Bread has 4 basic components. Flour, water, yeast and salt. I want to research all these components, how they connect and how they bake together in harmony. Then we’ll get to all the other components; spices, fats and more!
Wow. This was a lot to research and I doubt I even scratched the surface. But I really wanted to know about bread. So I started with Flour, the ingredient that gives bread all it’s yummy taste! The longer it ferments and the less ingredients you include will bring out flour’s true delicious power.
How wheat started:
Einkorn was the first and simplest wheat cultivated but the amount of glutenin and gliadin turned it into goo. Not good for bread.
This species mated and produced Emmer and Durum wheat. Not so great for bread though; still not enough gluten.
This wheat mated again and produced bread wheat. This had the best gluten.
A wheat berry, hulled wheat kernel, can be separated into three parts. The bran is the outer layer of the berry and makes up about 14.5% of the wheat’s weight. It contains most of the fiber and some nutrients.
The germ is what germinates wheat and makes up about 2.5%. It contains most of the fat, oil and nutrients.
The endosperm encircles the germ for protection and provides food for it in the form of starch and makes up about 83%. About 13% of that is protein (gluten).
How Gluten works:
Gluten proteins consist of gliadin and glutenin. When flour is exposed to air, the oxygen combines with the yellow carotenoid (also making the colour of the flour lighter) and reduces the thiol groups. Thiol groups interfere with the attachment of glutenin chains to each other. When flour is combined with water, glutenin and gliadin form gluten. Glutenin need to interconnect with each other to produce elasticity in the dough. Gliadin is the extensibility of the dough. So glutenin lets the Co2 expand, making the dough rise and gliadin gives it the toughness not to rip with expansion.
How the other components affect flour:
Adding water to flour forms the gluten proteins. The yeast then eat the sugar from the starch of the flour, produces Co2 gases and letting dough rise. The salt brings out the flavour of the dough (like in any baking). More information to come in other pages!
Fresh ground wheat:
When milling fresh flour, it hasn’t oxidized so the gluten has a hard time forming. I’ve tried and tried to research this.. it’s hard to find exact information. I’ve started milling my own flour from hard red wheat, and will try 3 experiments:
Use the fresh flour within 24hours.
To get the fresh taste I wanted to use the flour right away. Some people say fresh flour goes rancid right away because once you crack open the berry, the germ oil hits the oxygen beginning the rancidification. But I’ve also heard fresh flour can last for a month, as long as it’s in a sealed jar, and put in the fridge or freezer to slow the rancidification.
Also if the flour isn’t used right away and sits for a couple of days, the dough seems to be too elastic to work with and at that point needs to be aged a few weeks to restore it’s baking characteristics. I haven’t tried this yet.. that could be another experiment.
Another experiment : Soaking flour.
I’ve put up a post about it already but basically I found out about phytic acid in grain. Soaking grain for at least 8 hours in water and some sort of acid like whey, buttermilk, vinegar, etc; or just making sourdough bread (naturally forms lactic acid from bacteria) will break down the acid so the body can absorb minerals and calcium. Phytic acid is called an anti-nutrient however it does have antioxidant properties when it’s not broken down, helping with colon cancer and stabilizing insulin levels. Please refer to my soaked flour post.
And finally, I will keep fresh flour for 3 weeks.
This will oxidize the flour to form better gluten. I’m not sure how much more rise I’ll get out of it; I think from the book The Bread Builders – they said only a 10% better rise with the natural oxidization.
I’ve just finished this experiment. I kept a jar of fresh flour in the fridge for 3 weeks then ground up some fresh flour that day and baked them both. I’ll post up my experiment soon!
Milling flour is the process of breaking the wheat kernel into smaller parts. In most flour, the bran and germ are removed. Conventional milling uses metal rollers, shears open the grain, squeezes the germ out, scrapes out the endosperm from the bran and then grinds, sieves and regrinds the endosperm into the desired size. Stone milling is what brands call “stone-ground” crushes the whole grain and this leaves some of the germ and bran in the refined flour. The germ will let the flour go rancid, so usually it’s removed for a long lasting flour. However, the germ especially has a lot of the nutrients. Millers realized removing the germ would be a great solution to rancidity, but they didn’t know about the loss of the nutritional value.
After milling and obtaining the flour, the fresh flour needs to be oxidized to form better gluten. It takes a while to oxidize flour naturally (turning it white) and millers didn’t have the time or money. So, in the 1900’s they started oxidizing with chlorine gas and then with potassium bromate. In the 1980’s, potassium bromate was discovered to be potentially toxic and now most miller’s replace it with absorbic acid (vitamin C). Also for whitening the flour, bleaching agents are used like benzoyl peroxide.
Bleaching is not allowed in Europe. In some french flours, bean and soy flour are added to help with oxidization and elongating gluten. Technically France doesn’t recognize bean flour as an additive. In 1993, the “french bread law” came into affect which states that french bread cannot have any additives, only wheat flour, yeast, water and salt. However, there can be 2% bean flour, .5% soy flour, .3 malted wheat flour. Supposedly, overkneading dough with bean flour will greatly degrade the quality of the bread (stated by Calvel, french bread connaisseur!) , but it’s very hard to overknead by hand so you shouldn’t use bean flour when kneading with a mixer.
Nutrition in Flour:
Vitamin E, K, Thiamin, Riboflavin, Niacin, Vitamin B6, Folate, Vitamin B12, Pantothenic Acid, Calcium, Iron, Magnesium, Phosphorus, Potassium, Zinc, Copper, Manganese, Selenium
Nutrients are mostly in the germ and bran but are scraped out to produce white flour and retain shelf life.
Metal rollers can heat up the flour too much (140°F-160°F) and nutrients are lost that way.
Stone rollers don’t heat up enough to lose nutrition.
Some nutrition might be lost by oxidization such as vitamin E and enzymes, but not enough to affect anything.
Wheat varies from region and season in protein level, and this is what determines the different gluten percentages. Red and white wheat are the most common and are described by season, winter and spring; and by protein level, hard being high protein and soft having more starch, less protein.
Hard winter red wheat makes a good all purpose flour or bread flour.
Hard spring red wheat is mostly grown north in cold weather and has the highest protein level (most gluten!).
Soft winter red wheat has low protein, good for all purpose flour.
Hard winter white wheat is the newest white. It is sweeter and lighter than red wheat with a similar protein level as hard red winter wheat.
Soft spring white wheat is grown in warmer climates and has a low protein level. It is used best for cakes and pastries.
Other wheat varieties are:
The hardest wheat and has a very high gluten percentage but does not form the same gluten as wheat. It’s amber coloured, and is usually coarsely ground to make pasta flour (semolina). Ground fine, it can be used for making bread but with high gluten, it will turn a little tough. The starch is locked in a hard protein shell which doesn’t let overcooked pasta become gooey.
Used in ancient times until durum and bread wheat took over. Can be found in Italy under the name Farro and is used for soups and risotto.
Higher in protein than wheat (almost 17% sometimes!), high in vitamin B. Cousin of wheat, has been around a long time 2500BCish and used for centuries. Spelt was recently replaced by wheat, but has made a come back. Low in gluten like pastry flour.
Known as khorasan wheat. Kamut is just a brand name. It was introduced in the US from Egypt in the 1950’s and only became popular in the late 80’s. High levels of protein and minerals, contains gluten but low levels.
All Purpose flour
Moderate gluten percentage, good for lower gluten items such as cookies and cakes, or softer crumb. Bran and germ is removed. Gluten can vary by region, Canada has the highest protein in AP flour and almost compares to American bread flour.
Also my friend has brought to my attention that you can buy different levels of coarseness for AP flour, usually used in European baking. If anyone has more information on this, please share!
Higher in gluten than AP. Very good for bread! Too high for baked goods like cookies and cakes.
Has low protein, made from soft wheat. Used for cakes and pastries. It is chlorinated to break down gluten and handle fat more easily, to give it a smoother texture. Cake flour can be substituted with 3/4 cup AP flour and 2 tbsp corn starch.
Low protein, slightly higher than cake flour and not chlorinated.
Self rising flour
Contains leavening – baking powder and salt, with lower gluten. Can be substituted by 1 cup AP flour plus 1 1/2 tsp baking powder and 1/4 tsp salt.
Vital gluten flour
Gluten that is taken from flour and contains 3 to 5 times more gluten than bread flour. This absorbs lots of water and can make a loaf tough and dry if used improperly.
The bran and germ separated from the starch and sold in a bag!
Whole wheat flour
Flour with the bran and germ intact, so having more nutrition and fiber. It will make the bread dense because the germ and bran will leave the flour with less gluten making proteins. It won’t absorb as much water as white flour, turning it soupy. Whole wheat is usually mixed with bread flour to produce a lighter loaf. If not ground finely, bran bits can cut gluten strands when kneaded. Knead the fine flour first, then after it rests, add the large bits (this can be even other grains, spices, etc). Can be substituted by almost 1 cup AP flour with 2 tbsp wheat germ.
This is refined flour and has a whitening agent such as benzoyl peroxide, chlorine or absorbic acid (vitamin C).
Is oxidized naturally and does not appear bright white, but yellowish.
During the milling process, nutrients are lost by separation and heat (usually white flour) so nutrients are replaced mechanically, vitamin Bs and calcium.
Other flours and grains:
Used more for beer and animal feed, barley is used in bread and does contain gluten. Dehulled barley is a whole grain and contains the bran and germ in flour. Barley isn’t a popular flour. It contains the stickiness of rye (pentosans) and the low cholesterol of oats, making it healthy to eat. It absorbs twice as much water as wheat.
Dried beans can be pulverized into flour. Flour from France, used for baguettes, usually has 2% fava bean flour, it’s more nutritional and it helps with oxidization for the gluten.
Not related to wheat; in the rhubarb family. It has an earthy taste, and is mostly used for noodles and pancakes and also makes a good dark honey. It contains no gluten and is used in beer to replace barley, to make non-gluten beer.
Flour ground from corn. Steel ground cornmeal has the husk and germ removed making it almost indefinite for storing.
Stone ground cornmeal retains some hull and germ for more flavor and nutrition but doesn’t last forever.
Grits are coarsely ground corn. Cornmeal is fine. Very finely ground cornmeal is sometimes called cornflour in the US but in the UK, cornflour is really corn starch.
Also corn kernels are sometimes treated with lime so the hull can fall away and helps transform it into a good dough for tortillas. It is dried then it is stone ground and this is called masa. This is what tortillas, tamales, chips, etc are made from.
Nutritionally seems to be good, high in minerals and magnesium, and vitamin B. Gluten-free, same protein as wheat.
Oats are commonly rolled or crushed for oatmeal and can be ground into flour. It doesn’t contain gluten but does contain avenin, which may have some reaction to people who are allergic to gluten and also are usually contaminated with other grain. “Pure oats” aren’t contaminated and should be tolerated by gluten allergies.
Oats contain a lot of fat and go rancid fast, they require a heat treatment that prevents rapid deterioration. Oats help lower blood cholesterol levels.
Used for thickeners and flavor.
Used for thickeners and flavor, in small amounts adds moisture to bread but has potato flavor. Not to be confused with Potato starch, often used to lighten texture in gluten free breads.
Raw rice is ground into flour and is used as a substitute for wheat flour in gluten-free bread. Rice flour is also used in making asian dishes, such as rice noodles, etc. Sweet rice flour (glutinous rice) is better for baking. Brown rice flour is usually not ground enough for baking.
Rye is a cousin of wheat and appeared around 1800BC then disappeared, but reappeared and was used by the Romans. It’s used in baking, alcohol and animal feed. Rye is pretty nutritious and has lots of fiber. The pentosans in rye do not harden when cooked/cooled and helps give rye a longer shelf life and also controls appetite. Rye is very hardy and can grow virtually anywhere. It doesn’t have high gluten so produces a heavy bread and absorbs 4 times more water than wheat.
Also an interesting fact: LSD was discovered because of Rye. Ergot fungus contaminated rye flour and was responsible for gangrene and hallucinating. This happened in the 11th century all the way through the 16th and still happened occasionally up to the 20th century. In the 1940’s, chemists then isolated the effects of ergot through alkaloids which have a common component called lysergic acid. One scientist found the specific lysergic acid and produced lysergic acid diethylamide or LSD.
Is a cross between wheat and rye, having wheats good protein and rye’s tolerance.
Sorghum flour(milo flour)
Cousin of the sugarcane, it’s used as grain, syrup, fodder, alcohol and biofuel. It’s used in gluten-free baking. It’s nutritional level is low, similar nutritiously to corn but higher in protein and lower in vitamin A. It has a dry and crumbly result, adding fat can improve it’s texture.
High in protein/fatty acids, low in carbs. Stiffens dough and maintains crumb softness. Also used for oxidizing flour, like bean flour.
Is an easily digestible, gluten-free pseudocereal. The grain is more related to beets and spinach. It’s very nutritious; it contains lysine, amino acids, calcium, minerals and high protein.
So that’s about it for flour. I’m sure there’s tons more information out there, but this is what I scrounged up. If you have questions or comments, please post and I’ll research some more!
Here are some references I used:
and other random websites!