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.