Remember my review of the Bosch Mixer? I promised you a review of the Nutrimill back then. With all the busyness of the holidays and then baby Esther's arrival I hadn't gotten to this. I'm excited to finally share my thoughts with you.
Why did I want a grain mill? Well, its another one of those things I read about on blogs. Once I started learning more about making my own bread, I discovered that some people actually grind their own flour! I knew that white flour was not ideal, along with white sugar, white rice, white bread... all of these products have a very low nutritional value. The vitamins and minerals are stripped from them. Pleasant Hill Grain has a great little display piece showing what is removed from flour (scroll down to The Great Grain Robbery). I guess I hadn't realized exactly how worthless white flour really is. Bleh.
Wheat flour contains so many more vitamins and minerals: the bran, middlings, wheat germ, and wheat germ oil. Removing these vital parts strips the grain of more than 70% of its nutrients. White flour in the US is called "enriched" because the manufacturers are required to add back in a few of the vitamins and minerals to keep people from becoming sick on it. The problem with whole wheat flour, and the reason white flour was invented, is that it goes rancid. There is some mixed information out there about this.
The health-food-bread-baking-wheat-grinding mamas will tell you that whole wheat loses much of its nutritional value once ground. They recommend grinding only what you need for use and storing the rest in the freezer. Supposedly within 24 hours up to 40% of the nutrients have oxidized, and within 3 days up to 80%. I'm not sure where this statistic is coming from and would love to see some research or a study proving this. If its true, then of course everyone should own a grain mill and grind their own grain and use it as freshly as possible.
For now, I decided to ask the flour manufacturers what they thought. I emailed Bob's Red Mill and King Arthur Flour asking them about this:
Bob's Red Mill replied that they do recommend storing flour in the refrigerator or freezer. They say that they haven't had any problems with it losing nutritional value. They state: "There are varying opinions about whether freshly ground wheat is more nutritious than what has been ground and packaged but we have had no reports that one is better than the other." I wonder if they have done any studies though? This kind of sounds like "well, no one has proved it to us".
King Arthur Flour replied "We do recommend that whole wheat flour be stored in your freezer for best and longest keeping qualities." Why isn't it sold in the freezer section of the grocery store then?
I also checked out the King Arthur Flour Whole Grain Baking book from the library to see what it had to say. These people grind flour and sell it. If they admit that fresh flour is better, that would be some good proof. I searched the whole book, and although they didn't make a big deal of it, there were a few references to fresh flour being better:
p. 440 "The flavor of fresh-ground whole grain flour is noticeably different than bagged whole grain flour. Why? Because once grains are ground, oxidation of their oil-rich germ begins, and that germ has a flavor profile that most of us associate with whole wheat. The oxidation is actually the germ beginning to go rancid. This rancidity isn't harmful to the flour's performance, nor does it affect food safety; it just adds a touch of bitterness to the flavor. If you think whole wheat has an 'off' or bitter taste, the solution is to grind your own."
Rancid flour isn't bad for the flour's performance or safety but what about nutrition? And does anyone else have a problem with their flour being rancid? I'm not happy with this news.
p. xii "A word about whole grains and storage: You know that whole grains contain the bran and the natural oils from the entire grain. When the entire grain is milled, exposing the oil to air, it begins a slow oxidation process and can, without proper storage, go rancid, affecting the flavor of your flour and your baked goods. ... The flavor of freshly milled wheat flour is divine." It goes on to mention keeping flour in the freezer after purchasing it.
Again, why isn't it sold from the freezer section at the grocery store? I guess because its already rancid and we're all used to the bitter taste. I had the chance to taste some freshly ground whole wheat flour and it was lacking the bittery whole wheat taste. Interesting. One of my challenges in our switch to eating healthier foods has been figuring out how to make whole wheat products that we actually like. If freshly ground flour tastes better, that would help me be able to make better tasting fresh bread, tortillas, pizza crusts, and more.
I've also been learning about a variety of other whole grains that can be used to make lighter tasting bread products. I can't find spelt or Kamut flour at my grocery store, but with a grain mill I can buy the whole grains at my health food store or online and grind it myself.
I purchased a grain mill from Everything Kitchens (at a discount in exchange for this review), and am excited to experiment with different grains and making our own fresh bread products. Check back soon for my thoughts on the mill itself. In the mean time, do you have a favorite whole grain recipe to share with me?