Kitchen Basics: What Is White Whole Wheat Flour? And How Can I Substitute it?

by moderndomestic on March 16, 2010

busy day cake

The Busy Day Cake, which first brought White Whole Wheat Flour to my attention.

I recently was asking people about their kitchen and baking quandaries on Facebook (yes, there’s actually a ModernDomestic fan page now, where I can ask people these types of questions. You, too, can be a fan!) and Amelia had an excellent question – what exactly is this white whole wheat flour that she’s been hearing about?

I have to admit that I haven’t actually used white whole wheat flour myself, although it first came to my attention when I made the Busy Day Cake (an Orangette recipe that originally called for white whole wheat flour). But after doing some research, white whole wheat flour looks like the solution for those who like the nutrition of whole wheat flour, but dislike its bitter flavor and heavier texture.

So what exactly is so special about this white whole wheat flour? First, a quick biology lesson. A grain of wheat is made up of three parts:

1.) The wheat bran (the hard, outer coating);
2.) The endosperm (the soft, starchy stuff inside); and
3.) The germ (the part at the bottom of the wheat grain, which has a high oil content and a sweet and nutty flavor).

Regular whole wheat flour, which contains the wheat bran, endosperm, and germ, is made from “red” wheat varieties. Red wheat gets its color from a pigment in the bran. This pigment also contains phenolic acid, which has a bitter flavor – it’s what gives whole wheat baked goods that slightly bitter taste.

White whole wheat flour is made from varieties of softer “white” wheat. Because the white wheat germ doesn’t contain that red pigment, it doesn’t have that bitter taste – making its flavor closer to that of white all-purpose flour. So you can get the nutritional punch of whole wheat flour, with the sweeter flavor of white flour.

Whew. That was a lot of science writing.

As for substitutions, white whole wheat flour can be used in place of all purpose flour or whole wheat flour in any recipe – at least, according to the King Arthur Web site. If you want to be conservative in your experimentation, I’d suggest using substituting half the flour called for in a recipe with white whole wheat flour, and seeing how you like the difference. After all, baking is a highly personal experience, and you should experiment to see what you like the best – both for taste and health reasons.

Sources (and for more reading):
The Bread Bible, By Rose Levy Beranbaum
Good to the Grain: Baking With Whole Grain Flours, By Kim Boyce
King Arthur Flour: White Whole Wheat Flour

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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Val Lumby March 16, 2010 at 5:05 pm

I have had trouble with direct substitution of white whole wheat flour for red. White whole wheat seems more delicate, requiring a different kind of handling and more careful incorporation of liquids. I have had better luck using white whole wheat in hand-kneaded bread than in bread machine bread. If anyone has an opinion on their comparative uses, I’d love to read it.

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moderndomestic March 16, 2010 at 9:38 pm

Ah, this is good to know – like I said, I haven’t used this before. I can see that the more delicate white whole wheat flour might have problems in bread machine recipes. This has definitely inspired me to get some and try it out! And from what I can read of the marketing materials, it seems like companies are really selling it as a substitute for things like quickbreads and cookies – not bread. Interesting.

Great comment!

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IGR March 16, 2010 at 10:36 pm

It was really nice to meet you tonight. I’m sorry I didn’t get a chance to talk to you more, but I look forward to seeing you at the next Food Blogger HH. (Also, I’m totally adding you to my reader.)

– Hillary @ Lancelot Sturgeon

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katy March 17, 2010 at 4:42 pm

We exclusively use white wheat flour. Granted, I’m not a big baker, but it works great for what we make: pancakes, crepes, quick breads, pizza dough, etc. We use it for savory cooking (like roux or other thickening) and I do prefer regular white flour for that.

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