Ingredient Information

Wheat Flours

Any grain that has been finely ground is technically a flour.

The most popular flour is all-purpose wheat flour, also known as white flour. It is manufactured by crushing wheat berries between large steel rollers. Most white flour is mass produced in industrial quantities with the production process taking place at high temperatures, which both destroys the wheat germ and removes the outer bran layer. All that is left is the endosperm. The result is the loss of many vitamins and nutrients.

Stone grinding is a slower process using large stones to crush the wheat so that the germ and bran are not lost as the flour is produced. This is the principal difference between white (no germ or bran) and wheat flour (germ, bran and endosperm).

Because the flour made by steel grinding no longer contains the germ, U.S. law requires that lost nutrients be replaced with iron, niacin, riboflavin and thiamine. Many manufacturers add other nutrients. This is how flour comes to be labeled “Enriched.” I like to add a little wheat germ back into my baked goods for the fiber and sweetness that has been removed from all purpose flour.

The proteins in flours (known as glutens) are the key to the character of a particular flour. These molecules form an elastic framework that traps gas (mostly carbon dioxide) formed by different leavening agents (such as baking soda or yeast).

White flours are usually made with a combination of a low gluten “soft-wheat” flour and higher gluten “hard-wheat” flour. Most have more gluten per ounce than whole wheat flour and, as a result, a greater ability to trap the gas formed by leavening agents. Consequently, breads made with white flours will rise further and be less dense.

Whole wheat flours are more nutritious because they contain most of the vitamins lost when making white flour. They are also higher in fiber (clearly important with what we now know about the importance if high fiber diets). The germ contains some fat and most of the vitamins, while the bran layer is mostly fiber. Because of the higher fat content, whole wheat flour doesn’t keep as well as white flour and will turn rancid over time.

Flour also bleaches naturally as it ages; as it does, the glutens mature. Ageing flour costs more money than bleaching with chemicals, so most of the flour on the market is chemically treated to simulate the ageing process. Unbleached flour will have more flavor but it can also be an inconsistent product, so try to purchase unbleached flour from the same miller.

1/4 cup enriched all purpose white flour = 112 calories, <1 fat, 0g sat fat, 0g mono fat, 3g protein, 24g carbohydrates, <1mg sodium, 0mg cholesterol, 0 mcg Vitamin K

1/4 cup whole wheat flour = 102 calories, <1 fat, 0g sat fat, 0g mono fat, 4g protein, 22g carbohydrates, <1mg sodium, 0mg cholesterol, 0 mcg Vitamin K

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