A few years ago I tried homemade honey wheat bread for the very first time. So fresh the wheat was ground right in front of me and the flour was made warm from the process. I was fascinated with the idea that baking bread myself was possible. I certainly wasn’t a wiz in the kitchen (my husband still says he taught me how to cook 🙂 ) and the process seemed complicated. But I was determined to give it a try and surprised at how simple it really was to accomplish. Bread making was the beginning of a desire within me to pursue a homesteading lifestyle. The unmistakable aroma of fresh bread rising fills a home with comfort and creates a sense of accomplishment.
If bread making and grinding your own wheat is intriguing to you, here’s some valuable information to help break down the mystery. Starting the journey does not have to be complicated or require a lot of specialized equipment. A basic understanding of wheat, storage methods and the variety of recipes available will have you off and running in no time.
The first thing I had to understand was the difference in various types of wheat and what to use when. Wheat is divided into several types based on the hardness of the kernel, color, and growing season.
- Hard wheat is produced in areas that have dry-temperate climates; kernels are usually small, red, and have a hard texture.
- White wheat is generally grown in areas where winters are relatively mild and there is adequate moisture. White wheat kernels are fuller and larger than red wheat kernels and have a softer texture than hard wheat.
Wheat kernels are also known as wheat “berries”. In general, hard red spring, hard red winter and hard white spring are recommended for bread flour due to the high gluten content. Gluten is a wheat protein that giving flours the ability to retain gases produced by bread yeast to permit dough leavening. It can be added to poor quality flour or to a recipe in general to produce better quality bread.
There are a variety of sources for purchasing wheat. Many local supermarkets will even order it for you or you can order online direct from the producer. It is important to know what you’re getting, however. Some sources may not clean it prior to sale and you want to make sure you’re not purchasing seed. To help you determine how much to purchase, it is estimated that approximately 150 lbs. will supply an adult for one year. A three-week emergency supply is approximately 5-10 lbs. per adult. Children 8 years old or younger would need half those amounts. Personally, we don’t use this much each year and I currently have about 150 pounds stored.
Once purchased, store wheat in moisture-proof, food-grade packaging, such as Mylar-type bags, polyethylene bags, plastic buckets, or #10 cans. Storage at 40-60°F is optimal for most home stored grains. Freezing or sub-zero temperatures don’t damage stored grains. Storage at temperatures above 60°F causes only a slightly faster loss in food value. Moisture levels of more than 15% will allow molds to grow. When the moisture reaches 20% some bacteria can start to grow and the result is spoiled grain unfit for use. Additionally, store containers off the floor – especially off concrete floors. Concrete can wick moisture to stored containers very easily. Inspect grain often for insect activity. A good rule of thumb is to rotate wheat so that no stored product is older than 5 years. However, older stored wheat will make acceptable bread and various studies indicate it can be stored for twenty years. I keep my wheat in 5 gallon food grade plastic buckets with gamma seals on a shelf in our pantry which is relatively cool and dry. I also add several bay leaves to the wheat berries to ward off insects; however, there are varying opinions of the effectiveness of this method. Since I’ve never had a single issue, I’ve decided to continue doing what works.
If you are interested in purchasing wheat, storage buckets or other bread baking supplies, click here.
Whether you grind your own wheat or purchase ready-to-use flour, there are an assortment of recipes that you can try.
BASIC WHOLE WHEAT BREAD RECIPE:
Delicious topped with honey!
- 3 1/2 c. hot water – 95 degrees
- 1 c. oil
- 1/2 c. honey
- 3 T. dry yeast
- 3 eggs
- 1 T. salt
- 1 tsp. ascorbic acid
- 3 T. gluten
- 1 tsp. lecithin
- 13 c. +/- whole wheat flour
Place ingredients 1-4, in order, into mixing bowl. Mix briefly – WAIT. When yeast is active, add ingredients 5-9 at about speed 2 on Bosch. Add four – about halfway increase speed to 4. Add flour slowly until it pulls dough clean from sides. Mix for 8-10 minutes on speed 4. Prepare 5 loaf pans by spraying lightly. Oil hands and remove dough from bowl, divide dough into 5 equal parts and shape to fit pan. Place dough in pans and cover with towel. Let rise 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place on middle rack 25-30 minutes. Remove from oven and baste with butter. When cool enough, remove from pans and place on cooling rack. Store in bags (can be frozen for future use). Loaves will only last two or three days so watch for signs of mold (if they last that long with your family!)
If you want to try your hand at a simpler bread that doesn’t require a mixer or the ability to grind your own wheat, this is a great recipe. I make this also as my husband still prefers this white bread. The recipe below is for 2 loaves but can easily be increased to make a larger batch (I make 5 loaves at a time) once you get the hang of it.
BASIC WHITE BREAD RECIPE:
Goes great with fresh raspberry jelly!
- 5 1/2 – 6 1/2 c. flour
- 3 T. sugar
- 2 t. salt
- 1 pkg (2 1/4 t.) dry yeast
- 1 1/2 c. water
- 3 T. butter
In a large bowl, thoroughly mix 2 cups flour, sugar, salt and yeast. Combine water, milk and butter in saucepan. Heat over low heat until liquids are warm. Butter does not need to melt. Gradually add to dry ingredients and beat 2 minutes at medium speed, scraping sides of bowl occasionally. Add 3/4 cup flour to make a thick batter. Beat at high speed 2 minutes, scraping sides of bowl. Stir in enough flour to make a soft dough. Turn dough out onto lightly greased bowl, turning to grease top. Cover, let rise in warm place 1 hour or until doubled in bulk. Punch dough down; turn out onto lightly floured board. Cover; let rest 15 minutes. Divide in half, shape into loaves. Place in 2 greased loaf pans. Cover; let rise in warm place about 1 hour or until doubled in bulk. Bake in 400 degrees oven about 25-30 minutes. Remove from pans and cool on wire racks.
A Few Tips
I’ve found it is best to have my ingredients at room temperature when I begin. Since I store my yeast in the freezer, I always set it out about an hour before. Eggs should also be room temperature to avoid causing a problem with activating the yeast.
If you are new to baking with yeast, it can take some time to find the right level of activation. There are several factors involved in this including water temperature, allowing adequate time, and freshness of the yeast itself. A thermometer is very helpful to successful bread baking.
Raising bread also requires the proper room temperature and can take a little trial and error. If your house temperature varies a great deal as ours does with woodstove heat, pay special attention to what temperature brings the most successful raises and plan accordingly.
Want to get started?
For a great tutorial and recipe variation, check out this video link from Fifteen Spatulas. She does a an awesome job walking you through the process with minimal ingredients needed.
For more bakery goodies, check out these recipes: