If you are shopping locally, fall is the season to buy freshly milled whole wheat flour for cereal, pasta, and other whole grain recipes. This article gives an overview of the wheat varieties, soft wheat flours and whole grains (wheat berries) found in Seattle farmers markets with links to popular whole grain recipes.
Common wheat (Triticum aestivum) is generally sold as whole wheat berries as well as different types of wheat flours, including whole grain, all-purpose (refined wheat flour), bread, cake and pastry flours. Wheat flours are described as “hard” or “soft” according to its protein content, “winter” or “spring” according to when it is planted, and “red” or “white” according to the color of its kernel (which is a different description than “white” flour that has been refined).
- Wheat berries are the unprocessed or raw whole wheat kernels and may be purchased whole or ascracked wheat. Wheat berries are composed of three major portions: bran, germ, and endosperm. Wheat bran is the outermost layer composed mainly of fiber. Wheat germ is the small inner kernel that is very high in oil, vitamins, minerals, and protein and can be found sold separately, either raw or toasted. The endosperm, which makes up the majority of the wheat kernel, is the primary source of all-purpose flour. Bulgur wheat or wheat groats havesome of the bran removed, and then the whole wheat berries are steamed, dried, and crushed into fine, medium, or coarse meal. Bulgur wheat has a longer shelf life and is quicker cooking than cracked wheat or wheat berries and is found in many Arab, Jewish, and East Mediterranean recipes. Fine bulgur can simply be prepared by soaking in water, therefore it is used for uncooked dishes such as tabbouleh salad; medium bulgur is good for steamed pilafs; and coarse bulgur is best for oven-baked casseroles. Kasha usually refers to groats made from buckwheat (which is a grain that is unrelated to wheat), but can also refer to any sweet or savory porridge (boiled grain dish). Wheat berries can be used like any whole grain breakfast cereal or savory grain pilaf or added to yeast breads. Wheat berries are available from Bluebird Grain Farms and Nash’s Organic Produce.
- Whole grain flour keeps all three parts of the original grain – the germ, bran and endosperm – in their original proportions. In most recipes calling for all-purpose flour, finely milled whole grain flour can be successfully substituted. The whole grain flour will alter the texture, usually in a pleasing way. You may need to either reduce the flour slightly or add more of the liquid called for in the recipe (start with 1 tablespoon per cup of one or the other). You can also sift whole grain flours and remove some of the germ and bran, but I have not found this to be necessary even when baking a chocolate layer cake. Whole grain cake or pastry flours are milled (ground) very fine compared to regular whole wheat flours. Whole grain flours are available from Bluebird Grain Farms and Nash’s Organic Produce.
- Hard red wheat flour contains more protein, including more gluten that is useful for making bread, so is often labeled bread flour. The flavor of hard red wheat is also stronger due to the type of tannins. Various whole grain hard wheat and bread flours are available from Bluebird Grain Farms and Nash’s Organic Produce.
- Soft white wheat flour contains less protein, so makes baked goods like cakes and biscuits more tender.Soft wheat flour intended for baking is often labeled pastry flour or cake flour, according to its primary use. Various whole grain soft wheat, pastry, and cake flours are available from Bluebird Grain Farms and Nash’s Organic Produce.
- All-purpose flour is refined wheat flour that may be hard wheat or a blend of hard and soft wheat flours. Refined flour means the germ and bran are removed before the endosperm is milled or finely ground. In enriched all-purposed flours, the vitamins and minerals that are taken out with the germ and bran are added back to the (enriched) flour, often in synthetic forms. As the name indicates, all-purpose flour is formulated to perform equally well for any purpose, including yeast breads, cakes, cookies and pastries. Substitute finely milled whole grain pastry flour for all-purpose flour in all of your favorite recipes. Whole grain flours are available from Bluebird Grain Farms and Nash’s Organic Produce.
Whole wheat flour and whole grain recipes:
- Mama Bear’s Porridge
- Easter Grain Pie
- Easy Pilaf
- Mushroom Barley Pilaf
- Ezekiel Bread
- Whole Wheat Flour Tortillas
- Whole Wheat Muffins
- Simple Whole Wheat Bread
- Whole Wheat Refrigerator Rolls
- Whole Wheat Ginger Snaps
- Whole Wheat Pancakes
- Lite Carrot Cake
Remember, you can usually substitute finely milled whole wheat flour for all-purpose flour in family favorite dishes to create new and delicious whole grain recipes.