The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Hello from Minnesota

TIGR's picture

Hello from Minnesota

Hi everyone, I'm new to TFL and to bread making—never made a loaf in my life and think it's time to start. :) I'm a 25-year old guy who works with computers by profession and probably fall a bit outside the most common demographics of this community, but I look forward to becoming a part of it. I find that forums are often among the greatest sources of information and inspiration available on the topic(s) they cover.

My interest in bread-making is basic and simple right now: I want to have nutritious food, to know exactly what ingredients are in it, to be self-sufficient and prepared for emergencies, and to minimize my cost of living. With that in mind my plan is to get a manual grain mill (considering the Back to Basics model after reading about it and others in forums and reviews), stock up on hard red wheat berries (still looking for a source though Walmart has 25lb sacks for $10 in my area), and to buy a bread machine (considering the Panasonic SD-YD250 after reading about it in forums and reviews). The manual [not electric] mill and electric bread maker may seem an incongruous pair—I can handle grinding wheat a few hours a week but realistically, the time to make all my bread by hand might be too much for me, at least when I first start.

I would appreciate any input and suggestions and I have some questions:

  1. I understand that making bread with home-ground wheat is different from making it with store-bought flour. I have read suggestions online ranging from just letting it sit a while after grinding to soaking it in water a while before baking, to kneading the dough more to better develop the gluten (I'm not at all gluten-intolerant BTW).  What's the best way to make bread in a bread machine from freshly ground wheat? Would the SD-YD250 bread maker I mentioned above be a good choice for this usage?
  2. There are conflicting views on how healthy grains are. For example, check nourishedkitchen dot com /against-the-grain-10-reasons-to-give-up-grains out. I realize that asking this here may get as biased result as would asking it at a paleo diet forum, but assuming I have no problem with gluten-intolerance, is it healthy for me to consume products made from grain I milled myself? The only points made by the page I linked to above that concern me are the references to leaky gut syndrome, inflammation, mineral absorption, and insulin response. I realize this is not a nutrition forum but welcome your input.

 I just want to nail down the basics before I get into the true art and joy of bread making. I would start out with simple, nutritious, economical whole wheat loafs but I imagine that before long this forum will have me convinced to start making more exotic types of bread, perhaps without the bread maker. :P

Sorry for the long post. Thanks for reading and for your input.

clazar123's picture

Welcome to TFL! It is a great forum with people from all over the world. Somewhere on the site is the list of countries where fresh loafers are from-it is quite amazing.

Have delicious fun,here!

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

go to the lessons at the top of the page and make a loaf of bread.  All you really need is flour, water, some yeast, a little salt, a large bowl or space on a table, a scraper of some sort and something to hold your loaf while it bakes and an oven.  I think the most important equipment would be a simple metal probe thermometer followed by measuring cups or scale to weigh ingredients.  You can get set up under $25 if you look around.   You will need a cover for your mixing bowl, it can be a wet towel , a large lid or plate or a clean plastic shower cap.   That's it.  A little oil is handy and so is music.

Welcome to TFL


Yerffej's picture

Follow Mini's advice,  start slowly...a simple loaf of bread made from a bag of flour you buy at the store and go from there.

Before you buy a manual grain mill, try one out somewhere and get a feel for just how much output it takes to mill enough flour for a loaf of bread as it is no small task.

Happy Baking,    Jeff

TIGR's picture

I have tried a Back to Basics hand mill and found it easy enough for me. Looks like other available options such as the Wonder Junior and the Country Living model can accomplish more with less effort but having tried the Back to Basics, I am comfortable with it over the higher-priced options (previously mentioned ones as well as electric versions like the Wondermill and ubiquitous NutriMill), and I like the idea of being able to put grain stockpiles to good use in case of emergency even if there's no electricity.

Thanks for the comments so far.

clazar123's picture

It takes a bit of a different knowledge base and skill set. So dabble and keep notes! Some of the knowledge transfers.

I would start out with simple, nutritious, economical whole wheat loafs ....

Even this simple goal may take a little bit of time.

One of the first things I learned is that bread can be incredibly simple and amazingly complex. Anyone can make some kind of loaf from the same ingredients and most are edible. The trick is to learn essential techniques,become familiar with ingredients and turn out a loaf consistently with the desired crust and crumb. Recipes help but even if precisely measured/weighed and technique closely followed, are more guide than formula. Flour grain size,dampness,altitude,barometric pressure,water type and source,variation in egg size or milkfat...etc...etc all play an important role. I mention the complexity so that you aren't too hard on yourself if something doesn't turn out as soon as you want it to. Keeps notes-learn and try again. It's wonderful when it all comes together!

It has been a delicious,fun,frustrating,rewarding activity and I encourage you to thoroughly enjoy yourself! So get a basic recipe and a notebook. Read,mix,bake,taste,take notes,evaluate and bake it again. 

TIGR's picture

Sounds like it's a challenge best attacked with dedication and attention to detail. I promise not to give up. ;)

About the suggestion to get a good thermometer and measuring cups/scale, I just laughed to myself thinking about the fact that I have some laboratory-accurate temperature logging equipment that I use for diagnosing and testing computer components. Don't worry—I'll get a more appropriate thermometer for bread lol but it did put an amusing picture in my head. Reviews state that the SD-YD250 bread maker comes with recipes based on weight, not volume, and I gather this is preferable for accuracy? I don't have a kitchen scale and welcome suggestions.

Thanks again for all the replies.

AOJ's picture

Welcome from St. Cloud to a fellow Minnesotan. To minimize cost, I would skip the bread machine altogether. I have had much more success, and more flexibility, better tasting bread, baking in the oven on a baking stone. I have a bread machine, haven't used it for several years. Mixing sourdough, and retarding in the refrigerator, gives me a lot of flexibility as far as my schedule goes, being on call several nights a month, working every other weekend. A decent scale is a neccessity in my opinion. Visit the Breadtopia website, good equipment, great service, friendly people. The price of Dakota Maid flour has jumped in the past year, but it is my favorite; I haven't tried milling my own flour.

TIGR's picture

Thanks AOJ. I'm about 80 miles south of you and pass through St. Cloud every couple weeks. I will consider skipping the bread machine and at very least will make some bread by hand before getting one. I gather from a few sources that Dakota Maid is well-liked. Would you mind sharing what it costs per pound and where you get it? I have to drive half an hour to get to a town (Hutchinson) that has anything more than very small grocery stores.

I'm pretty set on going the wheat berries + home mill route. You might find this page interesting. Beyond the taste (bitter vs sweet) and nutritional (truly whole wheat vs some bran removed for example, and no preservatives) advantages I've been reading about, I think it would be cheaper in the long run (though time is money and milling wheat—especially manually—does take time, I can do other things simultaneously) and I know I already mentioned it, but the ability to store wheat berries for a long time (30 years!) appeals to my desire to prepare for possible emergencies.

sammarshall's picture

Sounds lika lotta work to me. Where's the enjoyment? Here is how I got going.  I bought a popular bread machine, Mine is an Oster and was then about $50.00. (Still use it at times.) Bought some bread machine cookbooks and 5lbs of bread flour. I was making bread, all kinds of bread. From time to time I would buy a REAL breadmaking book.  For reading puposes only. Somewhere along the way I would try something from the real bread books and it would come out pretty good. I at least had the feeling for what the dough would feel like and shape like. i.e it wasn't a foreign object. When I found this bread forum on the internet I was in bread heaven. So Maybe not to rush so much. Getting there is half the fun.

Chuck's picture
Chuck minimize my cost of living...

If you mean eventually (not right away) reducing your number of economic transactions with "the grid", you can probably make it work. But if you mean "expend fewer dollars", I recommend seeking a different motivation. Compared to commercial bread, homemade bread is tastier, healthier, potentially more varied, and doesn't include any traces of chemicals you can't even pronounce  ...but there are costs too: perhaps time (but what better way to spend some time?), and most definitely dollars.

Given a complete and honest accounting, homemade bread will always cost more. The same is true for home-milled flours.


There are conflicting views on how healthy grains are.

Compared to what? Compared to the ideal diet, maybe grains are not all that great. But compared to the typical crud in U.S. diets, real grains are wonderful.


For example, check nourishedkitchen dot com /against-the-grain-10-reasons-to-give-up-grains out.

Although that presentation is probably mostly strictly true, I find it "greatly exaggerated" (like reports of Mark Twain's death:-). A diet of only grains might be as hard on humans as it is on cows. But grains as just one component of a balanced diet seems perfectly reasonable.

Also, some of the listed disadvantages aren't really of grains in general - they're only of one particular grain: modern wheat! And even modern wheat is less of a problem if you slow down your baking, and especially if you do sourdough. If you consistently feel "brain fog" (or an upset tummy) after eating a lot of your homemade bread, then start investigating gluten-free baking  ...but personally I wouldn't start there.

TIGR's picture

Sam, I have anterograde amnesia, which in my case means I generally can only remember things for about two weeks. For "daily routine" type stuff, I just write anything of importance down. But when learning something new, you're right about the rushing; my best approach is to learn and get started as quickly as I reasonably can.

However, that's no excuse to be lazy. Being meticulously analytical and collecting good info now can provide a solid foundation from which to jump into the true art and joy of bread-making later. And I recognize that I am biased because of how attractive the idea of making bread at home is, which makes it all the more important to give fair and objective consideration to possible downsides; that's why I asked for TFL opinions on the nutritional value of bread.

Chuck: if you read the rest of my post then you already know that more motivations than just cost are involved here. But on that point, I question your unequivocal blanket claim that "homemade bread will always cost more". Are you accounting for all costs, including that of its impact on your health? What about the cost/value of emergency preparedness? I lack your experience and knowledge (which is why I'm here) and would appreciate some explanation/substantiation of that claim because it doesn't jive with my understanding so far.

A trip to the store has its cost (time and money), and offsetting that by buying bread in bulk means paying for more fridge/freezer capacity and electricity. Ingredients for simple loaves don't require regular trips to the store, or [as much] fridge/freezer space and electricity (yeast stored in the freezer being a possible exception).

My cheapest store-bought bread source is $1.50/20oz loaf of Walmart's "Great Value" brand whole wheat. It's not clear that their bread (click for ingredients and "nutrition facts") is as healthy as the homemade alternative I would replace it with. The cost of ingredients I've figured out for the homemade alternative is about 40¢. That assumes buying and storing bulk ingredients (including wheat berries to be home-milled) at my local prices and of course will vary by location (as does the price of a loaf of store-bought bread).

What I've learned so far leads me to estimate the power consumption of a bread maker at .5kWh, (here that's 5¢) per loaf, and to guess that a well-cared-for SD-YD250 ($135) should be good for at least 1000 loaves. Toss in a penny or two per loaf for the cost of a manual grain mill and perhaps the cost per loaf is now 60¢.

Time is money and clearly making bread can take plenty of time. But with a bread machine and in my situation, it might not be so bad. For example, I do a great deal of reading and that's something I can do while cranking on a manual grain mill. There's still preparing the bread machine, clean-up afterwards, etc., but overall I don't think the cost in time outweighs the value in health benefits, emergency preparedness, etc. And, considerations like taste and the joy and satisfaction of learning something new, and doing something yourself, may not be easily quantified but one's happiness does impact one's health and productivity.

With all that said, I'm sure I've failed to take some things into account. Your insights and suggestions are warmly welcomed. By the way, when I ask about nutrition, I do so under the presumption that anything consumed will be one part of a well-balanced diet. I'm something of a health and fitness enthusiast. And for anyone thinking I'm being awfully analytical for someone who just wants to make some bread, don't worry; once I get the basics down I'll lighten up a bit. ;)

proth5's picture

TIGR, I admire your ambition, but something caught my eye.  You do a lot of reading and that's something that you can do while cranking your grain mill (?)  Wow. 

Now, I'm just a little old lady, but I have a hand turned grain mill that would put your proposed mill to shame (search on proth5 to find some of my milling blogs), and I have never been able to achieve the kind of upper body tranquility that would allow me to mill and read.  Maybe you are that strong.  Maybe not. But I find cranking that grain mill to be an activity that prohibits reading (And I can read through turbulent arline flights) - so experience tells me to caution you to not hang your hat on that hope.

I think you want to seriously consider the time and effort that goes into hand milling.  I did that and I'm the rare bird who has stayed with hand milling over the years, but I also made sure that my mill could be motorised.  I'm not against the "survivalist" aspect of the hand mill - but frankly, if you are in a position where you must mill without power because of some large disruption in the power grid - it won't be a grain mill that assures your survival - if you catch my drift.

Hand making bread takes considerably less "active" time than hand milling wheat - especially with a mill that claims a cup of flour in two minutes - which is not all all a fast mill.  You seem committed and fond of arguing, so I won't push the point, but you may have gotten the time commitment backwards.  I baked all my own bread during a very demanding stint in graduate school.  The bread effort was minutes.  The milling effort would have been hours.  This is not theory speaking - it is experience.

Real stone ground flour from a reputable miller will assure you that you know what is in the flour.  I don't deal in the minutae of nutrition vs hours after grinding,

In the meantime, to answer your questions, home milled flour can be a lot more variable than commercially milled, but in gerneral for maximum taste you mill and then bake (or mill, then freeze, then bake).  If the flour is very coarse, it will benefit from soaking.  I tried soaking my home milled (which is very finely milled) and didn't see much difference, so I just mill/mix/bake. 

But again, I learned the basics (how the dough should feel - how to shape - etc) on commercial flour first - then took my hand skills and moved them over to home milled where I can make the adjustments required more by instinct than anything else.

As far as a scale - it is a "must have" piece of equipment.  I have an Escali.  It is inexpensive and gives ounce readings in decimals, which I like.  Since most of my baking years were spent in an era of pounds and ounces, my eyeball estimates are tuned to those increments and I am comfortable with them.  If I were starting baking today, I would learn on grams.  But the Escali has done yeoman's work for me with a fairly heavy baking/milling schedule.

Those laboratory thermometers don't always survive in a kitchen environment.  If you don't mind waiting 15 or so seconds for a reading, any of the inexpensive "instant read" electronic thermometers will have sufficient accuracy for breadmaking efforts.

You will also wish to learn "baker's math" which is outlined in the handbook on these pages.  You will need to understand bread formulas so that you can evaluate your results and change your process in controlled ways and that's what baker's math is all about.

Good luck.