Using Whole Wheat Flour
I am trying really hard to reduce (eliminate) white flour in our diets. But while I consider myself a good home cook, I am not a good baker (mediocre at best). I would like to learn more about substituting whole wheat flour for regular flour and what the likely outcomes will be. Offhand the couple of items I am most interested in are:
1. I just caught an older Good Eats episode where Alton makes home-made English Muffins. They looked fabulous (I haven’t eaten any refined starch or sugar for 6 weeks – so they really made be drool). The recipe used regular AP flour. What would be the impact of substituting WW flour?
2. When the weather finally starts to cool down again (think November – we live in the desert) I like to make homemade pizza’s with my own dough. I have a recipe I like but don’t know about substituting all or some of the AP flour with WW. Any thoughts?
3. Lastly – I think it would be really hard to substitute WW for AP in a cake recipe, but I think there may be hope for some cookies? Yes, No??
As you can tell I really lack knowledge of flour properties, gluten levels and how they can/should be used. If someone knows of a good reference book I could read to learn more please let me know on that as well.
Thanks for the help,
Whole wheat flour will change a cake much more in taste and texture than it will a cookie. I do use whole wheat for cookies and for muffins and quick breads. Not the same as white AP, but I find that the slightly rougher texture and heavier flavor of WW don't detract in them. Of course, if you are not used to WW in these applications, it may take some adjustment for your family. I prefer to use whole wheat pastry flour for this. It is milled much finer than standard WW flour, so has a texture a bit closer to AP. I prefer it to white whole wheat, and don't find it to have a "strong" flavor. Arrowhead Mills is widely available and good.
1. I would imagine you'd get a more bran-y English muffin. I can't be sure since I've never made them, but WW flour can make good regular muffins...
2. I don't see why you couldn't make an all-WW pizza dough. I've had WW pizza crusts before and they've tasted good.
3. In my opinion I wouldn't use WW flour for cakes OR cookies. I personally feel that desserts are meant to be as delicious as possible, and WW just does not make the best tasting cookie. You might have different tastes though, so perhaps you can find a recipe that makes a decent tasting WW cookie and like it (it's worth a try!)...but I don't bake with WW.
I like the King Arthur book that greygarious recommended for whole wheat baking. I get better results using recipes that were designed for ww baking rather than changing one to use whole wheat, for the most part. It's not a low fat, healthy baking book but uses whole grains, and what I find helpful is when to only use part whole grains. I have used up to half white whole wheat in recipes, increased liquids slightly and had it turn out well, especially w/ yeast breads. As non-yeast baked goods, using half white whole wheat can work, depending on what you're making, or whole wheat pastry flour. But, something light and fluffy calls for AP flour, sometimes cake or bleached flour even.
I first found the KA ww cookbook at the library, liked it and then bought it on overstock.com for a lot less than I found bookstores.
The King Arthur book is an excellent resource for whole wheat baking. The Reinhart book is a little more specialized--it deals with breads.
Keep in mind two things, though, with whole wheat baking. The first is that whole wheat flour, since it contains the germ, which is rich in oil, easily turns rancid, meaning that it will contain a lot of oxidants that aren't the best thing for your health. So you are better off with unbleached white flour than with rancid whole grain flour. You can avoid this by purchasing freshly milled whole wheat flour (check the exploration date) and freezing it as soon as you get it home. Better still, mill it yourself.
Secondly, the high bran content of whole wheat flour causes products made from it to move through the digestive system so quickly that you may actually get less nutritional benefit from it than from a flour without the bran. (In Dublin in World War II children suffered from malnutrition on whole wheat bread until the cause was found.) The solution is to bolt the flour--get a fine strainer or a tami sieve and strain out the coarser bran. You will eliminate about 20% of the total weight, but you will leave the germ behind and the flour will have a pale beige color. Save the bran for bran muffins. On the other hand, if you want more fiber in your diet and the baked goods are not a major source of nutrition for you, then bolting the flour would be pointless.
Personally, I am not crazy about the flavor of bran from the red varieties of wheat. When I mill the flour, I prefer to bolt it. White winter wheat has a milder taste. But breads made from the white whole wheat flour don't seem to rise as well as the ones made from red wheat.
Gosh, this topic has been addressed in many threads. Search "whole wheat flour" and "white whole wheat flour" on this board to get started. There is also a Chow Story on substituting flours. White whole wheat flour, made by King Arthur and available in many supermarkets and online, IS a 100% whole wheat flour, with all the benefits but with a milder taste. Many of us use it instead of AP flour in virtually all our baked goods.
King Arthur's Baker's Companion, or the newer, Whole Grain version, is a comprehensive cookbook for baking, with thorough explanations of the protein, gluten, and usage differences of various flours. But you can learn a lot just from their website, www.kingarthurflour.com
An excellent resource for bread is Peter Reinhart's "Whole Grain Breads". This will help you with breads and pizza doughs. http://www.amazon.com/Peter-Reinharts-Whole-Grain-Breads/dp/1580087590
For cookies, cakes, etc, take a look at Heidi Swanson's 101 Cookbooks blog. She experiments with a lot of alternate grains, including whole wheat, in a very modern way. http://www.101cookbooks.com/baked_goods/