So I’ve been baking bread recently. Michael Pollan’s book Cooked has a whole section on baking bread and he goes very in depth into whole wheat flour, why it’s better than white flour, and why what is marketed as whole wheat often isn’t really whole wheat. Listening to it as an audio book made me decide that I needed to figure out where to get good flour.
It seems like it should be a simple thing to get. Only when I started looking around town, it wasn’t. Costco only had white flour. Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods only sell ‘whole wheat’ flour in over-priced 5 pound bags. (And even then, I now doubt that it’s really whole wheat.)
Growing up, both of my parents bought a lot of stuff in bulk, and I just felt like 5-pound bags weren’t going to cut it for the amount of bread I had in mind to make.
I started looking online, researching where to order wheat and looking at grinders on Amazon so I could grind it myself. It seemed like a confusing endeavor and just a bit more than I wanted to spend on something that may prove to be a short-lived hobby.
I know that my dad has long ground his own flour for making bread, so I thought I’d ask him.
I called him one evening.
“Hi dad. I, um, have a question to ask.”
“Where does one buy flour?”
“Where do you get flour? You know that stuff that is used to make bread. Like whole wheat flour.”
“Well, some people ask their dad and some people get it from the store.”
(At this point I’m feeling almost like a bit of a moron, because it does seem like something you should be able to get at the store. It doesn’t seem like something that should be hard to figure out.)
“What store would you go to?”
“Sprouts or Trader Joe’s or one of those places.”
“Have you tried buying flour at the store anytime lately?”
“No. I haven’t bought flour at a store for decades.”
“Well, I tried looking and all they have is these tiny five pound bags for six dollars each.”
“Huh, yeah, every time I think I’m about to run out of wheat, I get given a thousand pounds or so.” (Said in a totally normal voice as though this is a normal thing that happens to the rest of us on a weekly basis or something.)
“Who do you know that just gives you a thousand pounds of wheat?”
“Well, this last batch was from the dead guy food.”
“The dead guy food?” (My eyebrows were raised, but of course as a phone conversation, nobody else could see this.)
Apparently some survivalist guy living in the mountains had a whole bunker filled with years and years worth of food, guns and ammo. When he died of a heart attack, his family had no idea what to do with it all, so they called the trash company for a couple of giant construction-site sized dumpsters.
The trash company focuses heavily on recycling and my dad happens to have a connection there. When the trash company had these dumpsters full of tons of perfectly good, well-preserved food in sealed containers they divied it up amongst themselves and sent the rest to the food bank.
Part of all of this food was many 5-gallon buckets of wheat. My dad has his own grinder which works out well.
So, I went for the ‘ask your dad’ method to source my flour. Now I have my own 5-gallon bucket of fresh ground whole wheat. I can be very sure that it really is whole wheat.
It does give a different meaning to dumpster diving for food though. Not only is it dead guy food, it literally came out of a dumpster. The bread I’ve made from it has been absolutely fantastic!
As a plus, I’ve started making my bread with no sugar of any kind. I’d always thought that the yeast needed a little bit of sugar to ‘eat’ but it turns out that isn’t true. A bit of sugar can help to jump-start the yeast, but isn’t actually necessary.
It feels so good eating this wholesome, fresh bread. Water, yeast, flour, oil and salt. So simple, and yet so amazing!