Egyptians are believed to be responsible for introducing the process of leavening around 4000 B.C. For a long time, bread was in fact central to their economy, as wages and bills were often paid in the form of dough.
For centuries wheat was milled into flour with large milling stones which crushed the seed grain into whole wheat flour. There were no supermarkets for selling flour, and so people made their flour as and when they needed it, ensuring minimal time difference between making flour and eating the results.
The kernel of wheat is composed of the outer bran layer, the germ, and the endosperm. It is rich in nutrients, many of which are concentrated in the bran and germ. Of special importance is that it contains the entire B complex, except for vitamin B12. B vitamins function as co factors in many metabolic reactions involved in the release of energy.
The germ, which includes the scutellum, is especially rich in vitamins B and E, high quality protein, unsaturated fats, minerals, and carbohydrates. The bran consists mostly of the insoluble carbohydrate cellulose, and contains incomplete protein, traces of B vitamins, and minerals – especially iron. The endosperm is the largest part of the grain, and consists mostly of the carbohydrate starch, incomplete protein, and trace amounts of vitamins and minerals.
Stone grinding grain
In the third century B.C., rotary grindstones powered by animals, and small rotary hand mills called querns, replaced stone or wooden mortars and pestles for the grinding of grains. Querns are still used in rural areas of the Middle East, Far East, and parts of Africa.
There are several advantages to stone-ground wheat flour. The endosperm, bran, and germ remain in their natural, original proportions. Because the stones grind slowly, the wheat germ is not exposed to excessive temperatures. Heat causes the fat from the germ portion to oxidize and become rancid and much of the vitamins to be destroyed. Since only a small amount of grain is ground at once, the fat from the germ is well distributed which also minimizes spoilage. Nutritive losses due to oxygen exposure are also limited by the fact that stone-ground flour is usually coarser.
Making your own flour
Grinding removes the protective layers of the kernel and endangers the grain’s biological stability.
Therefore, once you’ve milled your grain into flour, immediately store in the freezer, leaving the lid of your storage container overnight to let the heat from milling dissipate.