The last two weeks have left me dumbfounded. For years I have been raising my son (who is now 6 years old) gluten free. He was born via emergency c-section and has had everything from skin issues to excessive snot to digestion issues (low stomach acid, yeast, etc.). I have spent many years worrying about what he was eating and how it would impact his health.
However, the last few years he has gotten more and more anxious around food. He sticks with what he knows and is familiar with and frankly doesn’t even eat a lot of even his preference foods. The list of foods has dwindled down to just a handful. This has been extremely tough on him and my entire family. My teenage daughter has always been an adventurous eater so this was new for us. I thought as long as you exposed your child to a wide variety of foods then they would not be picky. This is the absolute furthest thing from the truth. I suspected some foods were bothering him but really could not pinpoint what and because his list of foods he would eat was so tiny, I didn’t want to rock the boat too much by changing anything again.
As mealtime drew near each day, the anxiety was high for him over the years. It spilled out onto everyone with whining, tantrums, destructive behavior and even tears. When the food hit the table it was gagging and yucks. And you all know how much I love to cook. I was heartbroken. I felt like my favorite thing to do was no longer a place of solace but a source of stress and anxiety. Cooking became a chore for me and was no longer fun.
We have tried so many things over the years to help and frankly nothing has worked very long. This made me very sad and frustrated. So that is where I have been…in the thick of it…trying to navigate it all. I have had him seen by many different practitioners. Tests have been run. Supplements have been used. Oddly enough, an interesting healer from South Africa did some “body talk” on him a few years ago and told me specifically that he needed to eat rice, grains and potatoes because they ground him. I listened a bit. Gave him more rice and potatoes but always felt like that wasn’t the best solution. The potatoes he loved were the frozen tater tot and French fry kind laced with toxic seed oils. I still felt like I wasn’t giving him the best he needed to grow a healthy body. The guilt was huge. Had I only listened to her more then and started this back then. But alas, we cannot dwell on the past we can only move forward.
Over the last year or so, I have noticed some dear friends of mine sharing how they have been doing all kinds of fun baking with fresh milled grains. It all looked so appetizing … but well…we were gluten free. How could we dive into the world of wheat?I wrote it off. But then my friend Rachel shared how wheat…yes wheat…was helping her daughter with severe eczema. Like when I say severe I mean like her clothes made her skin bleed and they could barely leave the house severe. She had tried every diet under the sun for her daughter and was extremely frustrated. And yet here she was smiling on her insta stories baking REAL BREAD…GASP!!! I mean wheat and grains are supposed to be the absolutely worst for eczema right? I reached out. I had to know what was going on. She shared some pretty powerful testimonies with me.
I realized I had the tools all this time and yet I forgot the most important lesson I had learned when I first embarked on my own health journey over a decade ago. It isn’t the ingredient that is the issue…it is how it is sourced, how it is treated, how it is processed, how it is prepared that makes all the difference. I went back to the basics. How was wheat and other ancient grains traditionally grown? How was it cultivated? How was it processed? How was it prepared? Maybe it wasn’t the gluten that was the issue…maybe it was the mold. Maybe it was the glyphosate. Maybe it was the phytic acid. Maybe it was rancid by the time I bought it from the store and used it. All those maybes added up to … maybe I should try to prepare my family some traditionally made bread!
I pulled out all my favorite books which was no small feat given we just moved and all of them were hidden in boxes!
- Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon Morel
- Ancient Einkorn – Today’s Staff of Life by D. Gary Young (when I opened it to read it last week, I noticed I had a signed copy by Gary and it made me tear up a bit)
I started reading. That is always where I begin. Reading. I reminded myself of all I already knew but had somehow forgotten. I highly recommend both of those books. I can’t summarize all of the wisdom they contain here but can simply state the following:
- it does matter what kind of grain you buy
- it does matter how the grain was cultivated and harvested
- it does matter how you prepare the grains at home
Over the last two weeks I have been fresh milling ancient grains into flour and making bread. And the results for my son have been astounding. He is eating more. He is satisfied. He told me his stomach isn’t hurting him anymore. I think that was his “normal”. A constant stomach ache. I always suspected picky kids didn’t eat well because they associated food with pain. But it is hard for a toddler or young child to express this. And so this explains the tantrums and tears at mealtime.
I am amazed that my son and I are able to eat these grains we have avoided for so long. In truth, I have eaten some sourdough off and on but always pull back from eating it once my digestion and other issues creep back into my health. My daughter and husband tolerate grains just fine and we would buy sourdough for them knowing it was best to eat grains that were either soaked or soured in their preparation. But for some reason I had not thought about fresh milling the grain into flour and using it immediately. I know the bakery we love sources flour from a local mill near us but they were not grinding it fresh. This I had not considered.
Let’s go back to the grains themselves…Just like our heirloom varieties of fruits and vegetables have dwindled over the last century as mass production took hold, there are many heirloom varieties of ancient grains. Most people do not realize there isn’t just one ancient grain – there are many. Hard red wheat. Hard white wheat. Soft white wheat. Einkorn. Spelt. Kamut. Farro. And many more. And I avoided them all!
Ancient grains were cultivated differently and allowed for time for the grain to germinate and develop the enzymatic activity needed later for digestion. People ate grain because they were a good balance of protein, minerals, fiber and carbohydrates. Modern hybridized wheat skips all these stages of development so that it can be harvested faster, more cheaply and more easily. Modern wheat has been hybridized into a high gluten, high sugar, high starch, soaked in pesticides money maker. It is difficult to digest and creates food sensitivities. It took many decades for most people to develop these sensitivities but now you can see the result on the grocery store shelves, gluten free is a big business.
I inherently knew the gluten and grain free flours I was using were processed in ways I couldn’t fathom and probably wouldn’t like if I looked into it more. I mean how many almonds are in that almond flour? What about the pesticides they spray it with? It is almost impossible to find raw organic almonds these days. Or cassava flour – that one always made me blow up like a balloon. And yet I craved a piece of avocado toast. Don’t we all?! So gluten free bread it was. I bought it at the farmers market so it had to be good right? But it wasn’t organic. Who knows what flours they used or how they were prepared. It was an unknown. And my son ate a lot of it. Clearly it wasn’t serving him well. I love this quote from Gary’s book on einkorn and can almost remember hearing him teach me this in person in our late night discussions at the Highland Flats farm:
Yeast is loaded with B vitamins, which support and sustain pancreatic functions and proper glucose/insulin ratios. Yeast is not your problem. Indigestion and the fermentation of yeast are your problems. The foods you put into your diet, like sugar, combine with yeast and create fermentation. Yeast without sugar will not ferment.
The point here is that high sugar and starch laden gluten free foods and high sugar, high gluten and high starch hybridized wheat are likely the issue. To bring about balance in the diet, we “should not eliminate one thing that is essential to the body to prevent something that was caused by a nutritional deficiency in the beginning, which was primarily from enzyme and mineral deficiency.”
In simple terms: I have learned time and again that elimination diets don’t really work well over time. We need to flood our body with nutrients and ancient grains contain those nutrients in a nice little package that God designed a certain way to work with our bodies well. We need to heal the damage but using poor substitutions doesn’t do this. ORANGE essential oil can assist in healing an unhappy gut from years of eating hybridized wheat or gluten free diets. According to researchers at Sao Paolo State University in Brazil, orange oil represents “a promising target for the development of a new drug for the prevention of gastric damage.” Another oil I am going to use on myself and my son is Geranium essential oil. It helps with candida/yeast when applied topically. If you haven’t eaten wheat in a long time you probably will need some help with breaking it down until your body adjusts. I highly recommend taking some Allerzyme and Digest & Cleanse before each meal and have a shot of Ningxia Red too. If you need extra help getting things to *move* then add in a capsule of ComforTone at night. You will be so happy you did! If you don’t know what any of these things are – simply comment below and ask and I will give you some one on one attention.
A study in Spain tried to determine if a gluten-free diet could lead to “changes in the composition and and immune properties of the gut mitochondria. The study followed a group of people for a period of time and found that those on a gluten free diet showed decreases in the populations of healthy bacteria in their gut while the potentially unhealthy bacteria increased and lead to intestinal dysbiosis. It appears that our healthy bacteria *need* the carbohydrates of gluten!
So many of us believe these real grains like wheat must be evil right? But if God provided them to us…then why would they be bad for us? We changed what God originally made perfect. He is the best designer not man tinkering in a lab to sell things more cheaply. The right kind of gluten is beneficial to us not harmful.
So why mill the flour yourself?
What is so wrong with buying flour at the grocery store? Long ago, people didn’t store flour or it would quickly go rancid. So they would store the wheat berries and only mill what they needed to bake that day. They used the fresh milled flour immediately. They inherently knew what we forget to day: once milled the nutrients would quickly oxidize and be gone. But why would the flour go rancid quickly? Because the flour contained all of the ground wheat including the germ, germ oil, and the bran. Technology ever moving forward with promises of “progress”, a method was developed to separate the white flour from the germ, germ oil and bran therefore making white flour easy to store indefinitely without going rancid. The new milling process strips out all the B vitamins and 24 other nutrients as well. This is why modern white flour is “enriched” with B vitamins and other nutrients synthetically. So really it is all about money. They sell off the bran as cattle feed and other uses and then we get stuck with synthetic junk. What is leftover is something that harms instead of nourishes. How sad.
So how to get it back to the way it was? Mill it yourself with an automatic grain mill. You will retain all those nutrients and it won’t be rancid or moldy!
I decided to dive into the world of fresh milling, soaking, and soon souring and so here is my starter guide of resources so you can dive in as well.
Fresh Milling Starter Guide
As an extremely busy mom of two kids and two fur babies, I decided I wasn’t going to dive right into the world of sourdough just yet although I likely will soon. I wanted EASY. So I invested in a grain mill and a bread machine. You technically only *need* the grain mill to fresh mill your own flour. The bread machine is an added convenience for newbies but you can certainly make your own breads and baked goods without it. I definitely wanted both because I am super busy these days and I knew I wouldn’t keep up with baking my own bread if I had to mix it and knead it myself. Having the bread machine to do it for me when time is short has been a lifesaver.
How did I decide which grain mill to purchase?
Well there are lots of grain mills out there but I knew I wasn’t going to hand crank a mill so I wanted an electric one. All the reports I saw compared two: the Nutrimill and the Wondermill. I chose the Wondermill because it appeared to do a much better job of containing the flour well and with my propensity to get asthma around wheat flour I was concerned about breathing in dusty flour. So that was a simple choice. Either would be fine though and I have included links to both. You might be able to find a used one as well.
There are obviously also many bread machines out there but I chose the one recommended by my friend Rachel because it provides a way to adjust the factory settings to work better for baking with fresh milled flour recipes. This Zojirushi Bread Machine is the one to get to bake with fresh milled flour. Of course you might be able to find this for sale in your area secondhand. I know many people get these as gifts and don’t really end up using them! Here is a video on how to adjust the settings. I changed the second rise to 15 minutes instead of 25 minutes. It just seemed to work better with the recipe I was using in my home. If your loaf falls inward then you know you need to adjust this setting downward.
Why did I decide to get a bread machine?
Because it makes things quick and easy so even when I don’t have but 10 minutes to make bread for sandwiches this week…I can still easily make a loaf with only 10 minutes. I dump in the ingredients and press start and can even do this the night before and wake up to fresh bread in the morning with the delayed time feature. I don’t have to wash that many dishes and I don’t have to deal with a mixer and kneading and tricky time schedules that conflict with picking up my kids from school, etc. Is this the most beautiful loaf I could ever make? No it isn’t. But it gets the job done. I did order a couple of small pullman loaf pans with a lid for when I do have time to just run the bread machine on the dough cycle and then actually bake in myself into a prettier loaf in a pan in my own oven. I am sure over time I will use the dough setting more on my bread machine vs. allowing it to bake my loaves and I will be happier with the results but for now with all that I have going on in my home with renovations happening…the bread machine is like having a magic elf in my kitchen!
We live near a fantastic grain mill. They source grains from all over our area from small farmers who grow organically. They sell many heirloom varieties. I highly recommend them. I bought a few small bags to try things out and then got larger bags and stored them in 5 gallon pails with easy to open lids. I also bought these oxygen absorbers so they stay fresh for long term storage. What kinds of grains do you need to buy? That is really up to you. The simple recipe I wanted to master for making bread weekly calls for hard red wheat and hard white wheat so I ordered those from our local mill, Barton Springs Mill, which sells online. You need the hard wheats for baking yeast breads. I also ordered some soft white wheat to mill for making cookies, muffins and cakes. I ordered einkorn to use for this as well. I personally want to be using more einkorn in my recipes but I am still experimenting with the right ratios and quantities. Many people also order from Azure. I have not tried that yet but I do know they have sprouted dried berries which is something I do want to get and try. Sprouting, like soaking or souring, also reduces the phytic acid in the grain and makes it much more digestible.
Young Living grows and sells einkorn products and I had a large 5 pound bag of berries in my freezer from them that I used up last week making all kinds of recipes! Einkorn has such a fantastic flavor and it is like the perfect ancient grain. I find it to be so much better than just plain old wheat. It is a seasonal product and isn’t always in stock so keep checking back often. I will let you know when it comes back in stock. I have been to our France farm where we go einkorn and have walked through our einkorn fields and eaten freshly baked einkorn pizza and desserts while there and have to say…it is delicious! It can be a bit “sticky” in preparation so I use it like the soft wheat flour for now – in waffles and pancakes and muffins and cookies. I am experimenting with updating the basic wheat bread recipe I have mastered in the bread machine with einkorn so stay tuned for more recipes!
You will also need instant yeast. This is different from active dry yeast I came to find out the hard way. I make mistakes so you don’t have to! Definitely buy this kind which is not the same as the yeast packets you can find at the grocery store.
I also recommend you get this sunflower lecithin and this vital wheat gluten to use in your bread recipe. It just makes the bread softer and hold together better.
This recipe book is a fantastic starter guide for baking with fresh milled grains. Once you master the basic bread recipe in this recipe book using the bread machine you can use it to make dough to make all kinds of things from cinnamon rolls, to pizza dough, to hamburger or hot dog buns to pigs in a blanket and much more. All from that one simple recipe. Please note though that this book is all recipes using yeast vs. soaking and souring. I am loving the soaked recipes (for waffles and pancakes and sweet breads) in my good ole Nourishing Traditions cookbook as a starting point though. I also plan to dive into sourdough once my office renovation is done and my house settles down a bit. My friend Kelly has an amazing course on how to cook sourdough breads that I want to dive into – I will share that here once she has it ready to go.
Fresh Milled Flour Beginners Bread Machine Recipe
Here is a basic bread machine loaf and also dough recipe from the recipe book from Bread Beckers (they also have a YouTube channel – highly recommend the follow to learn from them):
- 1 1/2 cups filtered water (chlorine is not yeast’s best friend!)
- 1/3 cup olive oil
- 1/3 cup raw honey
- 2 tsp sea salt
- 1 egg
- 2 Tbsp sunflower lecithin
- 1 tsp vital wheat gluten
- 2 cups hard red wheat berries + 1 cup hard white wheat berries milled into about 4-4 1/2 cups flour using your grain mill
- 1 Tbsp instant yeast
Add each ingredient into the bread machine in the order listed. Close the lid and press the “homemade” course that you adjusted per the video to adjust the factory settings. You will have a beautiful loaf of fresh bread made from freshly milled flour in about 2 hours and 30 minutes! You can also load all the ingredients in and select when you want the loaf to be done. I do this often the night before and say I want the bread to be done by 6am. Then by the time I get up and dump it out of the bread machine it is ready to slice for use in sandwiches in lunches that day.
If you run this recipe on the dough cycle you can make hamburger or hot dog buns with this basic recipe or even cinnamon rolls! I am working on adjusting it a bit to make it milder and to use some einkorn so stay tuned for that recipe to come.
Yes there are a lot of things you will need to embark on this journey. I spent a few weeks gathering up all my supplies and then I made my first loaf. After two weeks of baking with fresh milled flour, I can say it was completely worth the effort. I feel alive in my love of cooking again. I am getting smiles at meal times from my son. My daughter loves her lunch sandwiches. My son says his stomach doesn’t hurt anymore and he isn’t congested and snotty all the time. Have I made mistakes along the way? Of course. It is all in a day’s work. Trying and failing again and again until we land on a recipe that works well. That is like my favorite thing to do!
Follow my instagram stories @hmademommy and highlights for daily fun and tips! As I get more and more into this I will have more recipes to share with you. But for now – gather up your supplies and books and get baking! Please comment with your thoughts. I would love to hear them!