Rye, Spelt, Whole Wheat, Bread, White flour: How They Affect Your Bread


When you’re making bread, which type of flour do you use? More than likely, it’s bread flour, right?It’s in the name, after all. If you decide to work with another type of flour, such as spelt or even rye flour, what should you expect from your bread?

The following types of flours will affect your bread in these ways:

  • Bleached flour makes the bread more voluminous and softer
  • Bread flour provides more gluten for great volume and lightness 
  • Spelt flour produces a softer loaf that’s easier to digest
  • Whole wheat flour can be smoother or grainier depending on the intensity
  • White flour has volume and strength thanks to all the starches and proteins within
  • Rye flour is dense with fewer holes because it has less gluten

If you want to learn even more about your different flour options for making bread, I recommend you keep reading. In this article, I will thoroughly discuss the composition of each type of flour and provide further details on the type of bread it yields.

Bleached Flour For Bread and Its Effects

Flour comes either bleached or unbleached on grocery store shelves. Despite the name, all flour undergoes a bleaching process. The unbleached variety is just processed less, so the bleaching is a more gradual, natural change. With bleached flour, chemical agents make it age faster. These agents are often chlorine gas and benzoyl peroxide, although others may be used.

Let’s talk a bit more about the flour aging process. As oxygen gets into the flour, it’s bleached to get that distinct color. Without human intervention, this can take days, sometimes weeks to occur. That’s why there exists a need to quicken the process, as the flour can be shipped and sold faster.

Bleached flour will have a soft, gentle texture, a very white color, and grains that are quite fine. You may be able to taste the difference between bleached and unbleached flour if your palette is especially sensitive, but many people cannot.

You can easily tell it apart from unbleached flour visually if you have both in containers on your kitchen countertop. Unbleached flour is denser, and it’s not a pure white. Oh, and your wallet will feel the difference too, as unbleached flour is the more expensive of the two.

Besides bread, bleached flour makes a great addition to your favorite recipes for pancakes, muffins, pie crusts, and cookies. If you use it when baking a loaf of bread, the bread will have great volume and a very soft, spongy texture.

Bleached or white flours have a flavor we are all used to from white bread. Not much to be said about it. Great tasting and goes with everything. Especially with Jams, chocolate speeds and penutbutter.

I would not recommend making sourdough bread with straight-up white flour and will definitely not recommend making a sourdough starter with bleached flour. I’ve tested it out and fermented bleached flout just gives off a bad odor.

Bread Flour – What Is It?

As I said in the intro, you may already use bread flour for all your dough-making. It’s a common alternative to all-purpose flour that’s intended for making bread and pizza doughs. Bread flour has a protein content of 12 to 14 percent, meaning it’s rich in gluten as well.

To make the most of the gluten and create the right structure, you typically have to spend quite some time kneading dough made from bread flour.

By the way, if you do some traveling, especially to the United Kingdom, don’t be surprised if you can’t find bread flour on grocery store shelves. In that part of the world, bread flour is called strong flour instead. It’s still the same product with the same amount of protein and gluten. It’s just referred to as strong flour due to the hard wheat used to create it.

No matter what you want to call this flour, you can also use it for making your own bagels, cinnamon buns, dinner rolls, and soft pretzels. It’s an especially suitable choice for white bread or sourdough bread.

What kind of loaf texture and flavor will you get when baking with bread flour? Due to all the gluten within the flour and the kneading you do beforehand, the bread ends up very airy. When you take a bite, the texture is quite chewy, which makes the bread a delicious treat.  

Compared to other bread doughs, you might notice that bread made with bread dough isn’t as weighty. The dough also stretches with ease, making kneading very simple.

As far as flavor it will taste like any white other white flour you have used with very slight undertones of a earthy flavor.

Bread made exclusively with bread flour will go with every meal you throw at it.

How Is Spelt flour Different From Other Flours?

Spelt flour is a type of ancient grain. It’s among many others, such as chia, buckwheat, amaranth, and quinoa, which are considered pseudocereals. Sorghum, oats, teff, barley, and millet (all grains), as well as emmer, Einkorn, Farro, Bulgur, Freekeh, and Khorsan wheat, are also considered ancient grains.

Whole Spelt Flour

Living up to their name, ancient grains have a history that dates back 10,000 or more years to the Neolithic Revolution, also known as the First Agricultural Revolution. At this time, society changed their roles as hunter-gatherers and began farming instead.

The ancient grains that live on to this day have biotechnology, breeding, specific cropping, and mutation to thank for it. Peoples such as the Incas, Egyptians, Greeks, and Aztecs all used some variation of the ancient grains we enjoy today, which is very interesting.

Spelt flour specifically is sourced from the ancient grain spelt. This goes by names like hulled wheat and dinkel wheat. Its history stretches to 5,000 BC. Beginning in the Bronze Age, Europeans ate spelt regularly, continuing this behavior through medieval times.

Today, spelt is primarily produced in northern Spain and Central Europe. It’s akin to wheat in terms of its nutrition and content, so spelt flour has gluten. Before it’s manufactured into flour, spelt has a nutty flavor and a brownish, reddish hue.

Harvested spelt that becomes flour will first go through de-husking and dehulling. Keeping the glume around the kernels makes spelt flour more nutritious, so that part stays.

Spelt four isn’t the easiest to work with compared to the other flours on this list. When utilizing it for bread dough, you have to avoid overworking or underworking the dough. Doing too much with the dough could cause the proteins strands within the spelt flour to disintegrate. Under-kneaded dough tends to have a crumbly texture that’s unappealing and unusable.

Adding water to a crumbly dough like you can with other dough types doesn’t really work here either. Spelt dough won’t absorb water well, so the outside of the dough can easily get coated and remain slick.

Once you master how to work with ancient grain flour such as spelt, you’ll enjoy lots of benefits. Spelt may be able to lower bad cholesterol, control blood sugar, bolster your immune system, and maintain your metabolism. You can also digest it more easily than some other types of flour.

The spelt grains in the flour produces a bread that’s lightweight, tender, and soft. It also contains fewer calories than some flour types and more protein.

You will indefinably notice the flavor of spelt in your bread. It will add a slight nutty flavor to it.

I enjoy Spelt bread with cheeses as the nutty flavor is a great match.

Whole Wheat Flour – Is It Really That Special?

Your next option for baking bread is whole wheat flour. This is another of those flour types that may have a different name in the UK, where it’s known as wholemeal flour. Either way, whole wheat flour is derived from the wheatberry.

Color difference between Whole Wheat and White Flour

Although it might not look much like a berry, the wheatberry is technically a portion of fruit known as a caryopsis, or a dried fruit. Like spelt, wheatberries are brownish or reddish. They can become a grain that’s soft-processed or hard-processed depending on the manufacturing. You can also eat wheatberries on their own, especially in salads.

If the wheatberry is to become whole wheat flour, it will be mashed or ground down. After that, the germ and bran of the kernel get sifted out so the miller can easily access the endosperm. This part of the wheatberry contains most of the proteins and starches while the germ and bran have more fiber, fats, minerals, and vitamins.

That’s why the next stage of whole wheat flour milling involves taking the germ and bran that were sifted out and adding them back in. Depending on how much germ and bran get re-included, the intensity of the whole wheat can be more apparent or less so.

This gives you plenty of options when shopping for whole wheat flour to use for baking bread. You can get very fine whole wheat flour or that which has a coarser, fuller body. Depending on the type of whole grain flour you use, your bread will turn out quite differently.

For example, if you bake with a very fine whole wheat flour, then the bread is quite smooth texturally. If you like the coarser stuff, then your bread may have a texture that’s reminiscent of grain. Try both to see which one you prefer!

As far as flavor goes, Whole Wheat flour tends to have a nutty flavor to it. Goes great with cheese, deli meats, and smoked fish. I would not recommend eating whole wheat bread with Chocolate spreads or Jams.

White Flour Explained

You go digging through your kitchen cabinets and come across an unopened bag of white flour. What exactly is this?

White flour and wheat flour aren’t all that different, actually. Both involve the same type of processing, but with one key difference: white flour has only the endosperm.

The endosperm provides the starch and protein that makes white flour dough pliable. The germ and bran are also important though, as without them, your bread has few if any nutrients.

It’s ideal if your flour has the endosperm, bran, and the germ then, such as whole wheat flour does. That’s why it’s called whole wheat, after all. White flour loses the bran and germ because the wheat roller milling machines are rough and remove all but the endosperm.  

It’s still easy to work with and knead white flour dough, and taste-wise, you might not notice that you’re missing anything. Nutritionally though, white flour can’t compare to wheat flour and especially whole wheat flour.

Where does the term white flour even come from? Well, all flour is some variation of white, but white flour earns its name due to the whitening agent it’s treated with. After it’s bleached, it’s sold on store shelves, typically inexpensively. Since it doesn’t have any germ, you may notice your white flour has a much more generous shelf life than your whole wheat flour does.

As white flour is so rich with proteins and starches thanks to its inclusion of only the endosperm, it produces a strong dough. Also, the gases released by the yeast as you plie the dough get entrapped within. This pumps up the volume so your bread is as appealing to look it as it is tasty to eat. 

Rye Flour

The last type of flour you might try for your bread-making is rye flour. Now, rye flour is really like a family of flours rather than one particular type. Here’s a breakdown of each kind of flour within that rye flour family.

  1. Pumpernickel flour: If you want to make homemade pumpernickel bread, you can go about doing it in a few ways. For one, you can combine some wheat flour with rye flour, or you can use pumpernickel flour, which is ready to go right out of the bag. This flour is made with whole grains and has a coarse texture.
  2. Whole grain rye flour: This type of rye flour goes by the name rye meal as well. Like any whole grain flour, rye meal includes the rye kernel’s endosperm, germ, and bran. Depending on how you like your whole grain rye flour, you can buy it with a very fine texture, a medium rougher texture, or a coarse one.
  3. Dark rye flour: Dark rye flour is milled in one of several ways. From some brands, it contains rye flour that’s medium, light, or white. These get blended together until you end up with dark rye flour. Other brands will take a bit of bran and the endosperm’s outer layer and call that dark rye flour. More manufacturers still will use whole grains. Make sure you read the label of your dark rye flour to learn more about where it came from.
  4. Medium rye flour: Medium rye flour has some bran in it, more than white, but not as much as dark (well, depending on how the dark rye flour is milled). This type of flour won’t be whole grain, but it does have rye characteristics and that distinct flavor.
  5. Light rye flour: Also known as cream rye flour, this is a step down from medium rye flour. You’ll find some bran in light rye flour, but not much. This flour also has no whole grains.
  6. White rye flour: Below even light rye flour is white rye flour. With no traces of bran whatsoever, you miss many of the nutritional benefits. It’s just like regular white flour in that regard. White rye flour does not come in a whole-grain variety. 

To make matters even more confusing, rye comes in many forms, such as rye flakes, rye chops (also known as cracked rye), rye berries, and rye field, a type of rye plant. The rye berries get harvested to make rye flour. Like wheat berries, it’s important that millers take off the hull, since with rye berries, the hull is not supposed to be eaten.

If all the edible parts remain for milling, then the average rye berry will contain bran at a rate of 10 to 15 percent, germ at a rate of two to three percent, and endosperm at a rate of 80 to 85 percent. Trace amounts of fiber may be in the endosperm, but not enough to make rye flour made with the endosperm alone nutritionally beneficial.

Baking bread with some rye flours can be difficult. Since the flour is carb-heavy, a gluten matrix cannot form. This can make your bread loaves especially hard. Also, compared to wheat flour, rye flour cannot retain internal gases, so your bread not only lacks volume, but air as well. The crumbs will have tiny holes and a dense texture.

To bake better-looking bread using rye flour, I recommend combining it with another type of flour. This will boost the volume and make the bread less dense and thus more toothsome.

If you do intend to make a 100% Rye ( I do not suggest this for new bakers ) you can check out one of the masters on this subject Master Baker Nick Vina in an article he has collaborated with us. You can read it right here

Lastly, the flavor. I have to admit Rye is one of my favorite flours as far ast taste goes. It adds an earthy flavor to your bread and if we are talking about sourdough bread I think it makes for the best tasting sourdough starter.

We have an amazing full guide right here that will show you step by step how to make your own sourdough starter. It’s really quite simple.

Bread made with Rye flour is perfect for deli meats and smoked fish. They also do well with cheese.

Conclusion

The next time you go to the grocery store to pick up flour for your bread recipe, know that you have a lot of options to choose from. These include rye, whole wheat, ancient grain, white, bleached, and bread flours.

Depending on whether you want an airier, fluffier, lighter loaf of bread or one that’s coarser, you can surely find the right flour. Keep in mind what you are going to serve with these breads and choose the one that matches best.

If you’ve never used some of these flours before, try making bread with them all. You may just stumble upon your new favorite flour type!

Amit

Hi, my name is Amit. I started baking at a young age at my father's bakery. I hope I can answer some of your questions and hopefully you will find some hidden gems to help you out with your home baking skills.

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