Son asked for a rather unusual birthday present:
a grain grinder!
We've had a wonderful time grinding a wide variety of grains using the book Flour Power: A Guide To Modern Home Grain Milling as a guide. I've learned so much about how different kinds of flours work--and highly recommend this book to all bread bakers, whether or not they grind their own flour. Very cool.
We've tried our hands at corn, oats, rye, amaranth, millet, barley, rice, lentils, split peas, and of course a couple of kinds of wheat.
There is another attachment that you can use for rolling grains for oatmeal and the like--as well as an electric base for those not looking for the mild upper-body workout. I believe there are also another two attachments that allow you to grind meat, nuts, cheese and vegetables. This machine, the German-made Family Grain Mill is extremely easy to crank--even for Son's young friends. With corn, we had to send the grain through twice (the first time at a coarser setting)--but everything else is quite fine after just one time through.
The bread we've made so far is amazing. There is a freshness that I've rarely tasted in whole wheat bread--absolutely delectable.
And best of all, as long as we keep the hopper full of grains, visitors are so intrigued that they'll do all our grinding for us!
Now I just need to start growing my own grains...