The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Is Hard Red Winter Wheat flour really Bread Flour???

squatteam's picture

Is Hard Red Winter Wheat flour really Bread Flour???

My local Wal-Mart has 25# bags of flour simply labelled Hard Red Winter Wheat Flour (from Montana). Is that really bread flour? I didn't look for a breakdown or gluten content on the label and in as much as it didn't really offer any indication I'm wary of buying it unless it really is bread flour. Any body have an idea? Thanks

sphealey's picture

Flour which is primarily Montana hard wheat should do fine for bread. The keys are that it is hard (vs. soft), and from Montana (vs. Ohio or locations other than Montana and the provinces north of it). One can argue winter vs. spring wheat (and given this site, we no doubt will be doing so within a few minutes!) but if the price is right go for it. It might not be the best for cakes or biscuits though.


Jolly's picture

The super market brand of whole wheat is usually ground fine to medium and works well in all recipes. Nutritionally superior stone-ground wheat will be heavier than the commercial variety and may require an additional TBSP or two of liquid for the dough to reach the required consistency.

HARD RED WINTER WHEAT---Will produce a heavier bread that is more chewy. When combined with rye flour and a sourdough starter you will get the best of both grains---the tug at-the-tooth chew of the whole wheat and the tangy sourness of rye.

FOR BREAD BAKING---Make sure the flour has been ground from hard red spring wheat.

BREAD FLOUR SUBSTITUTE---You can look for a whole wheat flour that has been ground fron a hard red spring wheat and has only part of the bran removed and retains all the wheat germ. This kind of flour can be used for bread flour, which has a high gluten-protein of (12 to 14) percent. This bread flour is actually better than commercial bread flours you buy at the super market or KA. You may have to go to a mill to purchase this kind of flour. I buy it through a co-op.


Mike Avery's picture
Mike Avery

It wasn't clear to me that the original poster meant the flour was a whole grain flour, which would change things a lot.


However, Maggie Gleazer in her "Artisan Baking Across America"  comments that hard red winter wheat is the prefered wheat as hard red spring wheat has too much protein to make good artisan style breads.   Similary, I've commented on how it puzzles me that American bakers trying to imitate French breads have to use a flour with a protein level 5 to 8% higher than the French baker is using.


In the end, flour is just a tool, a tool that helps you build the bread you want to make.  The higher protein levels of hard red spring wheat might be good for some things, but they aren't really good for everything.




subfuscpersona's picture


Mike Avery on May 27, 2008 wrote:
It wasn't clear to me that the original poster meant the flour was a whole grain flour, which would change things a lot.


I just assumed the original poster meant WW flour but, rereading the post, maybe white bread flour was meant.

Neil C's picture
Neil C

Part of the confusion over the 'protein content' used to imitate French bread comes from the differences in measurement.  In France, they measure protein content as dry matter, whereas we assume 14% humidity.

Calvel's Taste of Bread summarizes flour and ash content equvalents.


12.0 % US (GM Harvest King) = 14.05% French

14.2% US (KA Sir Lancelot) = 16.90% French

I'd be extemely interested in hearing from baker's who have 'tweaked' flours such as the ones I've mentioned above, as well as home milled from wheat berries (preferably hard white spring winter wheat).

We live south of Denver at 5,900 ft. and have just purchased a Nutrimill and 50 Lbs. of Wheat Montana's Prairie Gold (14.5% hard white spring).  My primary interest is developing great French-style bread.








ananda's picture

Hi Neil,

Very interesting figures used in your examples.

You would expect French flours typically to have a protein level listed at just over 10%...............contrast this with your KAF figure!

Above all else, I think this goes to illustrate key differences between the strong North American wheats and those grown in the maritime climates of Europe.   I should add that I am UK based, and aware that our climate does not produce wheats which might be regarded by many as suitable for making good bread.   However, it can most definitely be done!

Further still, protein levels can be but a guide, I'm afraid.

Strength is derived from mixing the glutenin and gliadin fractions with water to develop the gluten matrix in a bread dough.   However there are numerous other proteins found in wheat flour, especially in the outer areas of the grain.   These contribute little in terms of strength.   It could be argued that European wheats contain more of these types of proteins too.

It is quite a complex area.   Mike Avery's comments are pertinent,  and a great reminder just how different these wheatflours we are discussing really are.   Climate is key; I suspect!

Good post, thanks


subfuscpersona's picture

First, some questions for YOU - to answer them you must read the label on the bag...

> QUESTION 1: does this whole wheat flour contain the germ of the kernel? (Some brands of "whole wheat" flour - for example, Pillsbury whole wheat flour - do not).

> QUESTION 2: what is the expiration date (sometimes called "best used by" date) on the bag?

> QUESTION 3: *if* the flour contains the germ, how do you intend to store 25 pounds of flour? Whole wheat flour containing the germ *will* eventually start to turn rancid (due to the oil in the germ) and will develop a slightly bitter taste. If you can use it up in about 3 months, storage at the low 60sF in a dry environment would be OK. However, to preserve the freshness of your WW flour, freezing it would be preferrable.

No matter the price, if the flour *does not contain the germ*, I (personally) would not buy it, since the germ contributes both flavor and nutrition.

If the flour *does contain the germ*, I still would not buy it if it is close to the expiration date and/or you can't store it properly.


squatteam on May 26, 2008 wrote:
My local Wal-Mart has 25# bags of flour simply labelled Hard Red Winter Wheat Flour (from Montana). Is that really bread flour?

I stand by the title of my post, as I typically use hard red *winter* wheat in both pan (sandwich) and freeform (artisan) breads. I normally mill my own flour (with a Nutrimill grain mill) but I have also used commercial whole wheat flours.

In my experience, hard red *winter* wheat is fine for breads that are primarily just whole wheat flour combined with commercial unbleached white bread flour (up to 70% whole wheat flour for the total flour amount).

If your interest is in breads that also include non-wheat flours (multi-grain breads; breads with cooked rice/millet/oats/barley or with a fair amount of seeds, nuts, bean flour, dried fruit, etc. etc.) you would be better off with hard *spring* wheat.

If your interest is in breads that are 100% whole wheat, according to other (very experienced) members of TFL, you would be better off with hard *spring* wheat.

If you want a whole wheat flour that is versatile for whatever bread(s) you might be inclined to bake, hard *spring* wheat might be a better choice. Hard *spring* wheat has a slightly higher protein content than hard *winter* wheat and protein content is an indicator of how well the dough will develop gluten when kneaded. However, I find that the ability of whole wheat flour to form gluten is as much (or more) dependent on the fineness of the flour as it is on the type of wheat. It is difficult to get a good rise from a coarse whole wheat flour even if one applies all the usual techniques for working with whole wheat flour (soakers, autolyse, overnight refrigeration, etc.)

I have been baking bread with hard red winter wheat for over a decade since that is the kind of wheat most readily available in my geographical area (NE USA). I do not find that I get a poor rise or that the crumb is tough or chewey. I prefer it to hard spring wheat for simple breads that do not contain a lot of other ingredients (eg - primarily just flour, water, yeast and salt) and for pizza dough. I do, however, include some unbleached white bread flour in my breads.

I recently (over the past 6 months) branched out to flour milled from hard *spring* wheat. If you're interested, you can see the results of my comparisons (along with some great comments by other TFL members) at this TFL thread Wheat: Red vs White; Spring vs Winter

weavershouse's picture


Thanks for all the information in your above post. I made a copy of it because I'd probably never find it again. I'd like to ask you about grinding in your Nutrimill. I have one too and I'm not sure where to put the dial when I grind. Can any of the grains be ground too fine? Do your grind your wheat as fine as you can on the Nutrimill?  Thanks.                                                                              weavershouse

subfuscpersona's picture

hi weavershouse

Mike Avery gave a great review of micronizer mills (like the Nutrimill) in his post in kernels or berries. He pointed out that there's not a lot of variation in flour fineness from these kinds of mills.

My Nutrimill does not have the top dial that controls motor speed (it was a "one speed" model that was briefly on the market in the Spring of 2007 and cost less). Mine only mills on high speed.

That said, I don't find a whole lot of difference in flour fineness when I vary the setting on the lower dial (the one that turns it on and off and controls the feed rate).

If you think of the dial as an analogue clock, I usually set it at the 10:00 to 12:00 position. I set the dial farther to the right for softer grain. If you make a scale of grain hardness, then, going from hardest to softest, my scale would go: hard spring wheat ; hard winter wheat; spelt/kamut; rye; soft wheat. So hard wheat would be milled at about 10:00 and rye or soft wheat at about 2:00. However, Mike is right. I don't honestly notice much difference in the flour fineness when I vary the settings slightly (for example, I don't see much difference between 10:00 and 12:00 for hard spring wheat).

The lower dial actually controls the size of the opening that lets grain feed from the hopper into the milling mechanism. The kernels of all the grains I use are all about the same size. If I had more variability in kernal size (for example, milling millet and/or soy or garbanzo beans) I would probably have more use for adjustments with this dial. The Nutrimill manual discusses this (if you don't have the manual handy, you can scroll to the bottom of the "kernels or berries" thread to see the relevant page).

weavershouse on May 27, 2008 wrote:
Can any of the grains be ground too fine?
Mike did say that micronizer mills produce more starch damage than mills (manual or electric) that use a more traditional design of a fixed grooved plate and an adjustable rotating grooved plate. I make dial adjustments depending on grain hardness based on the (totally unproven) theory that there will be less starch damage when the grain spends the least amount of time being whacked to pieces by the micronizer wheels inside the milling mechanism. I guess this is my attempt to avoid grinding a grain too fine, which may lead to more starch damage.

I bought the Nutrimill to be able to produce fine flour easily and quickly; I aim for a flour that feels only faintly gritty and that dissolves readily on the tongue. I have a Kitchenaid grain mill attachment also, which I use when I want coarse flour or grits or cracked grain. If I have a grain (or a bean) where I don't know the milling properties, I'll run a small amount through the Kitchenaid grain mill to get a feel for how it mills. I'll vary the speed and adjust how close the milling plates are to see what happens.

As usual, I've rattled on and on. The executive summary :) :) would be

  • yes, I do think that a grain might be ground too fine, resulting in more starch damage, therefore...
  • yes, I do vary the dial setting depending on grain hardness

Hope this helps - post back if you want to continue the discussion - SF

======= miscellaneous useful links on the topic ========

discussion of different types of home grain mills from - excellent photos of milling mechanisms

grinder tests of flour fineness from

discussion with TFL member edh on grain mills - scroll to the bottom

weavershouse's picture

Thanks again to you and all the other posters in this thread. I copied the whole thing including the ones you gave the links for and will put it in a folder to keep handy. Great info.                                                                                         weavershouse

Mike Avery's picture
Mike Avery

I stopped at two super wal-marts on the way home, and oddly enough, neither had this flour.  All they had in 25lb sacks were their house brand all-purpose flour and pioneer brand all-purpose.


I suggest avoiding both as they are bleached flours, and I don't like bleached flours.  I think the bleaching removes a lot of flavor from the  final bread.


I am wondering if the flour  squatteam was talking about might have been at Sam's Club rather than Wal-mart?



squatteam's picture

Thanks for the feedback on this...Saturday when I take my wife to work (at Wal-Mart) I'll check the label on this stuff. I use a bread machine, make 10 to 12 loaves per week, am retired with 4 children under 12 and other than what my wife makes at Wally-world have SS so the price of the flour is important for me. I buy flour where the price is best, but would love to be able to afford KA flour. I won a 5# bag of WW flour at the Tacoma KA demo a couple of months back and couldn't believe the difference just plain out of the bag.

BTW, it was at the KA demo that I first heard of this site. Although I have my 'own' cooking message board and try to keep up I'd never encountered this site. My gain! Thanks, oz

Chuck's picture

"Bread flour" is a marketing term, and it can be significantly misleading.

Most brands of flour sold in North American use the term "bread flour" for flour with a very high gluten content. It may be just what you want for making bagels or pizza dough. (It can be used for regular bread too, and older recipe books may even call for it.)

But many experienced bakers avoid using "bread flour" for bread, as it can easily result in a dough that's too hard to handle or a finished loaf that's too hard to chew.

(To get the desired gluten content, most commercially milled flours are some mix of winter wheat and spring wheat. Flour that's all of one or all of the other may have either a very low or a very high a gluten content, and require some extra care to make satisfactory bread.)