Grinding Flax & Other Bread Making Lore

We finally used the ground flax we bought for our sourdough bread and have begun grinding our own. We found a place to buy bulk flax in 50 lb. bags that we pour into five gallon buckets with Gamma seal lids. This is explained in this article with our bread recipe, well what used to be our bread recipe, I have changed it somewhat – again.

We are grinding the flax using the KitchenAid grinding attachment. It is slow, but does the job. When making the last batch of bread, we switched the grind to a coarser setting than what we started out with, so it doesn’t take as long and the texture is good. Some folks may want a finer grind, but we like it this way.

This grind is definitely more coarse than the store bought, and it also is more oily, which shows me that ground flax has some things removed to make it shelf stable, just like whole wheat flour. We are really happy to add our own ground flax to our bread.

The difference in the recipe came when Frank asked me to make biscuits and gravy one day for a treat. I dug out the sourdough biscuit recipe I had used before and realized the only real difference was the addition of two tablespoons of baking soda. I also didn’t knead the dough with the KitchenAid dough hooks like I did for bread. The biscuits turned out really good, they weren’t crumbly from lack of kneading, so now I make regular bread the same way. I stir it in the bowl with a spoon and my hands if needed, but no kneading. That’s it. Doesn’t take as long and reminds me of how I used to make regular whole wheat bread without the assistance of the dough hooks and a machine.

Everyday starter on the left, stored refrigerator starter on the right.

It was time to feed the extra sourdough starter I keep in the frig when I made this batch of bread, so I also put the everyday starter in a clean jar. I pour about half of the stored starter in the everyday jar, refresh what is left with more water and flour, then return it to the frig. It’s then good to go for about a month or so. Did you know that the vertical ridges down the side of a half gallon jar have an indention on the inside of the jar? Me neither, until one time I was washing the sourdough starter jar, which takes more elbow grease than a milk jar. The starter leaves a film on the inside of the jar that needs to be scrubbed well. If anyone had ever asked me, I would have said the inside of the jar is smooth and flat. It’s not, and starter wants to stay in those little grooves. An old toothbrush works well to clean the grooves.

One of our new buckets of hard red winter wheat ended up being white wheat, even though the bucket was labeled red. I knew the berries were almost twice as big as the previous bucket of hard red wheat, but didn’t realize it was white wheat until we made a batch of bread out of it. It’s okay, and some folks probably prefer the taste of white wheat since it is more like a store bought bread flavor, but we prefer the taste of hard red wheat. It is a hardier kind of taste and hard to describe. So we resealed the bucket of white wheat and marked it ‘open’ and ‘white’ so we can skip over it. If we need it someday, it will be there, but for now, we will continue to eat hard red wheat.

Do you know what you do when the squash starts producing? You eat lots of squash, even on your pizza. We use the same sourdough bread recipe for pizza dough that we use for everyday bread. The toppings change from time to time, depending on what we have available. This version has ground pork, frozen peppers from last summer, fresh crookneck squash, tomato sauce we canned last summer and our mozzarella. Well done, just like we like it. But the dough came out thicker than we like, so I’ll leave the baking soda out of the pizza dough next time. Like Frank says, our bread and pizza never taste quite the same from batch to batch.

Enjoy what you have. Learn everyday. Appreciate the opportunities, talents and challenges you’ve been given. It’s what makes life worth living.
Until next time – Fern

18 thoughts on “Grinding Flax & Other Bread Making Lore

  1. Fern, thanks for the insight on your breadmaking process. Grinding your own bread flour (whatever kind) is nutritious, tasty, rewarding and fun. Experimenting with different grains opens up a whole new world of recipes. We use a Wondermill grinder and the mixer as well for breadmaking. They work great! Of course, our standby Kitchen Aid stand mixer/attachments are wonderful, as you have discovered. Whatever tool you use, freshly ground grains can't be beat! It's interesting how you have altered your sourdough starter through the years – I remember reading on a previously how you even made pizza crust using it. Do you still do that, and if so, have you changed the recipe? Our sourdough starter is mainly used for breads, muffins, pancakes, etc, but would love to try making pizza with it. And flax! Wonderful ingredient! We use it daily here in lots of things. It's a great way to bump up the nutritional value of dishes, and as an egg replacement in baking. Wonder if we could grow it? Thanks for your informative article.

  2. CW, we could use a nice rain on the garden about now. If we don't get some, which is forecast tonight and tomorrow, we will need to water.It's good to hear you got a better price for your harvest, but worrisome to hear prices might be going up. Kind of a catch 22 situation in that respect. Livestock feed is what will affect us. We'll be keeping an eye on the prices. Please continue to keep us updated. There is nothing like information from someone who has boots on the ground.Fern

  3. I don't knead the bread at all, or punch it down. Once it is mixed up to a barely sticky consistency, I cover the bowl and let it proof on top of the frig all day, then bake it in the evening. The starter I am using came from a relative about 10 years ago. She got it from someone who lived in remote Alaska. The story is this starter is about 120 years old, passed down from person to person. When I first got it we were still using unbleached white flour which is what I fed it then. Now I only use fresh ground wheat flour.We were very surprised to see our bread article on WRSA. That was nice of them to share. There are a number of different sourdough biscuit recipes, some call for proofing and some don't. We always proof the dough to reduce the carb load of the wheat.We grind one cup of flax seed per session. It makes about two cups of flour which is how much we use in our standard bread recipe. I have never frozen any, so I can't help you there. Today is bread day, so the grinder will be going soon. Thank you for your comment and questions. Fern

  4. it might be worth trying using a vitamix blender to grind. i have worked in restaurants and many occasions used the vitamix to blend arborio rice into a powder and coarse cornmeal (\”polenta\”) into a fine cornmeal for cornbread. the motors on vitamix blenders seem to have been built to handle the amount of heat it generates. if you happen to have a high quality blender, definitely try it out. i don't know about wheat, but it can definitely grind dry things into a coarse powder and i make butters from nuts, that's why they come with plungers. the newer motors are also meant to run hot because they come with recipes for making soups and sauces without having to heat anything up before hand. i imagine some nutritional value would be lost from grains if ground this way since they tend to heat up a bit. and as far as the cornmeal and arborio rice grinding in my experience, it's best to fill the blender less than half and do it in small batches at a time. hope that helps lol

  5. would you say you do… what's it called… \”slap and fold?\” kneading? where sourdough is slapped or punched down and then folded over? and this is done several times in lieu of traditional kneading since sourdough takes so long to proof? i make sourdough at home every once in a while, it's a hobby i'm trying to do more often and have been very successful at keeping a couple of good cultures for over a year now (camaldoli and an austrian strain i purchased from it's very cool to see this article linked on WRSA, he posts about food stuffs here and there, but i haven't noticed any on sourdough since i started following that blog. thanks for sharing your experience with making sourdough biscuits, that's one things i haven't tried yet. and the benefits of flax seed always slips my mind. do you freeze what you grind at home if you have extra? do you know anything about the frozen shelf life of ground flax? thanks again.

  6. Anonymous sure wish you were my neighbor! Am wondering on the hickory king corn, I have been raising hickory cain corn also white field corn makes great hominy, same corn? I would be interested in getting some seed from you to try if that would be possible.

  7. Comment over on WRSA – built a three roller grain crusher. Employs knurled rollers, 2 side by side, with an adjustable gap, and a third just over the center on the two lower rollers, this has a gap adjustment too. I use the crusher first, then run the corn thru a cast iron grinder I got at a yard sale. Grinds much easier this way. Less work grinding to the “flour” stage.The crusher was originally for crushing grain for home made beer mash. It just worked out for grinding corn.I been raising a “hulless” Oat too. Comes from the Ukrain.Run the oats thru the grain crusher, cooks up similar to steel cut oats, but with no inedible hull it is very tender and wholesome tasting. It grinds into a flour too. My wife likes it in her bread.I raise the oats with yellow clover as a nurse crop. It brings in zillions of pollinators too. And is a 1st rate good soil builder, and the oats provide large volumes of organic matter when you turn it in. Like tons per acre.I have little really flat land, and this combo helps build up the soil when we terrace a section of hillside. We go three years with the Yellow Clover Oat mix, then turn it under and plant another crop to harvest.We have discovered you have to use sustainable methods, the multi-use crops are labor savers and put back more in the soil than you take out. This is a must if your going to survive off your land using hand labor and traditional non industrial farming techniques. It also is how you grow food with the highest nutritional value. Store bought veggies and fruits have become devoid of vitamins and minerals they once contained, they look nice, but the industrial farming methods have depleted the essential elements that naturally occur.Two years back started raising White Hickory King corn. Old timey grinding/meal and feed corn. It was for a long time the only corn everyone grew in this part of WV. Interesting variety, grows 16-18 ft high, has a 3-4 week milk stage, the ears get up to 18 inches long. Popular moonshine corn. Grinds into the best corn meal I ever ate. We keep it in the freezer and it doesn’t go rancid even after two years. Similar to Bloody Butcher in flavor. It is the most useful corn I have used. Every part has high nutritional value.The stalks are busting with juice. Even after the ears are dry on the stalks.The cows and pigs go freakin’ bonkers over any part you feed then, have to chop it first because the stalks are real rugged.The kernels can be as large as your thumb. If everything is really good, weather, water soil, some stalks will grow 4 ears. It is a field corn and not a sweet eating corn. But it makes a top shelf roasting corn on the grill cooked in the husk. I like it raw right off the stalk at the peak of milk. Has such a tight husk the corn worms rarely bore thru. It actually dries faster on the stalk if you go down the rows bend the ear down so the birds can’t get at it. Believe me, first year I lost 60% of the crop to birds and crows. In about 5 days. They know when its ready.From what I can tell, these old timey corn varieties where phased out by the seed companies by changing the size of their seed corn, the seed planter manufacturers discontinued making plates or seeders that can handle the size and varying sizes of heirloom corn seeds.Now they are back to not sizing their seed corn. Funny how that works.

  8. Comment over on WRSA – I have a good friend who is a custom harvester. He gleams from south Texas to Alberta. Every year he brings me a couple millers bags of hard red winter wheat and various types of corn,- yellow, popcorn, red, blue, barley, milo etc….We grind these grains with a Country Living mill as needed. We rarely use as much as he gives us so over the years we’ve built up several 55 gallon drums of storage of the various grains.

  9. I am so glad to read your posting on flax seed. I am trying to incorporate it into our diet and this is a great suggestion. I will definitely add it into my next batch of bread. I also top off my oatmeal and yogurt with ground flax. I think the way you prepare your meals sounds great. Most of our meals are similar in the fact that we raise our own pork and vegetables. I often make skillet or one pan dishes with ground pork and our homegrown veggies and seasonings. I do the same with chicken. Delicious! I love eating what we grow! Update: Our crops are all planted, some for a second time. Surprisingly we had a dry spell for over a week, but some nice rain showers have come through to help. Grain prices have rallied considerably in the past two weeks. We had some stored grain which we delivered this past week and were able to sell for a much better price than last fall. I am expecting that meat and other food prices will increase soon with less corn planted and increased costs for livestock feed. This is going to be a challenging year for farmers. Consumers will also be seeing a difference when they pay for their food. Have a wonderful weekend…CWfromIowa

  10. Years ago, sometime back in the 1990's, we used to crack wheat with a blender. It didn't chop them fine at all, nothing like a flour, just enough to use for a hot breakfast cereal. The flax seeds are fairly brittle, so it may work okay. If you try it out, please let us know how it goes.We used to make loaves of bread and seldom made rolls or buns, but somewhere along the way we switched over to these buns. They make a great snack all by themselves, and make a small sandwich or burger, too.We started using the flax for the nutritional value it adds, but not much at first, maybe a half cup flax to six cups of wheat ratio for a batch of bread. Now we have worked up to two cups of flax to five cups of wheat and really enjoy it. Most people don't like our bread, though. And that is true of most things we eat. We're just weird in that category. Our diet is so different from anyone we know that no one would want to eat like we do, but it works well for us. No sweeteners, nothing processed, plain, simple meals. Last night for supper we had sauteed squash, our first green beans of the season, a sauteed green tomato and a ground pork patty. That's it. Seasonings of sea salt, pepper and a little thyme on the meat. I don't know one person that would have enjoyed that meal, but for us it was an amazing treat of food we had produced ourselves. Very satisfying.Good to hear from you, Fern

  11. Dan wants to eat more flax, but I don't care for the flavor of it, so I just get bags of it for him. I don't have a Kitchen Aid anymore, but have wondered how it would grind in the blender. Probably not well. I like the way you make your sandwich rolls, in a large baking sheet. Good idea.

  12. It's just your favorite brine for sweet pickles. Harvest the squash really early so that when you cut it into 'coins' each coin is a little smaller then a quarter. Put the sliced coins in a jar, I used pints, and cover with the brine. It's good in the refrigerator about 5 days. It would probably last longer if you sterilized the jars but I never bothered. And it's not shelf stable done this way since it's not water bathed. This is all just from memory. I'll try and find the blog where I sourced out the information.SJ

  13. Speaking of jars, I found out not all that long ago that often the pitcher attachment for a blender will fit onto a standard mason jar. I've found it easier to chop things or do small batches of stuff w/o having to deal with and clean the larger pticher…

  14. Hi, Meary. The wheat we have came from either Wal-Mart or Amazon prepacked. Most don't have mylar bags, but do come with oxygen absorbers. In the past when we have bought 50 lb. bags of wheat, just like the flax, we store it in five gallon buckets with a gamma seal lid, no mylar, no oxygen packets and they keep fine. We have not had any problems with weevils or rancidity.Good questions, thanks. Fern

  15. We do like it, SJ, but the only thing we have used it for is the flax. It's much slower than the wheat in the Whisper Mill, but it works and is easier than grinding by hand.Will you share your pickled squash recipe? That would be interesting to see.Thanks! Fern

  16. Lovely article, Fern. Thank you. Do you store your wheat berries inside mylar bags? Do you use oxygen absorbers in your buckets?Meary

  17. So you like the grinder attachment? I had read mixed reviews about it.Last summer, I started using a recipe for refrigerator pickles using very small squash cut into 'coins'. I'd only make up one pint at a time since it wasn't canned. I loved it and since I have a hard time growing cucumbers most years, it was nice to have homemade pickles.Cheers, SJ in Vancouver BC

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