The flour that we typically buy from the store is not usually something we given a second thought to, just a bland, white pantry staple without much character. At least, that’s was how I felt until I worked for a farm that grew and milled fresh, heirloom wheatberries into whole grain wheat flour. It completely changed my perspective on flour. If you love to bake or just want to make something extra special, I urge you to give this whole new sensory experience a try.
What’s the difference?
Freshly milled flour is completely different from the homogenous commodity product that we have become accustomed to. For one thing, industrially produced white flour is stripped of most micronutrients during the milling and bleaching process, so it is federally required to have B vitamins and iron added back into it since these nutrients are often lacking in American diets. The nutrients are removed along with most of the fiber in the bran and germ of the wheat kernel, leaving only the starchy endosperm in the finished product. This benefits producers because it extends the shelf life of the flour; along with fiber, protein and minerals, the bran and germ also contain oils that can easily go rancid.
Fresh flour has a subtly sweet, nutty scent and silky texture, I had never imagined flour could have so much character. It bakes up beautifully, adding an extra layer of flavor and crumb to anything you make. Locally sourced, freshly milled whole wheat flour does not need to be enriched because it never gets stripped and bleached of nutrients. It does need to be treated with more care, however. If you are not able to use it within a few weeks, I recommend storing it in the freezer to retain nutrients and flavor.
Fresh flour may cost more than the processed stuff, but it has a whole lot more to offer in terms of taste and nutrition. For me, baking with freshly milled, locally grown flour connects me to a time before our food system was industrialized and I appreciate the farmland and the people who work it just a little bit more.
Where can I find it?
I suggest trying flour from our partners Westwind Farm, Grand Traverse Culinary Oils and Flours, and Scheel Family Farm and Flour Mill to name a few. If you aren’t into baking, Fostoria Bread Factory uses locally grown and milled flour in their handmade breads. Is it worth the splurge? Let us know what you think!
Mieko Diener is a dietetic intern with a master’s degree in nutritional science from the University of Michigan School of Public Health.
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