Did you know that wheat berries, when stored under the right conditions, can easily last up to 30 years without going bad? (and this may be a Mormon wives-tale, but I have heard that some wheat was found in the tomb of King Tut and it was still able to sprout! Don't know if it's true, but it's kind of believable, right?)
This is one of the reasons why it is such a staple for emergency preparedness. If you're intimidated by it, you can always store it and never use it. OR, hopefully, you won't feel the pressure to use it all up in a couple of years. You have plenty of time to rotate it.
I grew up with a mom who subbed and snuck home-ground whole wheat into everything, so for me it feels quite natural. And actually, I grew up with whole wheat pancakes and to me, white pancakes are not nearly as good. They must have syrup to have any flavor and they turn into paste in your mouth. GROSS. I love pancakes, but rarely get them at a restaurant because white ones are far inferior to their whole wheat counterpart. (and much less nutritious besides!)
Anyway, most things, wheat works as a fine substitute but there are always slight changes. First, I'm going to link to two Everyday Food Storage links on whole wheat. The second gives you some guidelines for knowing when it works best in baked goods.
Now, I'm going to tell you a bit of what I've learned.
The two main kinds you can buy are Hard Turkey Red, and White Whole Wheat- a newer invention. The fact that it is genetically engineered, makes me a bit twitchy, but it does work so much better as a white flour substitute that I use it anyway.
Rather than having to store two different kinds of wheat flour for different things, I always grind half Turkey Red, and half White Wheat, every time I grind. (I just dump both kinds of berries in the grinder at once.) You get the most nutrition from your wheat flour if it is freshly ground, because the nutrients begin to deteriorate from the moment it is ground, but you can slow the process by storing the flour in your fridge or freezer. (and this is another reason why it's better to grind your own wheat, rather than buying whole wheat flour at the store.) However, I don't give up precious fridge space to something like that. Rather, I just keep a small-ish container in my cabinet so that I must grind every week. (usually Saturday mornings, in time for pancakes :D) I find having a mix of half red and half white gives me the nice flavor of the red, with the versatility and lightness of the white. Honestly, though, I still prefer my pancakes made with all Turkey Red ground wheat.
Wheat flour can be easily substituted (particularly white wheat) in pretty much everything- especially if it's a recipe with more brown sugar than white (or you can just substitute brown for white). The main difference is your baked goods will not be as white (duh) and will have a slightly stronger wheaty flavor. Also, if you use it to make a roux, it will give your white sauce a bit of speckliness, which may turn people off. You're call. It's totally fine for flouring chicken, though. No difference, whatsoever.
With yeast breads, you must be the most careful- the wheat flour is much heavier and will change the texture quite a bit. Usually you don't need as much liquid if you use wheat flour. People will often add gluten or dough enhancer to help out. I find you can usually get away with subbing about half the flour for a yeast bread, and even less for dinner rolls. Your best bet, though, is to just follow a wheat bread recipe.
Here is the recipe I grew up with. Its fantastic fresh out of the oven with butter or jam, but as a kid, I always loathed when my mom made sandwiches with it. It dries out pretty easily, and the crust gets really hard. (Though, I've since realized that's probably because my mom never wrapped it in anything.)
Here is the Everyday Food Storage Recipe I've been meaning to try, but I haven't yet been able to get my hands on some potato flakes. It's especially great because she has included videos, for someone who has really never made bread before. It can give you that extra boost of confidence. She also shows you how you can "trick" people into thinking it's not whole wheat by not letting it brown (and therefore keeping it a lighter color)
Here is my French bread recipe- I usually do 1/3 wheat when I'm giving it away, but I'll do 1/2 wheat for my family. This one is particularly good if you don't own a mixer.
I'm going to try out cracked wheat next week and report back on it.
Where do you get wheat?
Well, I can get the big 45 lb buckets at Costco, but probably ones outside Utah won't carry it. I can even get it at the Macey's grocery stores- in 45 lb buckets or 50 lb bags. However, the rest of you can buy it online. The cheapest place to get it, already packaged for long-term use being the LDS cannery online store.
How do you turn it into flour?
I use the Blendtec Kitchen Mill on recommendation from my mom, that I actually bought directly from them, since they are a company based in Orem, UT. You can also buy one online or at a Bosch store. I've never used any other one and don't go around talking about wheat grinders with all my friends (despite how it may look here :D) so I don't really know much about any other one. But this one has worked great for us!
I also just got a hand wheat grinder, in case of emergency and no electricity. I haven't used it yet, but am committing to try it out next week as well. I'll tell you how it goes.
Anyone have any favorite whole wheat recipes, tips or tricks?