The majority of people think that all flours are the same, almost always made from wheat or from gluten-free sources like rice. In reality, there is a wide variety of grains that can be ground with a home mill for different uses, with very different end products. The main kinds of wheat available to American consumers are listed below; while there are several substrains and varieties within each category that make for subtle differences in the food produced, the overall traits of each wheat type will still shine through.
First on the list is Hard Red Winter Wheat, one of the most commonly grown and used in the United States. It is grown most often in Kansas and other Plains states, and its moderate characteristics make it very popular. Because Hard Red Winter Wheat has a protein content of approximately 10.5%, it is often used by commercial mills in all-purpose mixes. It is equally popular for those who own grain mills and use the flour for hard rolls, Asian-style noodles, and pan-baked breads.
Next in the list of common wheats is Hard Red Spring Wheat. This variety is grown most often in the northern states and southern Canada and is one of the hardest wheat varieties used in America. It is also known for its high protein content of 13.5%, the highest of all wheat varieties. Even though it is one of the more difficult grains to grind, it is still used to make croissants, pizza dough, and soft breads of a consistently high quality compared with other flours. For this reason, many bakers add a small amount of spring wheat to their flour mixes; this increases the protein content and also makes Hard Red Spring wheat a common blending agent.
Soft Red Winter Wheat comes third in the list. This soft wheat is low in protein and is often used for making pasta, pan bread, pastries, or cereal. Because it is soft, it is not as difficult to grind and thus is a good choice for those who have a smaller grinding cone on a manual grain mill, such as the Family Grain Mill or the Victorio Deluxe.
When ground at home in a grain mill, every variety of red wheat has a distinct flavor and color. Typically thought of as having a “hearty” or “nutty” taste in comparison with traditional all-purpose (white) flour, Hard Red Wheat of both winter and spring varieties is a wonderful addition to a family’s pantry or emergency food storage supply. On the other hand, soft wheat is generally not used for emergency storage because of its low protein content and is best kept in the pantry for everyday use.
Hard White Winter Wheat is the fourth to consider and is a relatively new wheat variety, though it is becoming more popular. Its protein content is similar to Hard Red Wheat, but as one would guess from its name, it is not red and has a more neutral, sweet flavor. Many consumers prefer Hard White Winter Wheat because it still has the same rich flavor that comes from home grinding while resulting in bread much more similar to store-bought white bread. This wheat is used for many of the same products as Hard Red Winter Wheat: pan breads, Asian-style noodles, and so forth.
The fifth wheat in our list is Soft White Spring Wheat, which is grown primarily in California and in the east. It has many characteristics in common with Soft Red Winter Wheat, and bakers tend to use it for cakes and pastries that need a somewhat sweeter flavor and lighter color.
The last wheat variety is the hardest known to man, and also has the highest amount of protein. Grown predominantly in North Dakota, durum wheat is used to make the highest quality noodles and pastas. (For instance, Durum wheat is used exclusively in the world-renowned pasta produced in Italy.) On the other hand, Durum wheat has low amounts of gluten; this means that while it is a great choice for mixing with other flours, very few recipes will use only Durum flour.
These five kinds of wheat form the basis of a wide variety of foods from basic sandwich bread to the most exquisite pastries. They are also the primary ingredients for the home grain mill user, who benefits from having the freshest possible flours for maximum nutrition and flavor in their baked goods.
We hope that this list will assist you in finding ingredients and recipes for your flours and to continue to prepare the most delicious meals possible for yourself and your loved ones.