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Whole grain flour


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I bought some flour at Whole Foods last week, thinking it was pastry flour, because the package said, in big letters, "Pastry Flour."

I made two tart shells with it, and didn't realize something was odd until the dough was completely mixed and looked darker than normal.

It took a close examination of the bag to see the ingredients listed whole grain flour. There's no other indication of this anywhere on the package.

Is there really such thing as whole grain pastry flour? And if there is, shouldn't it be clearly marked? These tart shells smell and taste like dark bread, the texture is messed up, and I feel like beating someone to death.

Edited by paulraphael (log)

Notes from the underbelly

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It exists - low gluten flour from soft wheat with the bran included. It should be properly labeled. Often available in bulk. Goes well with hearty fillings or to convince people that dessert is healthy. Like pumpkin pie, or cheesecake. Lots of vitamins and minerals, fiber, and vegetables or dairy. Sounds like dinner!

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I frequently use what is labeled as "whole wheat pastry flour" and it's dark like you say, and I think it adds an extra delicious element to baked desserts. Flavor-wise, it tastes like Graham crackers, and of course once you think about it, lots of desserts have a Graham cracker crust.

It should have been labeled as such, but I would think it would only add a layer of flavor complexities to sweet desserts. I do use it when I make a caramelized onion tart, but I use it when I make apple tarts as well.

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I'm still furious that it wasn't properly labelled.

I don't in any way appreciate the flavor of the flour.

It does taste a bit like graham crackers; if I'd wanted that I would have bought a 99¢ graham cracker crust at the supermarket. What I have now is 12 oz of expensive European high-fat butter that you can't taste over the intrusive flavor of the wheat bran, and only a fraction of the delicate texture I worked all afternoon to get.

I'm also annoyed by the buyers at Whole Foods. They seem to cater to some misplaced senses of healthiness (healthy pastry?) and exoticism (organic spelt flour?) without having covered the basics (there is no regular pastry flour, or cake flour of any kind, at either of the WF locations I visit).

I'm going to have to chill out a bit before writing them, to make sure my abusive letter doesn't go too far.

Notes from the underbelly

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I frequently use what is labeled as "whole wheat pastry flour" and it's dark like you say, and I think it adds an extra delicious element to baked desserts.  Flavor-wise, it tastes like Graham crackers, and of course once you think about it, lots of desserts have a Graham cracker crust.

It should have been labeled as such, but I would think it would only add a layer of flavor complexities to sweet desserts.  I do use it when I make a caramelized onion tart, but I use it when I make apple tarts as well.

I have never been able to find anything but whole wheat pastry flour. I assume cake flour is not the same as pastry flour?

Woods

My error, pastry flour does not equal cake flour.

Edited by Woods (log)
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I completely understand your upset-ness with the poorly labeled pastry flour. I'd be mighty miffed too.

But that leads me to this question. There is a ww flour that is real good and there is that stuff that is graham crackery be it pastry flour or otherwise. So it is the stone ground stuff that is not graham crackery. Was yours listed as stone ground? Because I haven't done any serious baking with ww flour in eons but the deal used to be to get the stone ground. Because otherwise they remove the bran completely and add it back in later which causes the grittiness. I think I am remembering this correctly. But the stone ground grinds the germ in with the whole thing and it is blended or rather ground properly and all is well and it is ww but not gritty 'cause it all got smashed together. This all coming from a dusty old mental file.

In other words, if you wanted you could get a Good ww pastry flour that would make your tart shell sing with that beautiful butter.

But I hasten to say again that they are at fault big time to not label that flour properly.

But that gritty stuff should all be tossed somewhere.

Edited to say-- no it's the germ they add back in I think. Something they take out then add back in & it's gritty grainy that way. But stone ground flour is muy better.

Edited by K8memphis (log)
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I'll have to look at the packaging again. I don't remember any descriptions besides organic.

FWIW, the flour has a very fine consistency, that would be consistent with stone grinding. It doesn't feel coarse. It's also not especially dark. maybe just a shade darker than regular unbleached flour. It didn't look strange until after the dough was mixed and thoroughly rested/hydrated.

Edited by paulraphael (log)

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Mine was my own fault. I had one cookie batter all mixed up, the butter/sugar creamed for the next one and went to open the new bag of flour. I had been careful not to get Bread flour or Unbleached or Self Rising...but I did manage to get Whole Wheat. Had to run to the deli for a bag and hope it had no cooties in it. Not that the deli has cooties but may not sell a ton of flour :blink:

good cookies but I better start baking some whole wheat bread now

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I too have noticed that the whole wheat designation is hard to find on some of the whole wheat pastry flour bags. I have a friend who accidentally made a cake with it - it was fine, but not really what he was going for. So I totally understand your frustration.

I use whole wheat pastry flour to substitute 1:1 for AP in pancakes and muffins. Although I usually only use 2/3 to 1/2 ww, and leave the rest AP. I like the flavor, and it makes me feel healthy.

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  • 2 years later...

Bumping up this topic to ask about baking with whole wheat flour. I am trying to move towards whole grains in general (and limit sugars, but that is another topic) and I'm wondering if I can just substitute WW for regular flour one-for-one. I have looked at a couple of bread baking books and there is a lot of info out there about whole wheat, but it is one of those subjects that instantly causes me to zone out when I try to read about it. I think my attention span in getting shorter...

If anyone can put a few whole wheat basics in bullet-form form me, I'd greatly appreciate it!!!

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Hey Liz,

Trythis (link) for a few bullet-point tips for bread baking with whole grains.

The advice to start with a blend of WW and normal flour is good... i have found for lots of my baking (including sweet stuff) i can use 30% wholemeal flour without any worries, but more than that it sometimes starts to be unpleasant for texture or flavour (but it does depend on the recipe). Particularly if you're doing 'rustic' or homestyle baking rather than haute couture patisserie, it's often quite flexible, with cookies and muffins for example.

Another tip for breadmaking is that Vitamin C will help whole wheat breads stay lighter. There's some chemical in wheat that prevents good gluten development, and in white flour it's less present or something... anyway, the point is, when doing WW bread, if you grind up half a vitamin C tablet, it's said to help with the texture. Dan Lepard mentioned it in a booklet a year or two back.

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I am trying to move towards whole grains in general (and limit sugars, but that is another topic)

Is it another topic? I think the two are, unfortunately, somewhat intertwined. Because of the limited shelf life of ww flour, unless you grind the berries yourself or know someone that does, it's almost impossible to find a batch that doesn't have rancid oils. Since humans are hard wired to avoid rotten food because it's bad for us, the only way to make ww flour palatable is by hiding the bitter rancidity with sugar- a LOT of sugar. Sure, you can make a whole wheat bread without any sweetener, but I wouldn't feed it to my dog.

And, speaking of dogs... dogs, unlike humans, ARE able to process rotten food without ill effects. You know the nauseating feeling you get when you walk down the dog food aisle? That's nature's way of keeping you (and your ancestors) alive. You should listen to that same voice in your head when presented with 'supposedly' healthy whole wheat options. Healthy food shouldn't require sugar to make it less repulsive.

If you're movement towards whole grains is for health reasons, I would definitely rethink the ww angle. Unless, as I said, you're planning on grinding the berries yourself. Freshly ground wheat- now THAT's healthy. Otherwise, reach for the oatmeal. Or, better yet, reach for the broccoli.

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Hi, Scott123. I make wholewheat bread all the time & I love it. In the past ten years I once threw out the remains of a 5kg bag because it had gone off before I used it up. I threw out the loaf I'd baked, too. You're right that bread from rancid ww flour tastes terrible. Is the ww flour supply really so bad where you are ?

Oatmeal of course, being another whole grain product, goes off in just the same way that wholewheat does, doesn't it ?

QUIET!  People are trying to pontificate.

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I am trying to move towards whole grains in general (and limit sugars, but that is another topic)

Is it another topic? I think the two are, unfortunately, somewhat intertwined. Because of the limited shelf life of ww flour, unless you grind the berries yourself or know someone that does, it's almost impossible to find a batch that doesn't have rancid oils. Since humans are hard wired to avoid rotten food because it's bad for us, the only way to make ww flour palatable is by hiding the bitter rancidity with sugar- a LOT of sugar. Sure, you can make a whole wheat bread without any sweetener, but I wouldn't feed it to my dog.

And, speaking of dogs... dogs, unlike humans, ARE able to process rotten food without ill effects. You know the nauseating feeling you get when you walk down the dog food aisle? That's nature's way of keeping you (and your ancestors) alive. You should listen to that same voice in your head when presented with 'supposedly' healthy whole wheat options. Healthy food shouldn't require sugar to make it less repulsive.

If you're movement towards whole grains is for health reasons, I would definitely rethink the ww angle. Unless, as I said, you're planning on grinding the berries yourself. Freshly ground wheat- now THAT's healthy. Otherwise, reach for the oatmeal. Or, better yet, reach for the broccoli.

Although what you say about whole wheat flour going rancid more easily and quickly is true, I think you are over-reacting. It doesn't mean that all wholewheat flour you buy is going to be rancid. I pretty much only use whole grain flours, and although I often grind the grains myself, I also buy a lot. I have never, ever bought wholewheat flour that was rancid. You may have had some bad experiences, but there's no need to try and scare others off from trying something new.

Edited by Jenni (log)
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... Because of the limited shelf life of ww flour, unless you grind the berries yourself or know someone that does, it's almost impossible to find a batch that doesn't have rancid oils. ...

... Healthy food shouldn't require sugar to make it less repulsive.

If you're movement towards whole grains is for health reasons, I would definitely rethink the ww angle. ...

Scott123, I think your experience is far from typical.

And if you start from a false premise, your reasoning is inevitably going to go astray.

Does your locale not use 'sell by' and 'best before' dates?

Simply don't buy stuff that is too short-dated (or in too large a quantity) for your needs.

If the product is in-date and rancid, complain, return it, and potentially shop elsewhere.

Kept cool rather than warm, and out of direct sunlight, it ought to be fine at least up to the packet's date.

But its not a bargain to buy 6-months-usage at one time.

It is a perishable commodity.

But less perishable than fruit, or bread.

A bit like ground coffee.

If you decant your flour packet into a particular tupperware or other storage container, DON'T do it until the container is empty and clean! Don't mix old and new! At all. Ever. Any old material, if left, will go rancid relatively quickly, polluting the new, fresh stuff.

And, naturally, making a note of the use-by date (marker pen on the tub?) saves you trying to remember it.

Yes, wholegrain/wholemeal flour does go rancid faster than white flour.

But not SO rapidly that its a problem requiring anything beyond simple good housekeeping.

And my experience is that, (at least here in the UK) its very easy to buy fresh (and nutritious) wholemeal/wholegrain flour, and virtually impossible to buy rancid product.

"If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch ... you must first invent the universe." - Carl Sagan

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Bumping up this topic to ask about baking with whole wheat flour. ... I have looked at a couple of bread baking books and there is a lot of info out there about whole wheat, but it is one of those subjects that instantly causes me to zone out when I try to read about it. I think my attention span in getting shorter...

If anyone can put a few whole wheat basics in bullet-form form me, I'd greatly appreciate it!!!

In bread baking, generally, the detail is important. It does make a difference.

Peter Reinhart's Whole Grain Breads (a book) goes into some very unusual, long-time, processes to extract maximum flavour without the dough collapsing. You probably wouldn't want to start there, but the point is that while long slow cool fermentation is great for tasty white bread, its not so easy to do the same stuff with wholemeal.

• You want a fairly quick rise time. Quicker than for white bread.

And you need a strong rise (the bran, once wet, takes more lifting than white dough!)

I'd also add here that you should be cautious about adding extra weight (nuts, seeds, veg, etc) until you know what to expect from your dough.

• So you need, at minimum, good yeast in good condition. The easiest assurance of that is to use the quarter-ounce ( 7 gram) packets of instant-mix yeast (NOT 'active dry'). I'd try and find one that didn't claim to have magic added ingredients to help in bread machines (but that is optimisation). Ignore the descriptive names (rapid or whatever), you want the tiny packets of yeast that gets mixed with the dry flour. That is your most reliable way of getting and using yeast in prime condition.

• No need lots of yeast. But a touch of sugar (to feed the yeast, NOT to sweeten the bread) can be helpful.

• And yeast does best in gentle warmth. About 100F, blood heat, is (conveniently) ideal. A finger (or elbow - think baby baths) dipped in, should feel nothing - not cold, not warm, nothing! So getting everything (flour, water, bowls) to that temperature, and keeping it there during rising (fermentation), makes it easiest for the yeast to do its job as well as it can. Definitely DON'T expose yeast to higher temperatures -- 120F will kill, yes permanently kill, it.

• You want the flour to be in good condition too. Don't waste your time with stuff that smells past its best. Its cheap, buy some fresh stuff. But do store it sensibly - see my previous post.

• A little vitamin C does indeed help to keep the gluten strong, (its a glutathione antagonist), so that the gas (from the yeast, sugar, etc) can be contained and lift the loaf.

But strong (bread) flour (from 'hard' wheats) is the first step to strong gluten!

• Excessive kneading can actually be counter-productive. The bran cuts the gluten that is needed to provide the structural framework of your loaf. Don't damage the framework! (Take it easy!)

• An excellent starting-point recipe for inexperienced bakers using 100% wholegrain/wholemeal was produced years ago by Doris Grant. The "Grant Loaf" is justifiably famous - Google it!

There's an excellent Grant Loaf recipe given by Delia Smith at http://www.deliaonline.com/recipes/type-of-dish/bread/quick-and-easy-wholemeal-loaf.html

Compare the stages with my explanations above, and you'll understand "why" things are done those ways.

And yes, she does give measurements by weight.

Honestly, its the easy way to communicate precisely for baking.

The understanding of a bread recipe begins with an accurate comparison of the relative weights of water and flour. Therefore ...

• If you don't already have one, get a cheap digital scale. And work in grams. Don't worry what they are, they are just 'clicks'. And you can use the same clicks for flour and water. And the numbers are easy, no messy fractions.

A scale that weighs up to 7 lb (3000 grams) in steps of at most 2 grams (say 1/16 oz) would be ideal. Nowadays in the UK such a thing costs less than $15.

Learn how to use the add-and-weigh ("tare") function. It makes the scale super easy to use.

• And if you are weighing the water, you should be so accurate that you don't have to add a bit more or less "depending on the weather" (or more likely the inaccuracy of using your measuring jug).

That said, different wholemeal/wholegrain flours do take up water slightly differently.

But if you KNOW that you used exactly 400 grams of water last time, and it seemed to be a slightly dry dough, you can controllably give it a bit more, maybe 410, next time. When you get it right for your brand of flour, you should be able to reproduce it consistently by weighing.

• Implicit in the idea of making adjustments to suit your flour is the idea that you'll have a go at the same recipe several times, making controlled adjustments, before moving on to something else. Start simple and master that before moving on. Or even trying a different brand of flour or yeast.

Your flour, your oven, your altitude, even your water might require recipes to be adjusted. Recognise that and control the adjustments and you will be well on your way to being a baker.

Be prepared to experiment, but you won't learn from the experiment unless you know what it was that you did - so measure accurately and take notes.

OK, so now you can get started!

"If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch ... you must first invent the universe." - Carl Sagan

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You may want to check out the topic on white whole wheat flour.

Ditto. I am a huge fan of white whole wheat flour and recommend it for enriched breads and pastries. I am thinking about trying it for genoise cake, but I have my doubts on the final product.

Dan

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