It's in the Bag, Gluten Free & The WoW Diet

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Wheat, Wheat, and more WHEAT!

In response to a request from one of our readers, we now present the ins and outs of wheat. It is after all, the staff of life.

No wheat flours are naturally white. Wheat flour, as mother nature made it, is a stunning monochromatic palette of varying browns. Bleaching the flour makes it a pretty white, but also destroys the nutritional value. Oh the price we pay for our vanity! There are many different types of wheat, but the following 5 are fairly common and readily accessible.

Hard Red Spring Wheat-Also known as Selkirk, Lee, Justin, Pembina, and Thatcher. This wheat carries a protein, packed, punch--upwards of 15.5%. It produces a rich flour with excellent gluten chains allowing the cook to make extra large beautiful loaves of bread.

Hard Red Winter Wheat-This wheat is also known as Triumph, Wichita, Kaw, Cheyenne, Commanche, and Turkey. It is wonderful for baking bread, but has a lower protein content averaging 12.5%.

Soft Red Winter Wheat
-You can find this wheat under the names of Monon, Knox, Seneca, Dual, and Vermillion. It has a protein content of about 7.5-10% and is higher in starch than other red wheats. The starch content makes it less cohesive, but very good for making pastries, biscuits, and crackers.

White Wheat-This wheat is known as Gaines, Omar, Genesee, Avon, Burt, Lemhi, Ramona, and Brevor. The small, white, chalky kernels indicate a higher starch content and very low protein. It serves best as a flour for cookies and cakes.

Durum and Red Durum-This wheat can be found as Wells, Lakota, Langdon, Sentry, and Mindum. The flour is granular and low in protein and is most often featured in pastas.

Heat, light, and oxygen oxidize the oils in food, so it is imperative to reduce or eliminate these factors when engaging in long term food storage. Hence, your wheat will be happiest in a cool, dry place. Remember your elementary school science fair project? Yeah, warm and wet=soggy and stinky.

Oxygen Absorbers-Using oxygen absorbers will lengthen the shelf life of your wheat, but at a price. Just like us, little wheat kernels need some oxygen to breathe. Essentially, sucking out the oxygen smothers your wheat and it will not sprout. At our house, we have wheat with oxygen absorbers(for longevity) and without, should we fancy a wheat sprout now and again. It goes nicely with a mixture of sprouted alfalfa, radish, and adzuki.

Containers -It makes no particular difference if you store your wheat in cans, buckets, or mylar bags. The important thing, is that it does not sit directly on the ground. In some freak phenomenon of nature the temperature change between the ground and the bucket may result in wicked condensation, which infiltrates and molds the wheat...or so Great Grandma says. We have always dutifully followed her council and our wheat has been fine. The easiest way to avoid this problem is to put a few wood slats under your buckets/cans/bags.

Using Wheat
The first tool you need is a wheat mill or grinder. A mill has blades while a grinder has actual stones. Both produce top-notch flours, though without proper care, grinding stones may become glazed. The Bag Lady has both a mill and a grinder and loves them dearly. The Bag-ette has many "fond" memories of lugging the heavy grinder up the stairs. The coarseness of the flour is up to you. Coarse flour can be used for cracked wheat cereal or in place of rice, medium flour is swell for cream of wheat, and fine ground is lovely for baking.

Whole wheat is naturally heavier, but requires more TLC. Buttermilk, yogurt, yeast, baking powders and sodas all make good leavening agents. If making pancakes or waffles, it helps to beat the egg whites until stiff, then fold in the wheat mixture. One might also consider using a ratio of whole wheat to bread flour. Some recipes may require extra liquid if transferring from bread flour to whole wheat flour, just be aware. Truly the possibilities are endless. If you're starting a whole wheat revolution at your house, just ease the family into it. The transition from white and fluffy to hearty and nutty can cause quite the commotion. ;)

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