Comparing Whole Grain Flours

I found this information in my Martha Stewart Living magazine and thought it really helped explained the flavors and textures of different grains that you could use for baking. I supplemented the information with a post I found online.

Keep your grains fresh by storing them in the freezer for up to 6 months.

Note that refined grains have been milled and stripped of the bran and the germ which decreases their fiber, protein, vitamin and mineral content. Refined grains are often enriched, meaning certain B vitamins that were removed in the milling process are added back to the flour made from the refined grain.

When shopping for whole grains, read the ingredient list. The first ingredient should say “whole grain wheat” or list a whole grain like quinoa. Words like “stone ground”, “multi-grain”, “100% wheat” or “seven grain” don’t necessarily mean that the product is a whole grain food. Color does not indicate that a food is a whole grain. Many time molasses or other coloring agents are added to foods to make them look healthy.

Wheat Flours

Wheat contains gluten needed to give rise to bakes sweets. All purpose flour (APF) can be combined with whole wheat to prevent a dense crumb. If only whole wheat flour is used it provides a more toothsome texture & assertive flavor. All whole wheat is milled with bran, endosperm, and germ.

  • Whole Wheat
    • Grind: medium
    • Comes from: hard red or white wheat berries
    • Taste: earthiness with raw-sugar overtones, tannic near-bitterness (tannins also found in red wines & coffee), white is milder than red
    • Bake: pleasantly chewy bread, cookies, brownies, and sticky buns
  • Whole Wheat Pastry
    • Grind: fine
    • Comes from: soft red or white wheat berries which are lower in gluten
    • Taste: same as regular whole wheat
    • Bake: tender crusts, cakes, biscuits, and pancakes
  • Graham
    • Grind: coarse
    • Comes from: hard red wheat berries
    • Taste: rustic, with faint honey notes
    • Bake: nubby, crisp crackers and crusts
    • Caution: requires more liquids in batters & doughs before baking
  • Spelt
    • Grind: fine to coarse
    • Comes from: ancient wheat predecessor
    • Taste: sweet & mild, similar to toasted walnuts
    • Bake: anything white flour can do with a very soft & delicate crumb, substitute 1:1 for APF
    • Caution: readily absorbs liquid so proportions of liquid may have to increase and batters may need time to absorb liquids before baking

Hearty Grains

  • Barley
    • Grind: fine
    • Comes from: hulled barley with the inner bran still intact
    • Taste: caramelized nuttiness similar to browned butter with a tang like that in pale ale, most commonly associated with a malty flavor
    • Bake: smooth & buttery cookies, cakes, quick breads, and crusts
    • Caution: has only small amounts of gluten & for structure require the addition of all-purpose or another wheat flour, higher proportions may cause baked goods not to rise & to crumble
  • Rye
    • Milled with germ, bran, and endosperm then sifted. Lighter varieties have more germ & bran sifted out than darker ryes like those used for pumpernickel
    • Taste: echoes of malted milk with the depth of cooked sugar, lighter varieties are sweeter, darker are stronger flavored, most commonly associated with a malty flavor
    • Bake: tender breads & crusts, cookies, crunchy crackers, crisp-outside & tender-inside biscuits, scones, waffles, and pancakes
    • Caution: has only small amounts of gluten & for structure require the addition of APF or another wheat flour, higher proportions may result in a gummy, dense crumb
  • Oat
    • Grind: fine to coarse
    • Comes from: whole oats
    • Taste: milky with a mild sweetness
    • Bake: tender & chewy muffins, cookies, scones, biscuits, pancakes, and waffles
    • Caution: when combined with other grains or white flour it retains moisture & can result in wet gumminess if used in high proportions
  • Buckwheat
    • Nutrition: good source of zinc, copper and manganese and high in soluble fiber
    • Gluten free
    • Grind: fine to coarse
    • Comes from: fruit seeds related to sorrel & rhubarb with darker flours containing more of the whole kernel
    • Taste: nutty, with mineral quality of mushrooms & dry red wine
    • Bake: smooth & chewy, low-rising griddle favorites like pancakes, crepes, blini, and waffles when mixed with wheat flour

Ancient Grains

Century-old options that are not all technically grains but function as such when combined with wheat or other grains.

  • Amaranth
    • Originates: in Peru thousands of years ago
    • Nutrition:good source of calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, and iron
    • Complete protein – contains all the essential amino acids
    • Gluten free
    • Grind: fine and powdery
    • Comes from: seeds of a leafy plant
    • Taste: distinct, assertive grassiness, reminiscent of the scent of hay
    • Bake: dense & nearly sticky muffins, cookies, cakes, pancakes, and waffles
    • Caution: combine with other grains
  • Quinoa
    • Originates: Peru
    • Complete protein
    • Gluten free
    • Cooking: when cooked it is light & fluffy, can be used as a  base of many grain and vegetable salads, added to soups and stews or even eaten as a hot cereal.
    • Grind: fine
    • Comes from: seeds of a leafy plant
    • Taste: faintly grassy with hints of toasted sesame seeds
    • Bake: Moist & chewy cookies & muffins, cakes, and quick breads with a fine crumb
    • Caution: combine with other grains, rinse before using to remove soapy tasting saponins
  • Millet
    • Nutrition: loaded with antioxidants  & is a good source of magnesium
    • Gluten free
    • Cooking:  cooked millet can be added to soups, stews, breads or eaten as a breakfast cereal. You can pop millet like popcorn and eat it for a snack
    • Grind: powdery-fine
    • Comes from: ancient grains with entire germ intact
    • Taste: mild & sweet with subtle nuttieness
    • Bake: delicate cakes & cakey cookies
    • Caution: mix with wheat flour



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