Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Making Flour With My Cheapo Grinder

When I wrote the original review of my cheap grinder I said that it's not capable of making flour that's suitable for bread making. Then when I was brewing a batch of beer the other day I noticed something after I cracked my grain. There was dust everywhere. It's pretty obvious what that dust was.....flour! Obviously I knew that it technically could make flour when I made that statement but I just assumed that it would take way too much time and effort. So I decided to see how much time and effort it would take to make enough flour to bake some bread. It was nowhere near as bad as I thought it would be. Here's how I did it.

The grain hopper on my grinder is pretty big. It holds about 3 cups of whole wheat so that's what I started with. As I ran the grain through the handle was fairly easy to turn and didn't take too much effort. I'm not in great shape and, after a full hopper, I was feeling the burn but it didn't tire me out. From what I hear about the more expensive grinders the handle can be really hard to turn and it gets tiring fast. This was easy enough that a kid could probably do it.

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After the first run I tried to sift the cracked grain with my flour sifter. It didn't work very well. The sifter jammed up and the pieces it was letting through were too big. I ended up using the grain bag that I use to sparge my grain while homebrewing. It's basically just a long, skinny bag made out of very fine netting. Anything like that should work. I put a cup of the cracked grain in the bag at a time, grabbed both ends and then sifted it back and forth over a mixing bowl until dust stopped falling out. After sifting I put the cracked grain in another container to be run through the grinder again. When I ran the cracked grain through I mixed in a cup or so of more wheat berries. Wheat berries are really hard. As they rub up against each other between the grinder plates they contribute just as much to the pulverizing into flour as the grinding together of the plates themselves. Here's what I ended up with after just a few runs. It turned out finer than corn meal but a little bit more coarse than store bought whole wheat flour. My flour is on the left. The store bought flour is on the right. The cracked grain that I was left with is on the bottom. I did a couple more runs after I took this pic. The whole process took about thirty minutes.

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I was making sourdough so I cheated a bit and used unbleached white flour to make my sponge. I also ended up needing a bit more flour so I went ahead and used about a cup or so of store bought whole wheat flour. I also threw in a cup of chopped craisins and used honey instead of sugar. The recipe ended up looking something like this:

my starter (originally just 1 cup unbleached white flour and 1 cup water)
1 cup unbleached flour
1 cup store bought whole wheat flour
4 cups freshly ground whole wheat flour
1 cup craisins
1 tbsp salt
1 tbsp vegetable oil
2 tbsp honey

I mixed everything up then kneaded the dough. Then I let it rest for half an hour or so. I punched it down, rolled it out, made two loaves out of it and let it rise for several hours. After it was done rising I brushed an egg/milk mixture over it and then sprinkled on some of the leftover cracked grains.

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The finished product turned out pretty well. It didn't rise as much as I'd have liked it to but it was sufficient. It turned out a little heavy and nutty but extremely tasty. The first loaf was gone in a couple of hours. The second one will probably be gone tonight. With a little effort this grinder is definitely sufficient for making bread flour. I'd certainly prefer something that's higher quality but it makes a pretty good backup. Where there's a will there's a way and when you don't have the proper tools you improvise.

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8 comments:

gott_cha said...

most folks assume It wont make flour,..technically thats true, it wont make store quality fine milled flour, but it will make flour of the quality our grandparents used. My wife bakes a lot of breads and I make several types of "corn-bread" corn mush,..gritts,..and meal for batter with the grains we grind. The cheapo grinders are perfect for what they do,..grinding grains.They are adjustable from course to medium-fine.
Since getting ours a while back we no longer buy cornmeal or flour(unless its a small bag for pizza dough), and we use now only what we make.
Ive heard others say and second mill for finer grinding is needed,we found it produced a good quality facsimile to what the "box stores" sell as organic "stone ground". Just have a good crank-style flour sifter or make a sifter from some 1x2's and window screen so you can remove the larger hulls,...dont throw them out if you raise chickens or other fowl,..its good feed!

Oh and as far as a second grinder....yeah Im thinking about 1 or 2 more of these cheapies for back up,..ours gets used alot!

P.S. for a more fine flour you can also grind in some plain white rice for a smoother texture,....be sure and add a little baking powder if you want some rise.

Gott_cha

SurvivalTopics.com said...

This images have my mouth watering. Nothing like real homemade breads.

What are some of the better grinders on the market?

The Urban Survivalist said...

The Back to Basics grinder gets good reviews and sells for around $60-$70. I've heard that they work OK but are easy to damage. Lehman's Best Grain Mill uses either metal or stone burrs and it's less than $200. I've heard mixed reviews on that one from very good to so so. The Country Living Grain Mill gets the best reviews but it's $400. I'll probably keep using my cheap grinder until I can afford a Country Living mill.

gott_cha said...

I paid $38 bucks for a cheap cast iron unit that does a great job,..its adjustable for various grinds,....not as good as the $$$$ high dollar ones,..but hey!

Anonymous said...

We have the Back to Basics and the Country Living Mills. The Back to Basic has a permanent place in the kitchen for coarse grinding oats. It will produce good quality flour, but it generally takes a couple of passes. We found ours at a yard sale for $15, used once.
The County Living Mill is everything it should be at the price. Our's is hooked up to an exercise bike with a portable stand. It produces fine flour, but not as fine as our old electric hammer mill used to.
For just two of us, the Back to Basics would have been fine, but we're also looking at the barter potential in having the bigger mill. Plus, the Country Living Mill offers complete rebuild kits and will last far longer than we do.

dccdmom said...

I let my sour dough bread rise at least 12 hours. It turns out a lot like yeast bread only with the sour taste.

Anonymous said...

hey

I've been trying to justify buying a mill for a while. Can't justify it right now.. I'm thinking I might make my self an "African style mill" ie a big lump of wood with a ~400mm hole in it and the good 1.5m (5 foot) pole to lift up and down pounding the shi&* out of it.

A good excercise in making a simple tool to replace one that's been confiscated??

What do you reckon? any experience with this sort of thing?

Anonymous said...

by the way.. I don't seem to be able to buy a mill of ANY sort for under $200 here in australia