As I’m writing this, I’m stuffing a delicious piece of toast into my face and crunching on it rather happily. That might not seem like a big deal for most people, but for those of us who have to adhere to a gluten-free (GF) diet, a gorgeous piece of toast is worthy of a fair amount of celebration. Although more GF products are appearing on shelves, there’s something to be said for being able to bake one’s own items from scratch as well, but many GF flours are still insanely expensive. Luckily for us, milling our own flours isn’t just cost effective, it’s crazy easy too.
I promise you that none of this will involve a stone quern and massive Conan-esque muscles (unless you’re really into that sort of thing, in which case kudos!), but rather just requires the use of a couple of standard household items and a bit of time.
Some people like to grind their own spices at home, which is actually a great idea since freshly-ground spices are far more flavorful than pre-ground stuff. These folks are probably also the type who’ll grind their coffee beans just before brewing them, and if they’re smart, they’ll have separate grinders for the two so they don’t cross-contaminate with flavors, oils, and so on. You can use the same grinder for your coffee as you do for your flour, but if possible, it really is a great idea to have one dedicated grinder solely for flour.
What You’ll Need:
- A coffee grinder (You can often find these for just a couple of bucks at thrift shops.)
- Gluten-free grains (Like white rice, brown rice, quinoa, amaranth, buckwheat, to name a few.)
- Empty glass jars with lids
- Permanent markers
- A small spatula
- A free hour or so
If you’re using a new coffee grinder, just make sure it’s unplugged and give it a quick wipe with a clean cloth. If you’re using a grinder that’s ordinarily used for coffee, use any leftover grinds to brew yourself a cup, then unplug the grinder and use a dry paintbrush to sweep out any remaining grains.
Remember that you should never stick your fingers anywhere near the grinder’s blades. Always use a brush or small spatula (or even a dessert spoon), and it’s always better to err on the side of caution and unplug the machine before scooping anything out.
How to Grind the Flour
If your coffee grinder is a dinky little one like mine is, you’ll have to grind your grains a few tablespoons at a time. Yes, this is time-consuming, and you may have to take occasional breaks so your grinder doesn’t overheat and burn out, but trust me: it’s worth the time and effort.
Pour a few tablespoons of grain into your grinder, secure the lid, and grind until those grains have turned into a soft, fine powder. As each batch is ground, transfer it from the grinder into a clean glass jar. If you’re going to make flour mixes, it’s best to grind one type of flour at a time so that you can measure proportions more accurately, then blend them together with a fork or whisk and then transfer them to a jar. These will stay fresh for several weeks in a dry pantry, and even longer if you keep them in the fridge or freezer. It’s best to use them soon after grinding, though: any flour can get stale and musty if left in the cupboard for too long.
Grinding your own flour at home can save you a ridiculous amount of money, especially since gluten-free flours can be so hideously costly. If there’s a bulk food store anywhere near you, you’ll be able to stock up on various grains at a fraction of the cost of what a flour made from them would be, and then just grind them up and make your own blends.
If you’d prefer to use a non-electric grinder, they’re wonderful to have on hand, range in price from $30-$150 USD, and can grind just about any nut, seed or grain you can think of. They’ll also last a lifetime if taken care of properly, and you’ll be able to grind away happily even if the power goes out. Just do a quick Google search for “grain mills” and determine which one is best for you. These larger mills are also great for grinding bean flours, as coffee grinders aren’t powerful enough to break down most dry legumes.
An avid permaculture gardener, locavore, and novice (but enthusiastic!) canner, Lana Winter-Hébert joins Inhabitat after spending the last decade working as a writer and event guru for non-profit/eco organizations. In addition to her work with this site, she writes features and blog posts for Vegan Cuts, Green Pigeon, and several event planning websites based in London, UK. Currently, Lana divides her time between writing, and doing collaborative projects with Winter-Hébert: the design studio she runs with her husband. Best described as “endearingly eccentric”, she spends any spare moments wrestling with knitting projects, and devouring novels by obscure Czech writers. A Toronto native, she has recently chosen to leave that splendid city in favor of a tranquil lakeside nook in rural Quebec, where she and her Sir co-habitate with two hand-raised sparrows that live in their writing-desk.
All photos © the author