On day 5 of my 366-day self-care challenge, I explored the art of baking whole grain bread.
It’s hard not to melt into a smile with the aroma of freshly baking bread in the air.
Bread has been a food staple for cultures around the globe throughout history, and tradition of breaking bread is a symbol of sharing and connecting. But in our increasingly busy culture, few of us take the time to bake bread from scratch anymore. It’s much easier to pick up a loaf just about anywhere.
Over the years bread and other “carbs” have gotten a lot of bad press, partly because so many of today’s options are laden with sugar and refined flours. But whole grains provide a significant source of fiber, trace minerals, and B vitamins, the latter being involved in a number of complex enzymatic and metabolic pathways.
Whole grain kernels have three primary components:
Bran: The outer coating, which is high in fiber and B vitamins.
Endosperm: The middle layer, which contains carbohydrate, a small amount of protein, and a few trace minerals. (This is also the primary component of white flour.)
Germ: The center layer, which is high in Vitamin E, minerals and other phytochemicals.
The refining process typically removes the bran and germ, the components that have a tendency to go rancid more quickly. This extends their shelf-life (and profit margins), but it also removes many key nutrients, requiring them to be added back, a process called enrichment. Sometimes manufacturers add nutrients that were never there to begin with; that process is called fortification.
My self-care endeavor for the day was not only to bake a loaf of homemade, whole grain bread, but also to grind my own grain. Doing so just before use retains a higher portion of nutrients, compared to a bag of flour, which loses nutrients over time as it sits on the shelf.
Grain mills can be expensive and difficult to maintain – that’s why I fell in love with my Vitamix (Amazon Associate Link). While it’s not exactly a cheap option either, it has more than paid for itself in the first year of ownership. I’m not the only one who feels that way either. Prior to my purchase, I heard similar sentiments from folks who have owned one for 20 or 30 years. I’ve used traditional hand-cranked grain mills too, but they take a LOT of time and elbow grease. My Vitamix can process whole wheat berries into a fine flour in just one minute.
For the same reason, I’m a big fan of bread machines. Not only do they save me time, but cleanup is negligible. You mix a couple of things together, toss them into the machine, push a couple of buttons, and in about 3 hours you have a loaf of bread.
I love to try new recipes, so I tested out a new one for this experiment. As much as I wish I could say that the finished product was amazing, it was anything but. In fact, what’s the exact opposite of delicious? Yeah, it was that.
Even though it didn’t turn out as well as I’d hoped, I’ll continue to try new recipes until I find one that I like. Life is like that sometimes. We don’t always get the results we were looking for on the first try. We have to continue to explore new ways of doing things, and sometimes we have to fail to learn.
Instead of wallowing in my disappointment, I decided to apply the lemonade principle: What do you do when life hands you flavorless bread? You make seasoned croutons.