The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Old Wheat berries, bread not rising

dannlori's picture

Old Wheat berries, bread not rising

Hello all, I'm new to the forum.  I've been making sourdough bread for about 6 months now and my bread has been great!  A few months ago I acquired 3 large pails of red wheat from my husbands 100 year old grandmother when she passed. I have no idea how old it is.  When i mix it half and half with white wheat it works great.  But when I use the red wheat alone my dough doesn't rise.  Now I'm thinking maybe it is soft wheat instead of hard.  Does anyone know how to tell the difference between the two by looks?  None of the buckets have any labels on them.

lepainSamidien's picture

Hard red wheat has a darker, more robust reddish-tan color, while soft wheat is much paler, almost golden in color, like in this picture (hard on the left, soft on the right):

clazar123's picture

Hard wheat berries are very hard kernels-can be tooth breaker hard. Soft wheat will be a softer hard and while it doesn't mash with just being smashed by your fingertip, you can usually easily break it in half with fingernails and it looks lighter inside,usually.

If Grandma had this on hand in the Mormon tradition of having enough food for each family member to last a period of time, then it probably is a hard wheat. As long as it tastes good, use it up. If it doesn't work for bread, it can be cooked like brown rice and served in all manner of dishes-hot or cold. I cook my whole grains like I do pasta-bring a large amount of water (compared to the grain) to a full,rolling boil,add the whole grain and cook at a brisk simmer  for 40 minutes (a lot longer than pasta). When it is done to your liking (40-50 minutes), drain it in a colander and serve. Most people forget about this aspect of wheat. It is quite delicious.

Bob Marley's picture
Bob Marley

Most of the popular brands of flour in the U.S. are made of hard wheat.  White Lily, a brand local to the southeast U.S., is, I believe, a soft wheat. 

I'm not entirely certain but I think that cake and pastry flour are soft wheat.  Correct me if I'm wrong.

clazar123's picture

That is correct.

Soft wheat makes a low gluten flour that is excellent for tender cakes,pastry,biscuits and muffins and is often called "Cake Flour". I'm not sure if White Lilly is an all soft or just a low protein blend.

Most AP flours are a blend of wheats to establish a certain level of gluten but not too much so that cakes,pastry,biscuits are still tender. Hence the name "All Purpose" flour. 

Bread flour is usually all hard wheats that are high in protein/glutens. Cakes,muffins,biscuits and pancakes made with this will be a bit chewy/tough. Bread, of course, is good.


Bob Marley's picture
Bob Marley

When I switched to White Lily Bread Flour (it's actually AP imho because protein = 4g), the crumb of my bread soften greatly.

Dirts's picture

When I started baking whole wheat I had alot of problems. I learned by experience not use the microwave to heat the water.  If water is chlorinated it can kill the yeast so if it is let the water sit overnight and the chlorine will be released..  I use a vacuumed sealed package of Red Star yeast that I always keep in the freezer. I add all the warm liquid the recipe calls for and then I add my sugar or honey to feed the yeast I then add my yeast and when they start farting and I see bubbles and clumps rising to the surface. It helps to add a couple of cups of your flour to this liquid. Thats adding more food for the yeast.  I know its working. You want them comfortable so use warm water and not hot that will kill them. I will leave it sit and let them they pass more gas  I also learned that 100 percent whole wheat needs some gluten added for cellular wall strength so the gases can blow it up and it will hold shape.  My canadian whole wheat will rise without  gluten added.  Alot of places add half all purpose for easier rising. I prefer low glycemic so I bake 100%  I use the feel method for the kneaded dough.  If its barely sticky and its just a little bit hard to remove your finger from the dough. I add my salt after the yeast multiplies

I own alot of bread books and the one that was the most helpful is Lori Viets "No More Bricks"  She has all the formulas for six different whole wheat breads and with each one she lists all the measurements and ingredients one to six loafs. I first through ice cubes on the floor of my oven when I put the loaves in.  I can do this because theirs no exposed heating elements. I repeat it after 10 minutes and then don't open the oven.


Antilope's picture

to disinfect the water supply instead of chlorine. According to the link below, it can take weeks for chloramines to evaporate from water you leave out.

Removing Chloramines From Water