The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Using whole wheat vs. bread or AP flour

pmiker's picture

Using whole wheat vs. bread or AP flour

I'm not really sure how to title this or where to ask but here goes. I mill my own flour at home by hand. I currently mill hard red and hard white flour. I create a fine flour that results in a nice and soft whole wheat loaf especially when I combine the two flours. My problem is that most recipes I have in books and such call for bread or AP flour. This means I have to keep this flour on hand as well.

Is there a way to make a substitue for AP or bread flours by hand milling?  Do I need to get some soft wheat?  Or do I perhaps use all whole wheat and add a bit of gluten to the recipe?  I'm new to the hand milling aspect and haven't yet found a lot of resoureces for this aspect of baking.



Postal Grunt's picture
Postal Grunt

"Whole Grains Bread" by Reinhart may be the book you're looking for. It covers lots of aspects of baking with whole grains and has quite a few recipes as well. The book isn't without its critics so before you buy a copy, I would suggest that you read the posts referring to the book in the Books Forum here on TFL. Then you can warm up your old library card and borrow a copy to confirm your suspicions or to allay your fears about the book.

Mr Reinhart is an accomplished baker and educator that has lots to say on your subject of interest and might also lead you to other authors that have accomplishments in the use of whole grain. There's a lot to digest so now is as good a time as any to start learning.

pmiker's picture

I already have that book and have made some of the breads.  I've made the whole wheat and sprouted grain bread and the 100% whole wheat sandwich bread using hand milled flour.  For the 100% ww bread, I used red whole wheat in the soaker and white whole wheat for the biga and the rest.  It turned out excellent.  The sprouted grain bread was also good but the flavor is a tad bit different.

BTW, no local library stocks much in bread books and there is no inter-library lending either.

I'll go over to the grain mill forum and see if they have ideas on just what kinds of flour I can home mill and the work involved.

kozulich's picture

It might take a bit of experimentation.

Somewhat depends on how fine your whole wheat is ground.  Generally, AP flour has less protein (gluten) than bread flour.  I would think your hard red wheat is probably a high protein flour, in the range of 14%-16%.  Hard white wheat is a medium protein flour.  You could probably combine with some soft wheat flour with your hard red wheat in order to approximate AP flour, but I'd suggest just using straight hard white wheat flour, and that's going to get you pretty close to AP.  BTW, the protein content of AP flour varies quite a bit from brand to brand, and even regionally in the USA, so its not a real exact designation, and there's quite a bit of margin for experimentation.  You're probably shooting for somewhere in the 10-13% protein range for AP flour.  Generally, soft white wheat has very low protein content, and soft red wheat is not quite as low.  If you know the protein percentage for your hard wheat flour, you might use that as a starting point.  I think adding gluten would be the wrong way to go.  Just from my experience, I've often been able to successfully use high protein bread flour in place of AP flour for most recipes. The only time it makes a big difference is if you are trying for something light and soft, like cake.

clazar123's picture

I make several different kinds of whole wheat bread from my home milled hard red spring wheat and hard white winter wheat. I prefer the flavor  of the red wheat for most of my breads, I find the white to be too bland. A mixture gives a good flavor. Nothing smells and tastes as good as home-milled wheat. Fresh-cut hay,sweet and grassy.

Whole wheat acts a little differently in recipes so you can't just substitute cup for cup. It requires a little more liquid and takes a while to hydrate the bran (even if it is finely ground) but if you don't allow that time, you will end up with a loaf that becomes dry and crumbly on day 2. You may need to experiment a little with both the amount of liquid and the technique of building the loaf when you use whole wheat but it is well worth it.

AP or bread flour is often a mix of many different flours to achieve the correct amount of protein and starch according to industry standards. It also requires sifting and resifting with different size screens. It takes a lot of time and effort to do at home. There are people here that do it-but not many. I make 100%WW for most of my breads but since I make French,ciabatta and brioche, I keep AP on hand anyways. Not too expensive here to keep on hand.

Your wheat will have plenty of gluten.Just needs time and water to develop properly. I concur with the book recommendation by Peter Reinhart. Using techniques like soakers and preferments works well with whole wheat. Don't let any fancy words scare you away-they are all techniques to get the best loaf-no matter what it's called. So find something that works for you and have delicioius fun!

pmiker's picture

My boss has 50 acres that is planted with winter wheat and it will be harvested soon.  He leases it out so he does not know the type of wheat but suspects 'white'.  So I do not know if it is hard or soft winter wheat.  I hope to find out soon.  Once harvested, I can go over and glean to my heart's content.  If this is soft white wheat, I could perhaps mix something up to approximate ap or bread flour.   I checked out the grain mill forum and someone mentioned sieving their flour.  This may be the route to go but I'm not sure I'm ready for that.  I can mill my flour fine enough that the bran does not bother anything.

I do not usually make a 'white' bread but their are so many recipes out their that are not whole wheat that I'd like to see if I can adapt them.  I suppose it will be trial and error for awhile.  I'll try using just white flour for some recipes to see how it goes.  I tried once before using a commercial brand of white whole wheat and was dissapointed with the results.  So far, milling my own white flour has given better results.  I used it this morning for buttermilk pancakes and it worked fine.

Both pails are labeled as 'High Protein Hard *** Wheat' with *** being red or white.  They also state that a 100g serving contains 13g of protein.  Would this be 13%?

kozulich's picture

Yeah, pretty much 13% protein then.  That's equivalent of many AP flours.  The AP flour I buy here in Nebraska is about 13% for the most part.  So that's on the low end for bread flour, and the high end for AP flour.  A pretty good all-around flour to use.

sphealey's picture

Here is a description of the procedure for making various extractions from your home-ground WW:

It would take a lot of patience though!


Janetcook's picture

I mill my own grains too.  Somewhere I read that to get somewhat close to an AP flour you can mix 60% soft with 40 hard wheat.  Sometimes I do that but I do not sift at all.  

Mostly I use hard wheat even when a recipe calls for AP or BF.  I follow the suggestions from Peter Reinhart and I use sourdough for almost all of my breads.  All are retarded overnight so I do get a soft crumb and great flavor.  The people I bake for (family and friends) all like ww so I have never bothered with buying either AP or fact, I have never baked with it!  Have just always used freshly milled grains....

Since you mill your own you can experiment and just find a blend that you really like.  Like Clara123 above mentioned - increase water and allow your flours to sit and soak up the moisture.  If I mix a batch of dough that I don't retard overnight I always aim for at least 6 hours of 'wet' time before baking.

Good Luck!


pmiker's picture

After reading the relies and links I may just stick with what I have!  I may get a sieve later if I can find an affordable one that will work.  This would get some of the outer pieces but leave most of the flour for the bread.

I do not use sourdough.  I tossed all my starters into the compost pile a month or so ago.  I found it too time consuming and it took up too much space in the refrigerator.  Instructions were much more complex and frankly, the breads were not any better than those using a biga or soaker.  I guess I just don't get excited about soudough.

Using Peter R's 100% Whole Wheat Sandwich bread recipe with 50/50 red/white flour I can get a loaf that rivals a loaf I make that is 60/40 bread/ww flour.  I will continue to experiment with it.

If I can find higher protein wheat, I'll try to get it.  Shipping costs usually exceed the wheat cost.

I'll begin substituting ww flours for bread and AP flours to see what I get.  One book I have suggests adding wheat gluten.  I have some but I'll try it without first.


barryvabeach's picture

Mike ,  there are some books that suggest VWG,  one that I recall said that it doesn't help the loaf rise, but helps it not collapse too quickly if you over proof it.  I generally use only home ground hard wheat - either winter or spring,  red or white.  For some breads red is great, white is better for others, and a mix can work in some recipes, but be bland in others - all depends on what you like.  I would strongly suggest you look into no knead recipes,  I have been playing for a few months, and think the results are pretty qood, and one less bowl to clean.  In terms of hydration, WW requires more than regular AP or Bread flour.  I did make a recipe using store bought whole white wheat and fresh milled winter white whole wheat, and found the home ground was much wetter than the store bought when I used the exact same percentage of water, so you may end up using slightly less water than a recipe calling for whole wheat from a store.  While I don't normally bake with Bread flour,  if there is a recipe that doesn't give a good description of how the dough is going to look, I may make one loaf using bread flour, then adjust the water in the whole wheat version to get a similar texture. 

pmiker's picture

I've got some VWG but rarely use it.  Peter R in his whole grain book does use it in some of his recipes but he tends to be 'iffy' on the subject.  It can add too much chewiness if used too heavily.

In a current favorite recipe I have, I use 50/50 whole red/white wheats.  The red wheat goes into the bsoaker to bring out it's flavor.

I am also posting in the Gear/Milling forum since there may be info there as well.  Tonight I am testing whole wheat white flour that I have sifted in a small, fine mesh sifter my wife uses with fruit.  I started with 8.6 oz flour and ended with 8 oz.  That's around 93% whole grain if I do the math right.  I'll know in about an hour how it tastes.  It's in a muffin recipe.


Lauraclimbs's picture

@pmiker. What kind of mill do you have? I am looking in to buying one but haven't been able to decide which one.