichment Processes
So is whole wheat whole grain? No. It is very important understand that the greatest nutritional content of wheat is in the bran and germ, and that the endosperm—the stuff modern white bread is made of—does not contain the vitamins and minerals necessary for our daily diets. Modern day flour mills strip far more vitamins and minerals from the flour then they add back into it, and the enrichment is not sufficient to meet your body’s full dietary needs. Please do not misunderstand—adding some nutrition into dead flour has saved lives. But how many more could it save if the flour was served whole?
What is whole wheat? To answer that, please contrast the following two nutritional charts: the one on the left is for 1 serving of plain wheat berries (or kernels) and the one on the right is for a serving (1 slice) of store-bought white bread. When you compare them, understand that the 1 cup of wheat is simply 1 cup of the berries; your homemade bread, with honey, salt, liquid (potato water is full of nutritional benefits), and oil will have even higher levels.
Pure Wheat Berries: 1 serving of White Bread:
It is interesting to note that in the early 2000’s the law required the enrichment of flour with folate (folic acid). Although the quantities are different, look at the nutritional values again. Raw wheat berries and enriched bread are virtually the same amount of folic acid. There is no comparison between the fiber, iron, thiamin, niacin, magnesium, vitamin B6, phosphorus, and zinc!
There is something unique about the iron level differences between the raw and the processed. Anemia is the most widespread vitamin deficiency in the world, irrespective of the financial health of the countries. The white bread has been enriched with iron and cannot compare to the natural iron levels found within the wheat. Since there is more than one type of iron, and because the type naturally found within wheat oxidizes quickly, the enrichment process will insert a form less easily digestible than the one that comes integral to your wheat kernel. Actually, the iron in enriched flour “usually begins not only in iron ore mines in Minnesota, which is no surprise, but also in oil wells, which is” (Ettlinger, 2007). Ettlinger goes on to point out in hilarious detail that the ferrous sulphate (iron substitute) in enriched flour actually is derived from crude oil (sulphur) and the rust residue in acid pickling tanks from steel mills production lines (ferrous).
If flour mills take far more out than they put back in through enrichment—so why take it out at all? The reason is shelf stability. True whole wheat flour (flour made from all three parts of the wheat kernel) will quickly oxidize and go rancid. Actually, the nutritive value of the fresh ground whole wheat flour plummets in mere hours after it is ground (although the process can be stalled significantly if the whole wheat flour is immediately put into the freezer).
When flour mills strip the whole wheat grain of its bran and germ, they are taking more than the vitamins that you see on the label; they are stripping phytonutrients. Also called “phytochemicals,” these are plant nutrients that are not considered essential. That just means that they enhance your life but might not be essential to it. For instance, studies suggest that one such phytonutrient, Lignans, can guard against breast and prostate cancers (Mathis, 2005). These may not make a label, but they are crucial for quality of life.
“Let your food be your medicine and your medicine be your food” -Hippocrates.
To get quantity, there must be a bulk filler (typically starch) that is used to add nutrients back into the flour for enrichment. Remember that starch consists of high levels of glucose, and this turns quickly into a “sugar” in your body. So the enrichment process is not without the unfortunate side effect of making bread products “starchy” and a poor choice for diabetics. True living bread is not this way. The natural starches contained within the wheat are counterbalanced by the naturally occurring vitamins, minerals, fiber, and protein.
Vitamin E—The original miracle drug
Vitamin E is a fat soluble antioxidant. That means that they protect cells from harm done by damaging free radicals, which are molecules that contain an unshared electron (Office of Dietary Supplements, 2011). The Ohio State University measured the amount of vitamin E in various foods, to include oils. The highest item on the list was 1 tablespoon of wheat germ oil, just the oil! That one tablespoon provides 20.3 milligrams of vitamin E—that’s 135.3% of your RDA! There is no greater known source of Vitamin E in the world than in whole wheat (Mosure, 2004).
Phosphorus along with Vitamin D are needed in healthy diets to fight Rickets (a disease where the bones degenerate and soften). Phosphorus is represented in adequate quantities in enough unprocessed foods so that deficiencies are only a concern in people who routinely consume antacids or who have a disease in the kidneys. Whole wheat is perhaps the second best common source for phosphorus you can find—the highest value going to the yeast used in bread baking. With the advent of enriched flour, the tracer bullet manufacturing sector has had to share its primary ingredient (Phosphorus) with bakers. Hmmmm, I think I will just stick to whole wheat home ground flour.
Let’s consider eating God’s bounty as He designed. We could discuss the various vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients of whole wheat for many pages more; this is not an exhaustive list of the health benefits to this fundamental grain. Rather, it is a brief highlight of the value of this often underated food staple. Please consider replacing the deconstructed flour in your diet with true whole grain. Flour milling is as simple in modern times as flipping the switch on any kitchen appliance. The lingering scent of freshly baked bread, the indulgence of a warm slice from the oven, the improvement in skin, digestion, and overall health—this is a wonderful gift to yourself and to your family.
Wheat kernel cutaway from the Montana Wheat and Barley Committee: http://wbc.agr.mt.gov/wbc/Consumer/Diagram_kernel/
Boulting Flour in the Bakehouse by Kentwell Hall Great Re-Creation, June 2010 (Depicting 1538) http://www.flickriver.com/photos/nigesphotobox/4741585459/
Bread by Viererie http://www.rgbstock.com/photo/nfAVg1Y/BreadBread
Ettlinger, S. (2007). Twinkie, deconstructed, my journey to discover how the ingredients found in processed foods are grown, mined (yes, mined), and manipulated into what America eats. (First printing, March 2007 ed., Vol. 1, p. 32). London: Hudson st Pr.
Mathis MD, C. (2005, April 01). Web md. Retrieved from http://www.webmd.com/diet/phytonutrients-faq
Mosure, J. (2004, November). The Ohio State University Extension Office Online. Retrieved from http://ohioline.osu.edu/hyg-fact/5000/pdf/5554.pdf
Office of dietary supplements. (2011, October 11). Retrieved from http://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminE-HealthProfessional/
For further study:
http://www.drcranton.com/nutrition/bread.htm (highly recommended reading)
www.americanbakers.org, “Celebrating 70 years of Enrichment”
www.wolframalpha.com for the nutritional charts
http://www.mostproject.org/PDF/2.pdf US Aid, “Manual for Wheat Flour Fortification with Iron”
http://www.lesliebeck.com/ingredient_index.php?featured_food=120 Leslie Beck, RD; “Wheat berries – March 2010’s Featured Food”
http://www.sph.emory.edu/wheatflour/KEYDOCS/MI_Fort_handbook.pdf Wesley and Ranum, eds. “The Fortification Handbook” (2004).
http://ohioline.osu.edu/hyg-fact/5000/5554.html Vitamin E: Ohio State University Extension Fact Sheet
http://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/vitamine/ Office of Dietary Supplements, National Institutes of Health. Dietary Supplement Fact Sheet: Vitamin E
Nothing in this blog constitutes medical advice. You should consult your own physician before making any dietary changes. Statements in this blog may or may not be congruent with current USDA or FDA guidance.