I mentioned in previous posts that I would be sprinkling pearls of wisdom I learned in recent trips to King Arthur Flour & Kansas courtesy of the Wheat Council into future posts. Today's topic - whole grain flour's effect on gluten development and a brief discussion of white whole wheat vs traditional whole wheat flour.
Without getting into too much of the science (because I figure if you're reading this blog, you're mostly here for the pictures and recipes... I know I am), I learned something on these recent trips that made total sense to me once it was mentioned, but something I'd never really considered. Because whole wheat flour contains all parts of the wheat kernel, including the rough shards of bran from the outer layer, when developing a dough (which obviously requires gluten development to give it its structure), those tiny shards of bran can actually cut through the gluten network, thereby yielding a shorter, denser baked good. Anyone who's ever taken their favorite all-purpose flour bread recipe and tried to substitute 100% whole wheat with no modifications likely knows this to be the case.
What the folks at King Arthur suggested was letting a dough sit for a few hours or even overnight, so that the bran shard could actually absorb moisture, which would cause it to swell & bend (my words, not theirs) and ultimately make it less likely to cut through the gluten network, yielding a better rise.
Now, look at this
It's a flatbread based off of this recipe from King Arthur Flour. It tastes great, is beyond easy... but it's flat. Well, yes, flatbread should be flat... but it's even flatter than I originally intended.
Why, you ask?
I substituted 50% of the flour called for in the recipe with 100% white whole wheat flour and didn't let it sit. I also made the ultimate baker's sin in using fast-rise yeast, something that without question I have learned from the more skilled bakers I've come to know in recent weeks is not a good idea (but I'm thrifty & wanted to use up what was in my freezer).
Overall, would I recommend this recipe to you?
Would I encourage you to improve a little based on my shortcomings?
If you decide to give it a try, first don't use fast-rise yeast. Next, see if you can refrigerate the dough a few hours at least, then allow for the rise time.
Another pearl... if you intend to incorporate whole grain, use "white" whole wheat flour, if you don't relish the hearty flavor of traditional whole wheat baked goods. On both trips I attended, we discussed the difference between "whole wheat" and "white whole wheat" flours... and it all comes down to the type of wheat. Traditional "whole wheat" flour is made from red wheat. White whole wheat flour is made from, you guessed it, white wheat. There's no nutritional difference, that I know of... it's just a matter of taste.
So why the difference in taste?
Red wheat contains more phenolic acid, and it's this compound that some people simply don't like in their baked goods (I for one like it... my grandmother used to make 100% whole wheat pancakes back before whole wheat pancakes were "cool".) But I've learned that some palates simply can't go there... my oldest son being one of them.
Let me know if you decide to try this recipe. Even for the non-skilled baker it’s a wonderful way to dabble with different flours and create a simple yeast bread. Or take a look at these flatbread recipes available on CookingLight.com and see if any of those get you in the baking mood.