Because this blog is new, many of you who now read it don't really know me. In my two previous blogs (pardon my fickle ways), I talked a lot about the things I do in normal, daily life. Fresh grains play a pretty significant role in that realm.
Allow me to be candid for a moment, will you? For most of my life, I've struggled with... ahem... digestive issues. As a result, the plumbing in every house I've occupied has been at risk, almost as much as my own system. I say this not to make you wince, but to let you know that if you've had similar problems, there is a solution. Now that you're reading this, you don't even have to risk ridicule or rejection by admitting it to anyone. Simply do what I did (barring any allergies, of course).
A little over a decade ago, my "spiritual mother", Renate, sent me a book in the mail that marked a new beginning for me. I had never before heard nor considered the use of freshly-ground grains until I was enlightened by Karey Swan in her book, Hearth and Home. I was aghast at the startling truth about the flour and breads available in grocery stores, and what damage is done to the digestive tract, among other things, from the consumption of processed grains.
I began to investigate further, and eventually I started meeting people who were already aware of the benefits of using whole grains -- meaning grains that had not been stripped of the bran and germ, where the life of the kernel resides. As Karey Swan first explained (first to me, at least), a kernel of wheat contains approximately thirty vital ("life-sustaining") nutrients, placed there by our Sovereign God, making fresh bread the "staff of life". When commercial mills came along with industrial strides, there was no way to preserve the flour and the loaves without removing all of what makes it good in the first place. Various synthetic processes were developed to make us think that we were still getting a quality product ("enriched"), but in fact, we have been badly cheated.
As I read more about this exciting old world of true bread (after all, store-bought bread is new, historically speaking), I became more and more intrigued. It took four years of research and dreaming before I was able to finally save enough money to purchase a grain mill and a strong enough stand mixer to begin making fresh bread for our larger-than-average family.
That was eight years ago, and now we wouldn't want to live without our fresh grains. However, since moving to Moçambique, we've had a nine-month stretch with no homemade bread. Although I had all of my favorite small appliances brought here in our humble shipment, I was unable to procure an electrical converter that is compatible with our more powerful machines. In the meantime, we've been purchasing our bread from a local bakery. While this is better (psychologically) than the square sliced loaf with a label from the grocery, it in no way compares to the soft, delicious, life-sustaining bread we've grown to enjoy and appreciate at home.
Thanks to my beautiful friend, Mindy, however, I now have temporary custody of a proper converter. To my profound joy, I spent a very productive morning last week in the kitchen making our very first batch of "real" bread. Slicing into a soft, warm loaf brought great satisfaction. It is my tradition to enjoy the first heel, as in my opinion, that's where all the flavor is (and I love the texture); but this time, I wanted to bestow this honor on our beloved Moçambican empregada, Leonora. She has never had this kind of bread, and I wanted her to share a little taste of our home. In this part of the world, "nice" is the word commonly used in English to describe something particularly delectable. Leonora was interested in having "more" of this "very nice" bread. Invariably, that's the response I get when I attempt to convert someone to fresh grains.
It's a beautiful mess.
Graham and Gabriela were anxious and took this very seriously, assuming the task of picking out less-than-perfect kernels before any would get into the final product.
I was so tickled, I just had to peek while the dough was rising.
This one didn't fit into the oven with the other three. Our Moz oven is a bit smaller than the one we had in the States, which would fit all four loaves at once. By the way, notice my well-seasoned Pampered Chef loaf stone. I've tried a few different loaf pans, and by far this gets the best results. However, if you simply must be aesthetically-driven in your baking pursuits, my dad has been very pleased with his Emile Henry pans from Sur La Table.
Since Mindy rescued me from my nine-month hiatus from good nutrition, I thought it appropriate to share a loaf with her family. Secretly, I was hoping that she, too, would catch the whole-grain "bug". She did. I hope to give her a little crash course in fresh grain baking before she moves away next month. I did this for the ladies at the church we attended in Alabama a few years ago. We had such a great time in my kitchen, and they weren't even scared off when I shared the gory tales of my past intestinal woes. One by one, my little converts began placing their orders for mills and mixers -- for which I receive no incentive, other than the pleasure of knowing that more families will benefit from a wise choice.
I joke with Craig that I'm like a drug pusher. The first loaf is free, then my junkies come back for more. I don't make them pay for bread. Instead, I entice them to take the plunge, purchase the machines and grains, and enjoy the drastic change that has made life a little... smoother... for me.
If I've piqued your curiosity about the benefits of fresh grains and you'd like to learn more, you may want to start here. There's also a fun and informative blog post here. For further reading, try Grains of Truth, by Donna Spann; and for some great recipes, in addition to Karey's book, mentioned above, I recommend Nourishing Traditions, The Bread Beckers Recipe Collection, and Healthy Recipes From the Heart of Our Homes.
Happy milling and baking!