The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Bread flour vs. whole wheat bread flour

batsora's picture
batsora

Bread flour vs. whole wheat bread flour

I just joined the fresh loaf today.  I have such a desire to keep my bread whole grain or whole wheat but it is much more difficult to get a lighter bread that my hubby will eat.  he is very picky.  Iwould really like to be able to make a whole wheat sandwich bread.  But, here is my question.  Often i see recipes that call for bread flour.  At my grocery store there is bulk bread flour and there is bulk whole wheat bread flour.  What is the difference and which should be used.  i just dont want to use white all the time, though i guess white homemade is better than store bought nutritionally.  Thanks in advance.

sphealey's picture
sphealey

=== At my grocery store there is bulk bread flour and there is bulk whole wheat bread flour. ===

Can you tell us what region you live in, and what the brand is? I haven't actually seen anything labeled whole wheat bread flour myself. It could be whole wheat flour with added gluten, or (especially if you are in the South) it could be labeled that way to indicate it is made from hard wheat (which is good for bread) rather than soft wheat (which is good for pancakes and biscuits).

Generally speaking, if you want tasty whole wheat sandwich loaves try Peter Reinhart's new book _Whole Grain Breads_ (here is a recent baker blog from an old-fashioned baker who is trying those recipes). You will have to read the "master recipe" carefully a few times, but once you get that down you can make some great sandwich breads.

sPh

batsora's picture
batsora

im in the pacific northwest. portland oregon.  WINCo is the store i find it at and being bulk it doesnt tell me a brand. 

Soundman's picture
Soundman

Hello Batsora,

I just saw your post. First, may I say I envy you, because as a resident of the Pac NW, you have inexpensive access to Bob's Red Mill flour. No, I'm not a rep for BRM. I live in the Northeast and baked with BRM flour for years, until I realized I shouldn't be shipping from Oregon to Connecticut for environmental reasons. (Sniff.)

For your whole wheat flour I would recommend you try BRM White Whole Wheat (organic!). All their flour is stone-ground and the hard white whole wheat flour rises easily and tastes wonderful. It has all the nutritional ingredients in hard red whole wheat, but the taste of the bran and germ are somewhat muted compared to hard red whole wheat.

Now, more generally, 'bread flour' usually means white flour which has a protein content strong enough to raise yeasted bread. For example, the King Arthur bread flour I use is 12.8% protein. All purpose flour, also white, i.e. bran and germ removed, has less protein, and all by itself won't raise a yeasted bread quite as well as bread flour. The King Arthur White Whole Wheat flour I use is 13.2% protein, which is plenty strong enough for bread. There is also 'high-gluten' flour, which KA has a 'Sir Lancelot' brand with 14.2% protein. Such a high protein content by itself might make a loaf of bread somewhat harder than bread flour.

I hope this clarifies some of the complexities of the flour issue. Good luck!

PaddyL's picture
PaddyL

In Canada, we can get Robin Hood Best for Bread white or ww flour, and Five Roses white or ww bread flour.  Unfortunately, Robin Hood has not seen fit to sell their ww bread flour in Montreal, but I've used the Five Roses ww bread flour and it does make a difference; the dough is much bouncier.  If you want to make a light ww sandwich bread, add a teaspoon of vinegar to the dough, but don't use honey; the vinegar reacts with granulated sugar to give the bread an extra lift that doesn't happen with honey.

batsora's picture
batsora

Thanks paddyL.  I will try the vinegar thing next time.  So, then is there a difference between using the ww bread flour versus the white bread flour?

PaddyL's picture
PaddyL

There is a difference between ww all-purpose flour and ww bread flour.  I don't think there's much difference in performance between the two bread flours, white or whole wheat.  If I could afford the ww bread flour, or even the white, I'd buy it, but it's gone way past a decent price now, so I use organic, stone-ground ww flour and all-purpose unbleached white flour.

charbono's picture
charbono

Batsora,

The flour labeled simply bread flour is refined flour with a gluten content above that of all-purpose.  Whole wheat bread flour means hard whole wheat, not soft whole wheat.  It is more challenging to make bread with whole wheat, and I would recommend a blend for the more inexperienced baker.

 

cb

 

kmp's picture
kmp

I second the recommendation for Peter Reinhart's new book, Whole Grain Breads. I'm a fairly inexperienced bread baker but I have found the recipes to be pretty straightforward and easy to use. I think it takes time to 'perfect' any bread recipe (to get it to the point of individual perfection for each baker) but the Master recipe for whole wheat sandwich bread in Peter's book is pretty easy, and I was successful with it on my first try. He also includes a couple of 'transitional' bread recipes, which include about 1/2 white flour (as he suggests, for gradually introducing the family to whole-grain bread), along with instructions as to how to gradually increase the amount of whole wheat flour, and decrease the white flour, for the transitional loaf, until your husband is ready to accept bread that is made with 100% whole wheat. I find that the objection to whole grain breads usually has to do with texture (the dense "brick") more than flavor for people not used to eating whole grains. The texture of Peter's master recipe is soft and moist, with a cakelike crumb and the taste is really fabulous. It's definitely worth a try.

gardenchef's picture
gardenchef

I have to say I tried one of PR's recipes this weekend. I am IN LOVE with this whole wheat (and I didn't half it as suggested to gradually introduce my family). It was for me. A small change in recipe makes it pizza vs bread and I had THE BEST no comparison ww pizza crust. SO EXCITING...I WILL NEVER buy ww dough again!!!!! Usually i have to use lots of garlic and oil to hide cardboard flavor then it's still tough. I barely topped this dough....chiffonard basil, chopped tomatoes and parmesean, S & P that was it. WOW Next up tring it with my baking stone yippee : ))))

gardenchef's picture
gardenchef

I meant to post source to above dough. It's page 73 (100% whole grain rustic bread and pizza dough) Let me know if you'd like it typed out, be a happy to share. Many thanks to all who have shared and made my personal baking experiances so much better.


~Cathy

ejm's picture
ejm

Check the protein content (as far as I know, this is roughly the same as the gluten content) on the whole wheat flour you're planning to buy to ensure that it is high enough. The wholewheat flour I use is around 14% ("5 Roses" or "Robin Hood" - whichever 10kg bag I can get at the NoFrills store nearby). I wouldn't use anything that is lower than 11.5% for bread making. I believe that "bread" flour is around 14% protein and "all-purpose" is around 11.5%.

I'm not familiar with Reinhart's book but  Laurel's Kitchen Bread Book - A Guide to Whole-Grain Breadmaking by Laurel Robertson is a really good book about wholegrain bread baking. It has an excellent troubleshooting list at the end of the book as well as several good recipes. I particularly like her basic 100% wholewheat loaf.

-Elizabeth