Tuesday, March 29, 2011

What To Do With Wheat?

Last weekend, I attended a class on how to prepare wheat. Those who are interested in storing food for use in case of an emergency or disaster often rely heavily on wheat because of its nutritional value and durability. When properly stored, whole wheat (or wheat berries as they're called nowadays) can last for upwards of 30 years. But then storing it is one thing, but preparing it in a variety of interesting ways is another. So off I went, to learn the ABCs of cooking wheat.

Most obviously, wheat can be ground into flour for baking purposes. Many find freshly ground flour superior to store-bought because (as with all foods) the fresher it is, the more nutritional value it will have. On display were are a ton of different mills, grinders, flakers, etc., in all variety of price ranges and sophistication. I'll show you one of the coolest ones I saw below.

Also shown to the class were a variety of whole grains, along with several forms of wheat, including wheat berries, cracked wheat, and bulgur. Cracked wheat and bulgur can be used in cooking with ground meats to make a small amount of meat go further, because it blends right in with the meat, bulking it up without altering the taste. Wheat can also be popped like popcorn!

The demo included a bread-making session using freshly ground 100% whole-wheat flour, plus extra wheat gluten (which helps the dough rise) and dough enhancer (which extends the shelf life of the bread).

We watched a demo on how to sprout wheat. If you follow up by planting some sprouts in soil in a sunny window, you will soon have a sustainable source of wheatgrass for blender smoothies. This wheatgrass is just 10 days old and look how hardy it is already!

Here is the amazing device I mentioned before, which seamlessly combines physical fitness and food preparation. As you pedal the stationary bike, it powers the motor of the white flour mill on the floor. Just pop your wheat berries in the opening, hop on the bike for some morning exercise, and when you get off, retrieve your bowl of freshly milled whole wheat flour. I thought this was a hilarious idea!

Finally, we all left with a packet full of recipes ideas using wheat (of course!). Today, I made my first batch of wheat berries for breakfast in the slow cooker (1 cup of wheat berries+2 1/2 cups of water + pinch of salt= 2 servings of wheat berry cereal after about 8 hours. I topped mine with dried currents, honey and almond milk. The wheat berries were chewy and filling, a great breakfast dish. I will be continuing my experimentation with wheat, the staff of life!

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