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Many in the United States do not consume the amount of whole grains recommended for a healthy diet. Because of the health benefits of whole grains, it is recommended that half of the servings of grains we consume should be whole grains.

For those who enjoy baking, there is now another opportunity to purchase locally produced nutritious whole grain flour. After reading about Judy Cornell’s Conservation Grains milling operation on her farm between Choteau and Dillon in a recent news article, I decided to try the flour myself to test the baking quality and the versatility of the flour. I also think it is important to support our local producers.

Judy has just recently started selling her freshly milled flours which include “High Wide and Wheatsome,” “Big Sky Rye” and “Bucking the Sun Pizza.” I ordered the Wheatsome flour which is a blend of high-protein wheat, spelt, rye and kamut. The bag lists the farm where each of the grains was grown and also gives the date when the grains were milled into the flour, which was within a week of when I had ordered it. For those who want to know where their food comes from, this is important.

I was surprised at how fine and soft the flour was and the breads I baked using the flour were all fine-grained and very flavorful. I used the flour for the following recipes, but you can use them with any whole wheat flour you have available.

Honey and beer whole wheat bread

This bread, which also includes beer, is reminiscent of sourdough in its tangy flavor, but with a finer texture.

Makes 2 loaves

Ingredients:

1½ cups beer or ale (one 12-oz can)

1 teaspoon sugar or honey

¼ cup light oil

⅓ cup honey

2 teaspoons salt

2 cups unbleached white flour

3½ cups whole wheat flour (approximately)

1 ½ Tablespoons dry yeast

Directions:

Heat the beer until it's warm (not over 110 degrees). Pour it into a large mixing bowl and stir in the 1 teaspoon sugar or honey and the yeast. Let it sit until the yeast has dissolved and is bubbly. Add the honey, oil and salt. Add the 2 cups white flour and beat 2 minutes with an electric mixer or at least 200 strokes by hand. Gradually add 3 cups whole wheat flour or as much as it takes to form a dough that pulls away from the sides of the bowl. Turn the dough out onto a floured board and knead, sprinkling on a little more whole wheat flour if necessary, until the dough is smooth and elastic. If it slightly clingy, never mind; the important thing is that it is resilient. Put the dough into an oiled bowl, turn it over or brush the top with melted butter, cover with a damp kitchen towel and let it rise until doubled in size. Punch the dough down, turn it onto the board, knead it a few times to press out air bubbles, cut in half, cover and let it rest 10 to 15 minutes. Grease two small to medium loaf pans. Shape the pieces of dough into loaves, put in pans and brush the tops with melted butter or make free-form ovals and place on greased baking sheets dusted with cornmeal. Cover with the towel and let the loaves rise again until about doubled in size. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bake 30 to 40 minutes, or until the bottoms of the loaves sound hollow when tapped. Remove loaves from pans and cool on a rack.

Source: “The Garden Way Bread Book,” Ellen Foscue Johnson.

A crust for pizza

One of the secrets of Italy’s irresistibly light pizza is a thin crisp crust like this one; another is not overloading the pie with toppings. This dough is so easy to put together you will want to use it again and again for making pizza. No baking stone is needed, since you slip the crust out of the pan and crisp it directly on the bottom rack of the oven during the last minutes of baking. The whole wheat flour from Conservation Grains is so light and fine and it kept the crust light. If desired, the pizza can be made totally with all-purpose flour rather than half whole wheat. Choose your favorite toppings; I used freshly made tomato sauce, fresh mozzarella, sliced Italian chicken sausage, sliced fresh garlic, sliced Kalamata olives and grated Romano and Parmesan cheese.

Makes one 12- to 13-inch pizza crust

Ingredients:

½ cup warm water (about 100 degrees)

Heaping ½ teaspoon active dry yeast

Pinch of sugar

½ cup whole wheat flour

½ to ¾ cup all-purpose flour, plus more if needed

½ teaspoon salt

Directions:

Pour ¼ cup water into a measuring cup. Stir in yeast, sugar and 1 teaspoon of the flour. Bubbles should form on the surface within about 8 minutes. If not, the yeast is past its prime — start again with fresher yeast. In a medium bowl or a food processor, combine the ½ cup whole wheat flour, ½ cup all-purpose flour and the salt. Blend in the yeast mixture and remaining ¼ cup water. Beat with a spoon or process with on-off pulses 20 seconds. The dough should be soft and sticky. If it is very soft, work in more flour by the tablespoonful until it is soft, somewhat stick and very elastic. Knead by hand 5 minutes or process another 5 seconds. Oil a medium bowl, put in the dough and cover with plastic wrap. Let it rise at room temperature until it has nearly tripled in bulk, about 2 hours. If you are not ready to bake, keep the dough covered and hold up to 4 hours in all. About 20 minutes before baking, punch it down and knead a minute, then form it into a ball and cover. Set an oven rack in the lowest position and preheat the oven to 500 degrees. Roll the dough out on a floured surface to a 13- to 14-inch round about ⅛-inch thick. Set on an oiled baking sheet or pizza pan. Let rest 10 minutes. Top the pizza as desired. Bake 10 minutes. Using a spatula and a thick oven mitt, slip the pizza off the pan onto the oven rack. Bake another 2 to 3 minutes. Slip back onto the pan and serve hot.

Source: “The Italian Country Table, Home Cooking from Italy’s Farmhouse Kitchens,” Lynn Rossetto Kasper.

Banana whole wheat muffins

These extra-moist banana muffins are heartier than most. They are also lower in fat and sugar than most muffins.

Ingredients:

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 cup whole wheat flour

2 tablespoons poppy seeds

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

¾ teaspoon ground nutmeg

3 medium-sized ripe bananas (about 1 pound total)

2 large eggs

¼ cup honey

⅓ cup salad oil

1 teaspoon vanilla

Directions:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Mix all-purpose flour, whole wheat flour, poppy seeds, baking powder, baking soda, and nutmeg in a medium-sized bowl. Cut bananas into 1-inch chunks. Place in a food processor or blender; add eggs, oil, honey, and vanilla. Whirl until pureed. Pour banana mixture into flour mixture, stir just until blended. Spoon batter equally into 12 greased 2- to 2½-inch muffin cups. Bake at 375 degrees until muffins are golden and tops spring back when gently pressed in center (about 15 to 20 minutes). Turn out onto rack. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Source: “Sunset Breads,” Editors of Sunset Books and Sunset Magazine.

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Bernie Mason writes the Local Flavor column for Lee Montana Newspapers. She was a Yellowstone County extension agent for 24 years. Mason grew up in Sidney in a family of German and Danish ancestry.

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