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

Got Wheat? Fern’s Sourdough Bread

I had to look back at some of the previous articles on sourdough to see what we had written, and how this particular journey has evolved since that time. One of the last articles for bread is here if you want to do a comparison. Pull up a chair and a cup of coffee, this has turned out to be a rather lengthy article. Hope you enjoy it.

There were two small boxes of ground flax sitting in the cabinet, that I bought for some forgotten reason (You don’t do that, do you?) and wasn’t sure what to do with. The research on cholesterol and blood pressure we did lead me to flax. There are many, many articles about the benefits of flax, this one is an example. After reading the research, those two lonely boxes of flax got put to use after checking to make sure no weevils or other bugs had set up residence. 

By the way, when we moved here we had some weevil issues the first year. Then I found some traps (similar to this one) for the weevil moth, and other critters of that kind, that I hung around the area we had grains and food they prefer. After trapping them for two years, we have never had another problem. Our bulk grain is stored in five or six gallon buckets and transferred to a canister as needed.
Once we began using ground flax in our bread recipe, we stocked up on some from Wal-Mart, picking up a few bags each time we went. Then we researched online and found some bulk flax seed that we could store in some of our empty five gallon buckets that have gamma seal lids. The first time we tried the flax seed in our wheat grinder, we thought we had killed it. The flax is too moist and oily for our WonderMill. Frank was able to work and work and work on it. He ran through some wheat that removed the gummed up flax, and it still works like a charm. We have had this grinder for at least ten years and would highly recommend it.

Flax

You see that piece of blue tape on the bucket? That is a date, which will help us determine how long our stock will last at the current use rate. When we’re trying to prepare for the long haul, estimating how long our supplies will last is critical. They may not last as long as we do, but if we have a rough idea, we can plan accordingly. 

Wheat

Next, we found a grain grinding attachment for the KitchenAid mixer, which is designed to grind oilier seeds like flax. It works well. Which mixer? Well, the KitchenAid is okay, but we now have purchased three of them since moving here. The first red one died after a couple of years so we got the yellow one. After a year the gears started grinding and we thought it was dying as well, so we ordered a second red one. In the meantime, Frank removed the top cowling to see if there was anything he could do for the gears, there wasn’t, but since looking in there and putting it back together a couple of years ago, it still works. The red one is just sitting in the wings waiting it’s turn. I guess we could put it away, but as you can see, we haven’t. Do any of you have stand mixers like the KitchenAid you would recommend? What are your experiences? We also have manual back-up grinders in case the grid goes down. You can read about it here

 And speaking of grinders, see that cord coming out of the bottom? Frank has given up trying to figure out how it wraps up and stores in the bottom of the grinder, he just leaves it for me. He just can’t see how it works anymore than he understands how yarn (he calls it a piece of string) can turn into a sweater, or thread keeps fabric together after it goes through a sewing machine. Now, Frank is a very intelligent man and can fix just about anything I ever bring to him. He can wire, plumb and build a house, learn and install a solar system and a myriad of other things, but he just can’t see how these things work. Our point is, different people have different talents and it’s no sin or crime to not ‘get’ something. Me, physics and the realistic interaction between things – I just don’t get it. Things that are simplicity in itself to Frank are like kryptonite to me. Sometimes this causes friction (another scientific term, right?) and sometimes it causes laughter. There is nothing wrong with not getting something, or understanding things at a different rate, it’s the blessing of being individuals instead of robots.

Okay, so, making sourdough bread. Our starter lives over here in this corner away from the kefir and jars of oatmeal. We discovered years ago that most cultures don’t play well together so they have their own ‘areas’ of the kitchen. Our starter now lives in a half gallon jar with a piece of cheese cloth over it to keep the little gnats out that show up here a few times a year. It also has a sprouting lid on it. Why? Well, we had a catastrophe with our starter a few years ago. I was keeping it in a ceramic pitcher in this corner. It had

cheese cloth over it held in place by a rubber band. One morning when we got up there was a hole in the cloth. Upon removing the cloth we could see a live mouse looking up at us trying to keep his head above the surface. The catastrophe of the situation is that I had not kept my backup starter in the refrigerator fed and it had died. I was left without any starter. I was upset. Then Frank remembered that I had shared some starter with a friend, Grace, down the road, who was happy to restock our supply. Lesson learned. Now the starter lives in a jar that is mouse and bug proof. One of those experiences I would never have thought would happen. You know that old saying, “You just never know.” I think there is a reason it is an old saying. And remember, two is one and one is none.

The bread. Warning. I don’t measure much, so everything will be estimated amounts. I will list everything here then show you the process.

3 cups starter
1/4 – 1/3 cup olive oil
1/2 – 1 cup filtered water
Approx. 2 tbsp. sea salt – no iodine
1/4 – 1/2 cup honey
2 cups ground flax
5 – 6 cups fresh ground wheat

 

We start with the 3 cups of starter, then to that add the oil and water. The amount of water I add depends on how much liquid is in the starter. Sometimes the starter is thicker and sometimes it’s thinner, just depends on how much water I put in when it is fed. 
Here is how the salt and honey are measured. Very precisely……..
 
We have gradually increased the amount of ground flax in the recipe. I started off with about half a cup, waited to see how it tasted, then gradually added more. Now it’s about 20% of the recipe, not quite, but almost. 


Once these ingredients are in the mixer, we start it up and start adding the wheat flour. I usually start with five cups and add the remaining amount as needed until the dough clings together in a sticky ball. Sometimes I need more than others, it just depends on how fluid the starter has, and how much water and oil I put in, since I don’t measure precisely.

After enough flour has been added, I set the timer to around seven minutes (it depends on how long it took to get it to the right consistency) and let the machine do the kneading for me. 

 

 We mix the dough in the morning while fixing breakfast, put it in a glass bowl and set it on top of the frig for the day.

One time when we made bread, Frank noticed this glass lid, that goes with the stock pot, fit perfectly on the bread bowl. Up until that point I had been using plastic wrap. Interesting.

 In the evening after doing the chores, it’s time to bake bread. I start with pouring some (about this much) olive oil on a large cookie sheet and putting it in the oven to warm as it preheats to 450*. We use virgin olive oil, not extra virgin. We just don’t care much for the extra virgin taste.

As the buns or rolls are made, I coat one side with the oil, then turn them over. I’ve tried a number of different ways to do this including using lard, which works fine, we just prefer the taste of olive oil – while it is still available.

Unbaked

We have tried loaves as well as buns, but we prefer these for the crusty nature of a bun. They also travel very well when we have to be out and about. We take four buns, a couple of boiled eggs, a piece of our cheddar and a quartered apple. Lunch on the go. Besides that, it has been over a year since we have eaten out anywhere. We just don’t like any food but ours and if we eat anything ‘off the home menu’ we feel sick. Part of that may be age, but it’s also an indicator of what we’re used to, what our bodies are accustomed to dealing with. Another thing to consider if a collapse occurs. Store what you eat and eat what you store, otherwise your body may not cooperate when you start feeding it ‘foreign’ objects.

Baked

Most other rolls or buns I have baked with past recipes bake for about 20-25 minutes. These take 45-50 minutes. The bread comes out fairly heavy and dense, plus, we like the crust on the crunchy side. If you try this you will need to adjust the time to your personal preference. Upon removal from the oven, I coat the tops of the buns with olive oil.

On bread nights, we usually have a lighter supper because regardless of the meal, we always have bread for ‘desert’. One for me, two for Frank. It’s tradition. Buttered, of course.

We just finished pouring the last wheat from a six gallon, 45 pound bucket into the canister when we made bread a couple of days ago. This bucket of wheat will last us approximately 12 weeks, which means we consume about 3.5 pounds of wheat per week. More than we thought, but it gives us a baseline to use in estimating how much wheat we want to store. It’s interesting collecting data on yourself.

How do you make bread? We always enjoy hearing other versions of our recipes, it makes good ‘food for thought’.

Well, I’m sure your coffee cup is empty by now, mine is long gone. And I think Frank is wanting another piece of bread. We have one every afternoon for a snack with a cup of coffee. Another tradition we have started.

Until next time – Fern