By Laura Kurella
While journeying through the various shortages we’ve encountered during COVID, I experienced a significant gain in knowledge about flour, and want to share that I have learned that there is a better, healthier, and even more flavorful way to store it for both long term, and every day.
Learning that ground flours lose their added nutrients, and go stale and or rancid in a short amount of time, un-ground whole wheat berries do not. In fact, whole wheat berries not only possess all their naturally-present vitamins, minerals, and nutrients that commercial processing and milling removes, but also, when properly contained, can be stored for decades.
Similar appearance to brown rice or other whole grains, wheat berries have a chewy texture and nutty taste that can be ground into a fresh flour, cooked into an oatmeal or porridge for breakfast, served as a side, popped like popcorn; or even sprouted for a crunchy and nutritious addition to breads, salads, sandwiches and more.
Thrilled to learn about this better way to store grains in ways that add better nutrition and flavor, I was even more thrilled to find the five generations strong Mader family, who runs Palouse Brand, which is a family-owned and vertically-integrated farm that grows, cleans, processes, packages, and ships premium legumes and grains directly to customers around the world.
I was drawn to them because they follow sustainable agricultural practices, such as direct seeding and NO-Till to help greatly reduce soil erosion, and they are Food Alliance certified, and Non-GMO Project Verified.
All their foods are naturally dried by sunshine, and will sprout because they are non-irradiated (an accepted processing practice that exposes food to radiation for sterilization).
“Our wheat berries will sprout,” said company spokesperson, Alyssa, “and they carry the quality seal from the Whole Grains Council, too. We grow it, harvest it, truck it, process it, bag it, and get it to you. It never touches a middleman. And our products are field traced, so each bag comes with a code you can scan to identify the field we grew it in, and its harvest date.”
Coming in a few varieties, wheat berries are identified by the season they grow in: Winter or spring; their gluten content: Hard or soft; and by their color: Red or white.
Hard wheat tends to contain more protein and gluten, making it a superior choice for breads, which rely on the gluten to form the webbing that creates a great loaf.
Soft wheat varieties tend to contain more starch, which makes it more suitable for pastries and cakes.
Hard red wheat berries are dark in color, and are used to make whole wheat flour. Offering a slightly higher protein and gluten content, they are an ideal flour source for any hearty or heavy bread recipe. However, for the best loaves, it’s best to cut in a lighter flour with it so that your bread is not too dark or dense.
White wheat berries are lighter in color than red wheat berries, and are used to make whole white wheat flour. They are perfect for bread-making because they tend to yield a lighter bread when compared to red.
With flavorful, non-GMO grains and legumes sold under their Palouse brand name, folks can find their quality products at local food co-ops, on Amazon.com, and at their website: palousebrand.com, which also offers recipes so tempting you’ll wish you could lift them off the page.
Here now are some fresh flour recipes from the Maders and myself, along with a wish for a happy and healthy Easter holiday— enjoy.
Easy Artisan Bread
Prep Time:135 min.; Total Time: 180 min.; Servings: 14-18
3 cups whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon active dry yeast
2 teaspoons unrefined mineral sea salt
1 2/3 cup warm water (110°F)
1 teaspoon fresh rosemary, finely chopped
1 teaspoon fresh thyme, finely chopped
1 teaspoon fresh sage, finely chopped
In a large bowl, combine flour, yeast, and salt, mixing well. Add water and herbs, mixing in well. Dough will be very sticky and shaggy-looking. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and set aside at room temperature for 18 hours or overnight.
Generously flour a work surface. Dough should have risen and be covered in bubbles. Transfer dough to work surface and dust top with flour. Fold dough in half, then form dough into a ball by stretching and tucking the edges of the dough underneath the ball. Place rounded loaf onto a sheet of parchment paper set on a baking pan. Take a sharp knife or razor and score top of loaf at least three times to help loaf rise. Set pan in warm area to rise while oven heats up.
Place a lidded Dutch oven or deep heavy duty casserole dish (with lid) inside oven then preheat oven to 450 degrees. Set a timer for 30 minutes.
When timer goes off, open oven door and pull rack out that pot is sitting on. Remove the lid from the pot then gently lift the edges of the parchment paper that the loaf is resting on and carefully lower parchment paper and loaf into pot. Place lid back on pot and close oven door.
Bake for 15 minutes then open oven and remove the lid from the pot. Close oven and continue to bake until crust is golden brown, approximately 15 to 20 minutes more. Remove loaf from pot by carefully lifting parchment paper. Let loaf cool on a rack before slicing.
Easy Sandwich Bread
Prep Time: 15 min.; Total Time: 3 hours., 5 min. Servings: 1 loaf
1 1/3 cups low-fat milk
1 tablespoon instant yeast
1/4 cup honey, molasses, or maple syrup
1 3/4 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon vegetable oil
420 grams milled Hard White Wheat Berries* (3 1/2 cups whole wheat flour), sifted
*Remember when using freshly milled flour it is best to use weighted measurements rather than volume.
Warm milk to no more than 100 degrees. This will help activate the yeast.
To the milk, add the yeast and wait 5 minutes until yeast starts to foam.
To a stand mixer, add the yeast-milk mixture, honey, salt, vegetable oil, and flour.
With the hook attachment, begin to mix on low until the dough forms one mass. Increase the speed to high and beat for 5 minutes to develop gluten. Alternatively, knead the dough by hand until it forms a strong, firm, smooth dough.
Let the dough rest for 1 hour in a covered, well-oiled bowl until doubled.
Remove dough from the bowl and press down with your hands to flatten into a rectangle. Tightly roll the dough along the long side of the rectangle, pressing down to seal as you go. Make sure the roll is tight so you don’t have holes in your finished loaf.
Place dough into an 8 1/2 x 4 1/2 (standard) bread pan. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside to rise for another hour.
Once your loaf has risen one inch above the bread pan, it is ready to be baked.
Brush the top of the loaf with an egg beaten with one teaspoon of water.
Bake at 350 for 50 minutes. Bread is done when the internal temperature reaches 190 degrees.
Sweet Easter Egg Bread
Prep: 30 min.; Cook: 30 min.; Additional: 1 hr., 40 min.; Total:2 hours., 40 min. Yield: 2 loaves
4 cups whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon unrefined mineral sea salt
2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup olive oil
1 cup warm water
1/4 cup raisins (Optional)
In a large bowl, stir together the flour, salt, yeast, and vital wheat gluten until well mixed. In another bowl, stir together the honey, olive oil, water, eggs, and raisins. Pour the liquid mixture into the flour mixture, and stir until it forms a dough.
Turn the dough out onto a floured surface, and knead until smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes. Form the dough into a round shape. Lightly oil a bowl, place the dough in the bowl, and turn the dough over a few times to oil the surface. Cover the bowl with a cloth, and let rise in a warm, draft-free place until doubled, about 1 hour.
Punch down the dough, knead it a few times to remove some of the bubbles, and cut it into 2 equal-sized pieces. Shape or braid loaves as desired and place in a lined loaf pan or baking sheet. Let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 30-60 minutes.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Bake in the preheated oven until golden brown, about 30 minutes. Serve warm for best flavor.
Win a bag of Palouse Whole Wheat Berries
Send in the correct answer to this week’s question for a chance to win:
QUESTION: “In today’s Taste Page article, it’s mentioned that the Mader’s use the latest in sustainable agricultural practices. Name one of the sustainable practices they use.”
To enter, call or text your answer to: (269) 625-5817; or email your answer to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Be sure to leave your name, phone number and mailing address, along with the correct answer for your chance to be a randomly drawn winner. Good luck!