- Created on 12 June 2013
- Written by Jeahan Virda B. De Barras
When I look at flour, when I feel in my fingers its starchy substance, all I’m thinking is that it’s probably made with magical ingredients from a magical factory somewhere.
Of course I’m exaggerating. But the process of turning a stalk of wheat into white, powdery form still baffles me. Or at least it used to, because here’s a fallacy I had bought: milling wheat to make your own flour is not easy.
I believed the fallacy mainly because I live in a tropical country where everywhere I look there is rice and pineapples and coconuts but never a sight of wheat fields, from which the main ingredient of flour is taken.
And while the Philippines has always been known as a rice-eating country, as much as P6 billion is annually spent by the government for the importation of wheat--because of bread-loving people like me, of course. According to an estimate by industry group U.S. Wheat Associates, the Philippines is the second largest importer of wheat in the world.
This is preposterous, considering that the Philippines can grow its own wheat successfully, according to a former official of the National Food Authority. This former official pointed out that varieties of wheat can be grown in Western Cagayan, Isabela, Nueva Vizcaya, Mountain Province, Southern Quezon, Central and Southern Cebu and parts of Southern Mindanao, where the climate is quite temperate, as shown in the scientific studies led by the Bureau of Plant Industry way back in 1957.
A Perfect Food from Nature
And if it ever happens that the country gets easy access to wheat, it would be ideal then for bread buffs to start milling their own flour. Why? Because wheat is one of the most perfect foods from nature but sadly, all its goodness in every grain gets ebbed in the packs of flour we see in supermarkets.
By making your own flour, your body absorbs all the goodness that nature so lovingly packed into her beautiful wheat grains. You get to benefit from all the vitamins and delicate oils that easily get lost or damaged from too much air exposure in profit-oriented milling processes.
In most processes, all traces of the wheat’s bran and germ have to be removed in order to be preserved enough as it sits from warehouses to shop shelves for months. With this, at least 22 of the 26 vitamins and minerals found in wheat are eliminated. The rough texture that is reduced in well-milled flours could have been used as antioxidants for the digestive system as well.
It’s true that bread and other pastries made out of refined flour is whiter and fluffier. But the more appetizing its appearance and texture is, the more it becomes a cause for health problems like Obesity, Diabetes, Bowel Cancer, Tooth Decay and Hypoglycaemia. To address this, factories that produce flour in bulks have tried adding so-called enrichments like vitamins B1, B2, Niacin and Iron--something that they so proudly advertise on their products’ packages. But on a greater scale, to have these enrichments means to compromise at least 26 vitamins and minerals found in a kernel of whole wheat. As one whole wheat processor website pointed out: why strip the natural goodness from our food, then artificially restore a part of it back? Wouldn’t it be wiser to eat the wholesome natural food in the first place?
DIY Flour 101
So it’s ideal that we make our own flour. But how exactly do you turn wheat into flour? No, you don’t have to wait for magic to come true to make that happen. This process only takes at least two practical steps.
First is to find the best bread-baking buddy you’ll ever have for many years: the grain mill. Among the popular brands are WonderMill, Nutrimill, GrainMaster, VitaMill and Wonder Junior. Generally, you just have to understand that the better the warranty of the device, the better is its service going to be for you during the tough work. These equipments give you an advantage on how fine or course the texture you prefer your flour to be. Also, you can regulate the flour into only the amount you need, wasting nothing.
Finding the perfect grain is the second step. Because the Philippines is not a wheat-producing country, finding the best grains can be a difficult task. But health food stores all over the metro have started stocking up on their shelves more wheat grain types. Some stores have even made it more convenient by displaying their products online.
From there, you can follow the instructions from the manual of your grain mill. Remember, though, that flour milled on your own doesn’t last long so only grind what you can use. If it’s necessary to grind more than you need, make sure to store it in a tight-lidded container on a freezer, to be used within a day or two.
Taste of Home
The flavor that can embrace you like the warmth of home in self-ground flour will never be duplicated by any flour in the market. A lot of bread experts claim that wholegrain breads are drier and heavier with rough traces of dirt when the flour used is commercialized. With home-milled flour, the bread is moister with a fresh and often nutty taste, almost similar to the best bread you’ve tasted from childhood. This is because the slight oiliness that the natural life-giving germ from wheat enriches the taste of every bread and pastry made from it.
This suddenly makes me remember the story of the Red Hen, who asked her animal friends to help her make bread. The point of the whole tale is to let children learn about perseverance in work, but what has really stuck on my mind after hearing that story for the first time from my second grade teacher was the delicate process of producing the perfect bread from scratch--and that means from planting the wheat to that glorious moment of smelling the fresh bread after it is taken out of the oven. Since then, one of the most beautiful things in the world for me is bread that its baker can truly say he or she has practiced perseverance with.