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Old 03-04-2012, 09:48 PM   #1
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Default Hard winter wheat and Soft winter wheat - what's the difference?

I have a nice Country Living Mill, motorized, taking up space in my kitchen and staring at me. It's been there for years now. I also bought several kinds of wheat, hard red winter, soft red winter, and some white wheat. It's way past time that I started using all of them!

What is the difference between hard and soft wheat? Is the soft for pastry? And what is the difference between the red and white wheat?

I have never baked bread before and sure could use some hand holding encouragement while I take my first baby steps in baking bread.
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Old 03-04-2012, 10:48 PM   #2
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Boy, you sure could use AT Hagan about now!

Here's what his Food Storage FAQs say about Wheat:

Quote:
Wheat comes in a number of different varieties. Each variety is more or less suitable for a given purpose based on its characteristics. The most common classifications for wheat varieties are spring or winter, hard or soft, red or white.

The hard wheats have kernels that tend to be small, very hard and have a high gluten content. Gluten is the protein in grains that enables the dough made from them to trap the gasses produced by yeast fermentation and raise the bread. Low gluten wheat does not produce as good a loaf as high gluten wheat, though they can still be used for yeast breads if necessary. As a general rule, hard varieties have more protein than soft varieties.

The soft varieties have kernels tending to be larger, plumper and softer in texture than hard wheats. Their gluten content is less and these are used in pastries, quick breads, pastas, and breakfast cereals.

Winter wheats are planted in the fall, over winter in the field and are harvested the next summer. Spring wheats are planted in the early spring and are harvested in the fall. Red wheats comprise most of the hard varieties while white wheats comprise most of the soft. Recently, hard white wheats have been developed that are suitable for raised bread making. Some feel the hard white varieties make a better tasting whole wheat bread than the hard red.

The most commonly stored are the hard red varieties, either spring or winter, because of their high protein. They should have a protein content of no less than 12%, with higher the better. The hard white spring wheats are still relatively new and are not yet widespread. They have the same excellent storage characteristics as the hard red wheats.
(I found this version at a survival site called "Captain Dave's.")

http://www.captaindaves.com/foodfaq/
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Old 03-05-2012, 10:21 AM   #3
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Hard is for bread, soft for quick breads and pastry. White wheat will give you a lighter color and flavor than red wheat, and hard white wheat tends to have more gluten than hard red wheat. Gluten is what gives the bread structure to trap all the air bubbles the yeast produces as it works. That is what makes bread rise. You can mix hard red, hard winter, and white for a nice flavored bread. Some folk find red alone too "whole wheat" flavored when baked as bread.
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Old 03-05-2012, 01:31 PM   #4
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If you have lived in the South, you'll probably know of White Lily flour, which is made with soft white wheat. It's considered the best for making biscuits. Because of its' lower gluten and protein content, about 7 or 8%, it creates a very tender crumb, which is why it's so good for cakes. However, on it's own, soft white wheat may not be sturdy enough to make a good pastry crust. Soft white flour makes a great angel food cake, but not such a great loaf of bread.

Hard red wheat has significantly higher protein and gluten levels, with hard red spring wheat (as opposed to hard red winter wheat) having the highest, as much as 13% or more. When flour is mixed with water and worked (kneaded), the gluten develops and forms elastic strands. This allows the dough to stretch as carbon dioxide is given off by activated yeast, and develop pockets to trap that gas. That stretching is what allows bread dough to rise. So, in general, the higher the gluten content, the greater your dough will rise.

OTOH, high gluten flour makes a tough crumb, and so doesn't make very good cakes or biscuits. But one benefit of using high gluten flour is that you can add gluten free flours (rice, bean, sorghum, etc.), or other whole grains, or substitute a little GF flour for wheat flour, and still get a loaf that has a good rise. Doing that can help stretch your flour supply and increase the nutritional content of your bread.

As Mrs. Hermit said, hard red wheat alone can have too much of a "whole wheat" taste for some folks, so it's okay to blend in some soft white. Most grocery stores sell "bread flour" which is usually a proprietary blend of high gluten flour with a little soft white mixed in to mellow the flavor a bit. If you're grinding your own, try mixing a couple of varieties until you find a blend that suits your taste.
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Old 03-05-2012, 01:58 PM   #5
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Quote:
Hard red wheat has significantly higher protein and gluten levels
But here's the catch. Commercial processing removes the outer shell, leaving you with creamy white high gluten flour. Home milling grinds the shell too. Even very finely ground, the shell becomes hundreds of miniscule sharp shards in your dough, slicing into the developing gluten strands and severing them. Lots of gluten, good for high rising bubbly pizza dough. Shredded gluten, good for bricks.

There are tricks. Of course there are tricks, people have been baking wheat bread for thousands of years. You can use a no-knead recipe, or a recipe with a biga and long slow rise, honey and molasses seem to protect the gluten a bit, or as Catbird mentions, substitute part of your whole wheat flour for other types of flour.
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Old 03-05-2012, 02:52 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by flourbug View Post
But here's the catch. ...Home milling grinds the shell too. Even very finely ground, the shell becomes hundreds of miniscule sharp shards in your dough, slicing into the developing gluten strands and severing them. Lots of gluten, good for high rising bubbly pizza dough. Shredded gluten, good for bricks.
That's true. But I don't think that it's as much of a problem if you knead by hand instead of using a bread machine or a mixer with dough hooks.
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Old 03-05-2012, 02:53 PM   #7
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Man, making bread is hard!
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Old 03-05-2012, 03:05 PM   #8
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It's just like anything else... it sounds a lot harder than it really is.

If you want a real challenge, try gluten free baking. It's more like conducting a scientific experiment than it is baking.
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Old 03-11-2012, 04:45 PM   #9
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ACK! I lost this thread. Didn't see it come up in my New Posts search, so thought no one replied. Happy I was wrong.

I've tried, once, making bread from only hard red winter wheat and didn't like the taste at all. We've been eating "whole wheat bread" from the store for many years but what I made didn't taste anything like what we bought.Not that I really expected it to...

Kneading by hand it totally impossible. I just simply can't physically do it. No choice but to use the bread machine or dough hook on the mixer.

So, how to start? Where to start? I think that for someone like me, not knowing beans about bread making, there is way too much info available. I'm totally confused by all the reading I've done. Too many teachers, too many methods. I want to find something simple to start with and a plan for moving on from there.

Maybe start with half home ground whole hard red winter wheat and half store bought bread flour? I reread this thread and the loaves Alan and flourbug turned out have me drooling.
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Old 03-11-2012, 08:41 PM   #10
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Spinner, if I remember right the recipe I used to use called for half whole wheat and half white flour to lighten the bread. I used straight whole wheat once because it was all I had. It was a lot like a hockey puck. Even my son who ate anything you put in front of him refused to eat it.

I used to love to make bread. I was married to my first DH then and everytime I made bread he would ask what he did wrong. Instead of yelling at him I would bake bread and kneeding it was no problem. I whacked that bread on the counter and the flour flew.
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