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A helpful guide for buying natural and healthy flour.

August 27, 2021

Flour. Oh flour. It always seems to be on the chopping block but never disappears. First, the trend was about cutting carbs. Now, it’s about being gluten-free. But, despite this, flour remains. Why? Well, it’s pretty awesome.

Humans have been grinding grain into powdery flour for an estimated 10,000 years. This practice allowed them to move to colder climates and have food through the winter (and it’s also important to mention that it’s pretty darn tasty, too).

Today, we have access to so many different foods and different types of each food and different labels on the food. In fact, Miller’s just released 7 new flour options this week! No labels, just all the nitty gritty details in the description. Because, well, we know the farmers :)

Let me shed some light on flour. Hopefully, it will make your process of buying flour easier.

Heritage Grains vs. Mass Market Grains

Mass market grains are developed and grown for resistance to disease and for higher yield. The idea is to more easily feed the world - a noble cause that seems to never be realized (because, come on, the uber-wealthy prefer to build spaceships instead). 

For example, corn has been genetically modified to be grown with synthetic chemicals that eliminate weeds and pests and produce larger ears with fatter kernels. Wheat has not been genetically modified in a lab. Instead, it has been intensively selectively bred to maximize berry production and size. The wheat we now know as modern wheat is far removed from its natural origins.

Heritage grains, on the other hand, are not modified in any way. They are ancient grains. They are non-hybridized. They have grown in popularity in the past decade because people seem to be able to digest them better, specifically those with a sensitivity to gluten.

Some examples of heritage wheat include einkorn, spelt, and red winter or spring wheat. 

Stone Ground vs. Factory Milled

Long long ago, humans ground grain in between two stones. Stone ground flour is the closest we can reasonably get to this ancient process. It grinds slowly and keeps the grain at a low temperature, therefore preserving a maximum of nutritional benefits. Factory milled flour happens at high speeds and temperatures. 

Whole Grain vs. Refined White Flour

When it comes to wheat, there are three parts of the berry - the bran, the germ, and the endosperm. The bran and germ are super nutritious. However, they also reduce shelf life.  

Whole grain flour has the whole berry with all three parts. It’s the most nutritious with the least shelf life. 

Refined white flour is just the endosperm, with the bran and germ removed. So, refined white flour is the least nutritious but the most shelf stable. 

And then there’s flour like we offer at Miller’s that’s half and half - there’s some bran and germ removed and some remaining. A good balance. Unfortunately, there’s no official term for this option. It’s something you need to ask the farmer. 

Bleached vs. Unbleached

Bleached flour is done with chlorine or benzoyl peroxide. It adds synthetic chemicals and damages the starch and protein content. Bleached flour became popular because it makes it softer, fluffier, and rises better. Unless you’re a pastry chef, unbleached flour should be delicious and work well in most home baked goods. 

Types of Flour

  • Whole Grains: The seed of the plant. With wheat, we call it a berry. With corn, we call it a kernel. With oats, it’s simply whole oats. If you have a milling system at home, you can purchase whole grains and make them into flour yourself!
  • All-purpose: This type of flour is a pantry staple and works well for basically all applications. It can be stone milled or factory milled or bleached or unbleached.
  • Bread: Is made with hard wheat. It has a higher protein and therefore more gluten, which results in chewy and elastic bread.
  • Pastry/Cake: Is made with soft wheat and is ground to a super-fine texture. It absorbs a lot of water, which results in great rising abilities. It is typically bleached, but some artisanal companies offer unbleached options.
  • Self-rising: A combination of all-purpose flour, baking powder, and salt. It’s typically bleached and factory milled. You may find this ingredient in pancake or biscuit recipes. But, hey, why not just add the baking powder and salt yourself?
  • Enriched: This is flour with nutrients added in that were lost in the growing, milling, or bleaching process. When you source from local farms that take good care of their soil and offer natural flours, enriched flour is not necessary.

I am stoked to announce that Miller’s launched 7 new flour options this week! 

They are all from Beiler’s Heritage Grains, about 11 miles from our farm. They grow their own non-GMO grains and stone grind it at low speeds on premises. Check out the new offerings below.

Is grain a part of your diet? Which do you choose and why? Do you have any special ways of preparing grain in your home?

Marie Reedell

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