The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

artisan bread with soft wheat?

ericb's picture

artisan bread with soft wheat?

What would happen if I tried to use a soft wheat in a recipe that usually calls for A/P or bread flour? For instance, what would the results be in a Vermont Sourdough or a miche? Would they simply fail to rise due to lack of gluten strength? 

The reason I ask is that I have been interested in buying more locally-grown foods. So far, I've found that we have plenty of winter squash, sweet potatoes, onions, milk, fresh eggs, and an endless variety of high-quality bourbon whiskeys(!) available within a day's round-trip drive.

The one thing I'm having trouble with is flour. Apparently, the climate and soil in the Ohio Valley is not conducive to growing hard red wheat. However, locally-grown and locally-milled soft wheat is available.

I doubt that I would give up baking old-world breads in favor of buying locally -- after all, Kansas isn't too terribly far away, and I still need to use salt shipped in from who-knows-where. Still, I'm interested in learning more about soft wheat, and would like to see if it is capable of anything beyond muffins and cakes.

Does anyone have any experience in the area?


dghdctr's picture

As you probably already realize Eric, soft wheat makes for less protein in flour.  The characteristics of the gluten-forming proteins (about 80% of the total protein) can be a bit different as well, with the gluten network in a soft-wheat dough being a bit more extensible, and maybe less springy.

"Soft" wheat can yield protein contents -- as far as I've observed -- anywhere from about 9% on the high end to maybe 5 or 6% on the low end.  That compares to around 11-12.5% for most North American "Bread" flours, and around 10% for most AP on the market (King Arthur's AP is actually a mid-protein bread flour at 11.7%).

So there is no standard answer to your question, other than to recommend that you buy a few pounds of the local stuff and see how it goes.  You won't need as much water, so hold back maybe 15 or 20% of the water called for in any recipe designed for AP or bread flours, and then add some if the dough seems dry in the first minute.  If the dough is already too wet, hold back more water next time, and -- well, you get it, right?

Before you dismiss the idea of using soft wheat, keep in mind that most French wheat used for Type 55 flour is not very strong at all.  If you can get soft wheat at the higher end of the possible protein levels (9% or so) it might work for baguettes and the like.  But if you can only obtain soft wheat at the lower end of the protein range, I would not be optimistic.

BTW, I live in the Ohio Valley myself -- where are you going to buy this flour?

--Dan DiMuzio

JoeVa's picture

Yes, hold back water. And pay attention to gluten development, it could develops faster, so do not overmix.


clazar123's picture

I am trying to develop a less chewy,soft white bread and tried adding 1/3 WW pastry flour to my recipe.The other flour was Gold Medal Better for Bread (didn't have any AP in the cupboard).I did also use milk and butter.The texture was perfect for what I wanted to achieve! It had tremendous oven spring,great texture and has held up well. The taste was wonderful with all the butter and milk! I must say, for a white slicing sandwich bread, it was pretty darn good.My spouse has wanted me to make a "like store bought white bread" recipe(shudder).I think this is darn close without using guar gum.

The other experiment I did with soft wheat pastry flour was to sub it for about 1/2 the flour in my Angel Biscuit dough.That time I did have AP flour and the texture was definitely much more fragile and became crumbly the next day-they had never done that before. I may try it again and reduce the pastry flour to 1/4-1/3 of the total flour.