You know the benefits of grinding your own wheat: whole grains are shelf stable for longer than flour is, so you can take advantage of sales and keep a bigger supply on hand. And when you grind your own wheat, you’re able to keep all the parts of the grain in the flour, including the protein- and nutrient-rich bran and germ, which are usually removed during commercial grinding. But did you know these same benefits extend to grains other than wheat, too?
Recently, I’ve wanted to live a life that more regularly includes new-to-me grains like buckwheat (not actually a wheat, I’ve recently discovered). And rye. And spelt. Sometimes I want the ability to make cakes, pies, pancakes, porridge, rolls, cookies, anything wheat flour makes, with more protein and less gluten.
Sometimes I want my food to taste nuttier, deeper, grassier, heartier, lighter, crispier, whatever-er, than wheat flour would make it. And I always want these things without spending exorbitant money or time. Non-wheat grains bring their own plusses to the table. Don’t miss out on them just because wheat is the first grain we think of when the topic of grain mills comes to mind.
Our Top Four Reasons to Grind Non-Wheat Grains
1. The Health Benefits will blow you away: Pearled Barley, for instance, is high in fiber and vitamins but low in fat, cholesterol, and calories. Likewise, according to the Whole Grains Council, whole oats (otherwise called oat groats)have been linked with all kinds of health bonuses, including the decreased likelihood of asthma, increased appetite control, improved immune system, decreased risk of Type 2 diabetes, and reduced blood pressure.
2. A Great Remedy for Eliminating Menu Fatigue: Even better, when you grind your own grains, you get nutritional and taste diversity. Grind up some Yellow Popcorn, and you get fresh, homemade corn meal—nutrient rich and begging to be made into creamy polenta or buttery corn bread with too much honey.
3. Perfect for those with Dietary Restrictions: Swap out some or all of your wheat flour for freshly ground Spelt flour, and you can make a moist, almost fudgy, three-layer satsuma cake that will make your gluten-sensitive guests feel like celebrating. (Note: Because spelt is a form of wheat, spelt is not gluten free, but it is sometimes easier for gluten-sensitive people to digest than traditional wheat.)
4. They’ll Spice up your Weekly Dinners: Hankering for an international spin on bread with dinner? Non-wheat grains are key to the flatbreads from many countries, including Ethiopian injera and French socca (a chickpea flour flatbread).
In sum, grinding your own non-wheat grains can put gluten-free/old school/exotic foods within your price range and bailiwick.
To that end, here are some recipes the new you (and me!) can try. Imagine, fresh from your (and my!) grinder and kitchen—
- Buckwheat crepes (try the Mark Bittman recipe, findable on any number of blogs; when I made them they had a sort of toasted nut flavor that made me think maybe they were better than regular crepes)
- Teff porridge with apples and dates (recipe and sweet anecdote at http://www.pbs.org/food/kitchen-vignettes/teff-porridge/)
- Pear and bacon pizza with a quinoa flour crust (sneak over to Bob’s Red Mill’s website for this recipe http://www.bobsredmill.com/recipes.php?recipe=7208)
- Crispy rice flour crepes with shrimp, pork, and bean sprouts (A Las Vegas, Nevada, restaurant called the Lemongrass Café makes the best version of this Vietnamese dish, which is easily my favorite thing to eat west of the Rocky Mountains, but the dish itself is satisfyingly replicable at home, with a recipe like this one http://www.foodandwine.com/recipes/crispy-vietnamese-crepes-with-shrimp-pork-and-bean-sprouts)
- Sour, spongy injera with teff flour (a moist flatbread perfect for scooping up delicious Ethiopian food or as the base for an exotic personal pizza; see http://chefinyou.com/2010/02/ethiopian-injera-recipe/for one person’s hunt for the perfect injera recipe)
- Popular chickpea socca (French flatbread that’s currently making the American foodie scene swoon; see http://www.davidlebovitz.com/2009/06/socca-enfin/for the almost-definitional recipe])
- Creamy goat cheese polenta (Pioneer Woman gives a great recipe here: http://thepioneerwoman.com/cooking/2009/11/creamy-polenta-with-goat-cheese-heaven-on-a-plate-part-2/)
- Sticky, spiced halwa (a Pakistani dessert made with chickpea flour, sugar, and piney cardamom; find an easy recipe here http://allrecipes.com/recipe/besan-gram-flour-halwa/)
- The prettiest-ever satsuma cake with spelt flour (recipe available at http://foodloveswriting.com/2011/12/06/satsuma-layer-cake/)
A final note about grinders
High-quality grinders, like the Nutrimill Grinder or the Wonder Mill Grinder , can turn bulk grains into flours with so little hassle, it’s ridiculous.
But not all grinders are designed to grind all kinds of grains (some have trouble with oily grains–the Wondermill Junior comes with an extra head to grind oily grains), so be sure to check the instructions (or, in the case of the Wonder Mill Grinder, the website http://willitgrind.com/) to see which grains can be ground in which machine.
Now that I’ve spilled the grains (aka beans), you tell me—what’s your favorite recipe to make with ground grains other than wheat?
Interview with Lisa Keller, notes on file with the author