Tuesday, July 14, 2015

The 3 Keys To Bread Making - #1 Flour

Courtesy of Faithwalk Photography
July's emphasis is going to be on one of America's most cherished traditions – bread making. For the next three weeks we're going to learn about what I've found to be the three crucial keys to light, airy, delicious homemade bread: flour, kneading and water temperature. These key areas are vital for all types of
bread, but are especially important for 100% whole wheat breads (note: the term whole wheat refers to flour that is ground from hulled wheat grain and still contains what is commonly known as the bran, germ, and endosperm). Starting off this trio is selecting the right kind of flour for 100% whole wheat bread.

Flour: Choosing Wisely

Flour is the dominate ingredient in bread which in turn ranks it as the most important one. Though traditional whole wheat bread has earned a reputation for being “stick and twig” fare, it is more than possible to make bread that is light, fluffy and 100% whole wheat. The “secret” lies in the protein content of the wheat.

When considering whole wheat to use in yeast breads it's important to realize that there are many different varieties of whole wheat available and not all of them share the same protein percentage. Your best bread is going to come from wheat with a 12-14% protein rate, so stay away from what is known as soft wheat. The best kind is whole wheat flour, milled from hard spring wheat. Hard spring wheat is sown in the spring and then harvested in the late summer or early fall. Minnesota, Montana, the Dakotas, and Canada are the primary regions that grow hard wheat. Typically, the farther north the hard wheat is grown the higher the protein percentage will be. But why is a high protein count so important? More protein yields a higher amount of gluten, and gluten is what causes elasticity in dough. And what does elastic, workable dough mean? Soft, gorgeous bread.

After you find a supplier of hard spring wheat, you can then decide which flavor you want, and this will influence your bread's texture and taste as well. Hard spring wheat comes in two colors - red and white. Each of these colors offers its own unique characteristics. If you relish the hearty texture and taste of traditional whole wheat, then red wheat is for you. White wheat, however, will appeal to those who prefer a more mild taste and a lighter, whiter loaf. The varieties our Creator has designed in the humble grain of wheat is quite remarkable. Regardless of the flavor you settle on, choosing the higher protein content of hard spring wheat will significantly improve your bread.

Another lesser known member of the wheat family that I have found very helpful to add with my hard spring wheat is spelt flour. Spelt also has a high protein percentage and I've found a ratio of two thirds hard spring wheat to one third spelt yields a lighter loaf than pure hard spring wheat. The gluten in spelt also breaks down easier than traditional wheat, making it more tolerable to some with gluten allergies.


Below are the three suppliers I was able to find for either spelt or hard spring wheat. Since I grind my own flour, Wheat Montana's Prairie Gold wheat berries and Spelt berries is what I've used for years and I couldn't be more happy with their products (I have no personal experience with the last two, so my knowledge of their products is limited to what they featured on their websites). I would love to add more suppliers, so if you have a favorite, please feel free to mention them in the comments.

Acknowledgment: this series is based on an article I wrote for the March/April 2014 edition of the Molly Green Magazine. For information on how to subscribe to Molly Green Magazine, please visit http://mollygreen.com/

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