Whole wheat flour includes all three portions of the seed head: germ, bran, endosperm. Whole wheat flour typically is more absorbent than white flour, requiring more hydration. Depending on the grind, whole wheat flour can be very coarse, with large pieces of bran. Coarse bran can slice through protein chains, cutting gluten, and too much cutting of gluten can yield a loaf crumbly, rather than elastic and chewy. Wheat classification can be expressed by kernel texture (soft, hard), kernel color (white, red), and seasonal habit (fall/winter, spring).
  • Hard wheat, or “bread flour” – high protein content, used for bread
  • Soft wheat, or “pastry flour” – lower protein content, used for pastry and flat breads
  • All purpose –  typically a blend of hard and soft wheat
  • Winter wheat – lower in protein, higher in minerals, great for yeasted bread
  • Spring wheat – highest protein content, used for bread flour
“White Whole Wheat” is not a bleached flour, rather a whole (endosperm, germ, and bran) flour ground from a paler (think a lighter shade of brown) variety of wheat. It tastes slightly sweeter thanks to a lower tannin content and will create baked goods with a lighter color. Bleaching flour damages its starch and protein content and speeds up the “curing” process, which would occur naturally over time, a couple of weeks. Commercial bleached flours can be bleached with chlorine or benzoyl peroxide. This flour can seem easier to work with, making doughs less gummy and more malleable; however, when you get to know your flour, your miller, and your baking environment, the nutritious benefits, flavor, and ever-changing and challenging loaves will enliven. Amaranth, an intensely nutty and very dense flour can yield a product gritty or crumbly if used in too large proportions. Use in recipes high in hydration like quickbreads and brownies, and in smaller proportions in scones and cookies. Great in combination with other grains and starches. Barley flour has a natural maltiness in flavor and is low in gluten. Great in sweet baked goods and cookies and in combination with wheat flour. Buckwheat has a blue hue, gluten-free, and a very nutty flavor. It absorbs lots of moisture, so adjust accordingly when baking. Start with 15-25% when combining with wheat flour and work your way up as you observe its effect with other ingredients. It can create, crisp, dense, or crumbly baked goods at higher percentages. Einkorn is an “ancient grain,” one of the first plants to be domesticated and cultivated and has a higher percentage of protein than modern red wheats and contains higher levels of fat, phosphorus, potassium, pyridoxine, and beta-carotene. Reduce amount of fat in cookies or baked goods as einkorn’s higher fat content can lead to increased cookie spread and flatter cakes without slight recipe adjustments. Great in shorbread, pancakes, and crackers. Preference to 100% einkorn bread baked in a molded loaf pan. Emmer is a species wheat more commonly known as farro. It is an ancient grain that retains its hull during harvest like einkorn and spelt. Emmer has a high content of resistant starch (RS), carotenoids, lysine, and other antioxidant components. Kamut is an an annual, self-fertilized grass that is cultivated for its grains and looks very similar to common wheat. Its grains are twice the size of modern wheat kernel, boasts about 30% more protein and 65% more amino acids than wheat, and is rich in zinc, magnesium and vitamins. Spelt is and ancient grain, a distant relative of durum, a type of wheat, and many with sensitivity to conventional wheat products find spelt easier to digest. It has a mild nuttiness, natural sweetness, and is relatively easy to work with. Doughs high in spelt can go from seemingly strong to slack quickly, so I do not overnight proofing doughs with a high percentage of this grain. Red Fife wheat originated in Ukraine and brought to Ontario in 1840 and grown in the US in 1860. This wheat is known for its higher nutritional density and strong wheat flavor. It produces a crust with a reddish hue. Rye is a grain, although not a wheat. It has a tangy flavor and natural gumminess when processed. A 100% rye bread can be challenging and careful when adding rye to doughs as rye can create what we call “starch attack” and leave the dough gummy and dense. Using a sourdough starter to control acidity and fermentation will be key to success in doughs with rye.

Sonora wheat is one of the oldest surviving wheat varieties in North America. It arrived with the Spanish settlers in the 16th century. Predating Red Fife and Turkey Red wheats, it is a soft white, round winter wheat with pale red grains and its low protein percentage exhibits well in flatbreads, biscuits, pie crusts, and quickbreads.

Turkey Red wheat was brought to the American Midwest in the 1870s and became a dominant hard red winter wheat in Kansas and the Great Plains in the 1920s. I love how sourdough breads draw out its complex, nutty flavors.