Tools For Using Your Stored Grain

So, you’ve got your buckets of stored wheat.  We can have a discussion later about what kind of wheat you’ve got stored. For now, we’ll just assume you have some stored. Are you ready to actually use it?

Those of you with the fancy equipment, are definitely a leg up should an economic crisis raise the price of store bought bread, but it might not hurt to have a backup plan for a grid down type situation. Those of you who never bake your bread, you should start! We, mostly hubby honestly, make all of our bread. We don’t have a stand mixer, we don’t have a bread maker, we have flour, and a bowl and a toddler sous-chef. I want to touch on some of the tools we find really handy for bread making in general.

These tools get used a lot in our house, and we find that they really help with the chore. Some of these, the pastry blender, the biscuit cutter, and the rolling pin are things I remember seeing in my grandmother’s kitchen. Some were new to me, but have grown on me since trying them.

Dough Whisk – This is one that was new to me.  I remember the women in my family using wooden spoons, or their hands to work dough. Hubby asked for one of these Danish Dough Whisks though, and it’s really helped him with the mixing of our weekly sandwich loaves. It’s big and sturdy, and easily handles the two-loaf batches that he makes.

Pastry Blender – This is an old family favorite, and I don’t know any serious bakers who disagree. :-D If you work with solid fats in your breads, things like butter or lard, pastry blenders are the best. They basically cut the fat into smaller and smaller pieces, instead of the smearing, ball-of-butter that usually happens with something like a wooden spoon.

Flour Sack Towels – These I remember seeing at pot lucks and such growing up. I don’t know if my grandmothers use them, but it wouldn’t surprise me. Here’s what I’m talking about. We use them to cover bread dough, and wrap the finished loaves. They hold in warmth and are woven, which works better with the dough than the fuzzy terry cloth towels.

Mortar and Pestle – Ok, so we buy flour, I’m not even going to pretend that we grind all our own flour with this thing. But, it bears mentioning because it’s our grid down backup route.  We have a large mortar and pestle, it will grind us corn and wheat into meal and flour. It won’t be fast, or fun, but it would get the job done, and could be a job that kids could help with. The 4 cup size is our big one. We also have a smaller one, that’s only a few inches across, it comes in handy for the spices and nuts that can accompany baking.

Baking pans – Skip the rounded edged, aluminum, non-stick coated, loaf pans that every supermarket seems to carry.  Go for these bad boys.  These are steel, and they really do bake the bread better.  The higher sides help keep the loaf contained if you get a batch that rises a bit more than expected.

Rolling pins – This is one of those tools I’m really going to push you to find locally. Find a wood worker, with a lathe, and get a rolling pin made. I’ve never bought one from a store that I liked. Maybe I had bad luck, I don’t know. I remember my grandmother’s having really nice rolling pins, that probably came from a store; maybe they aren’t made like that anymore. But I’m totally in love with our rolling pin. It’s a french style rolling pin, made here in Iowa, with a nice weight and a good feel in my hands. No rough edges, or course grainy wood, no corner to catch on my knuckle. Love it.

Biscuit Cutters – Now, I know for a fact that you can buy these at a store, but I’ve never really used a store bought ones. I’m pretty sure my grandmother’s and my mother’s and mine are all old cans with the sharp edges sanded off. They make the job of biscuits go a lot faster. (I think I could do the wrist-twist to cut out a biscuit in my sleep.) If you have problems with the dough getting stuck inside the cutter, try getting the cutting edge dusted with flour before every biscuit-cut. A tupperware lid with a tall lip works well to hold the flour in for easy application.

Search these out in garage sales, antique stores and local woodworking shops, it’s worth your while to find ones that feel nice and solid in your hands. Storing the grain is only half the battle; you have to be able to make food with it for it to be useful. Get the right tools and it will make your life easier. Know how to use them, before the SHTF.

– Calamity Jane