Bread ingredients–Flours

It would be really nice if life stopped getting in my way. Back to what I was showing you.

What everyone thinks of when baking anything is flour. This is the very basis of a lot of baking. There are different kinds of flour out there, we’ll stick with the basics here.

Back in medieval Europe, the wealthy ate the white floured bread while everyone else ate a variation on the basic whole grain bread. People being people, they got into a “show for show’s sake thing,” and started going for the white flour. Another reason many turned to white bread is the flour does not go rancid as fast with the germ taken out. Back then, they only had unbleached white flour. Unbleached flour is aged to get the creamy color, and many bakers believe the older flour bakes better, but people wanted the white look. Rather than let the flour bleach naturally as it aged, the industrial revolution came up with chemicals to add that make the flour a snowy white. These chemicals remove what little nutrients are left in the flour, and nutrients had to be added.

If you choose to make white bread, even with unbleached flour, be aware this will not be anywhere near as nutritious as the whole grain. This will need fortifying. Wheat germ is the obvious choice, but honey, molasses, malt, or a whey-based protein powder up nutrition considerably. Use the wheat germ and/or whey powder in place of about 1/2 of the flour. Otherwise, just use the amount the recipe specifies.

Graham flour is a type of whole wheat flour that still has the bran in it. This flour is only ground to flakes, not the powder you see when you open a bag of whole wheat flour because of the way bran breaks up. If there’s a recipe calling for graham flour, wheat flour can be substituted.

Buckwheat is another kind of wheat, usually called kasha.  Kasha is a whole grain cereal usually eaten hot. It can stand on its own, or be used with other flours. Buckwheat will give the bread a somewhat nutty taste.

Oat flour can be ground at home in the blender from the box of oatmeal you likely have on your shelf. It will grind down to a fine, pasty gray flour, and should be used to add nutrition or so your breads your breads bake up a with a bit more moisture. Oat flour does not have enough gluten to raise the bread no matter how much you knead it.

Corn is another additive to bread, and can be used to keep the bread from sticking to the pan while it is baking. It comes in meal or is more finely ground and called flour. What is in the regular grocery store is degerminated, meaning refined like our unbleached and white flour above. The health food store will have whole grain corn meal or flour in both yellow and white. The yellow corn meal has slightly more nutrients in it. This flour also does not have enough gluten to raise the bread.

Rye is a darker grain than wheat, that has a very distinctive flavor. This can be a majority flour in the bread, but wheat flour should be added. Just rye bread can be made, but takes hours and hours to raise. This is because rye has less gluten than wheat.

Now, what is gluten? Gluten is the heaviest part of the flour. It is found in wheat flours in enough of a quantity to feed the yeast in the dough, making it raise.

Gluten is what you develop in the dough as you knead. This gives it strength and elasticity to hold its shape as it raises and bakes.



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