By FDA definition, whole wheat flours must fall within a defined granulation. Under these rules there are typically three granulations of whole wheat flour produced – fine, medium and coarse.
Ultra Fine Whole Wheat Flour that is offered by some mills offers a particle size similar to white patent flour but has the nutritional benefits of whole wheat flour. Products made with Ultra Fine Whole Wheat Flour are smoother and less gritty than products made with conventional whole wheat flour.
Fine Whole Wheat Flour is ideal for all bread and roll applications where optimum absorption, dough handling characteristics and loaf volume are desired. Because the bran and germ is milled “fine” the impact on mixing tolerance and finished baked volume are minimized. When producing 100% whole wheat bread or rolls, Fine Whole Wheat Flour is often the flour of choice.
The particular size of the whole wheat flour has a significant impact on its ability to absorb water. Fine Whole Wheat Flour, because of its smaller particle size and thus larger surface area, will absorb water at a much faster and more consistent rate than will the medium and coarse whole wheat flours. The finer granulation also exposes more of the endosperm protein, enabling a more complete development of gluten.
Medium Whole Wheat Flour has a slightly coarser granulation than the Fine Whole Wheat Flour. It can be used in all the same applications. However, due to the larger particle size and the cutting action the bran imparts on the gluten structure, a smaller finished loaf volume and a coarser crumb can be expected.
Coarse Whole Wheat Flour is quite different than Fine Whole Wheat Flour. Both contain the entire wheat berry, but due to the large particle size of the bran, it is seldom used alone in bread baking. Ideal applications for Coarse Whole Wheat Flour are specialty breads and rolls such as multi-grain. It is often used as a topping to provide a rustic health look. It is also used in many wheat breads to provide a ‘nutty’ flavor and texture.
Stone Ground Whole Wheat Flour is a reference to the milling method used. In the early days of milling, wheat was ground between heavy, slowly rotating millstones. Stone Ground Whole Wheat Flour is often used for marketing and promotional advantages.
Whole wheat flour has a short shelf life when compared to white flour. Although the germ represents just 2-½% of the whole wheat flour, it has a high-unsaturated oil content. Oil rancidity is the primary concern during prolonged storage. This can result in an off flavor and odor. Under normal storage conditions whole wheat flour should be used within 30 – 60 days. Storing the flour under refrigeration can extend this time.
Other Whole Wheat Products
Whole wheat flour must meat two FDA criteria: the composition must be the same as the wheat from which they were milled, and it must meet the granulation requirement.
Cracked Wheat is produced by cutting or breaking cleaned wheat into irregular sized pieces. The FDA requires a specific granulation in order for it to be called cracked wheat. It is used in popular brands of cracked wheat and multi-grain breads.
Crushed Wheat is also a standardized whole wheat product. To make crushed wheat the miller first tempers cleaned wheat to a higher moisture level. The softened kernels then pass through a set of smooth rollers. The wheat berries are literally flattened. Very little flour is released.
Rolled Wheat is thinner and smaller than crushed wheat. It is not tempered as long as Crushed Wheat and the wheat berries are cracked before being rolled. Due to the initial cracking a little more flour is released. Crushed Wheat and Rolled Wheat are often used in multi-grain and specialty breads.
Cleaned Wheat usually is an unmilled, high protein Hard Red Spring wheat. It is seldom used in unaltered form. Small bakeries purchase cleaned wheat and mill their own bread flour on premise. It is also used to make sprouted wheat bread. In this application, the wheat berries are soaked in water. Once the grain has germinated it is coarsely ground and added to the dough.
Here are few production hints that are used when making whole wheat bread as compared to typical process for white bread.
- Mixing: Higher water absorption is generally needed for whole wheat breads. To improve mixing tolerance, doughs are often mixed at slower speeds and at lower temperatures. Higher levels of shortening and the addition of vital wheat gluten can also improve mixing tolerance enhance t he size of a finished loaf.
- Fermentation: Whole wheat doughs also lack fermentation tolerance. To compensate, lower dough temperatures are used and the total fermentation is less than for white bread.
- Make-up: Whole wheat doughs tend to be stiffer and can result in erratic scaling weights. A slightly longer intermediate proof time is needed.
- Proofing: Expecting little or no oven spring, whole wheat doughs are given full proof. Lower relative humidity in the proof box is also needed to prevent surface weakening.
- Baking: Whole wheat breads are generally baked at lower temperatures for longer time. This extends the yeast activity and promotes larger loaf volume.