Wholemeal, Wholewheat, Wholegrain Flour… Confused?

 

Depending on the recipe you use, where you live and where you shop, flour can be named differently.

In general, wholemeal, wholewheat and wholegrain flour all refer to unrefined flours i.e. flours which are made of the whole grain (including bran, germ and endosperm). Note that wholewheat refers to flour made from wheat, while the terms wholemeal and wholegrain can also refer to other varieties of grain e.g. rye, spelt or buckwheat. Wholewheat could therefore also be described as wholemeal made from 100% wheat.

Refined (white) flours on the other hand only contain the endosperm of the grain (the bran and germ are removed) helping these flours to keep longer. However, by removing bran and germ, the flour also loses valuable nutritional components such as fiber, phytochemicals, vitamins and minerals. Brown flour uses a proportion of the whole grain, but usually not 100%.

There are regulations in place (“The Bread and Flour Regulations 1998” in the UK for example) which specify that four vitamins and minerals must be added to all white and brown flour (not wholemeal) to ensure the population still has an adequate intake of these vitamins and minerals even if they chose not to eat wholemeal. The process is called flour enrichment. The added nutrients are calcium, iron, thiamine and niacin which occur naturally in wholemeal but are lost in white, and to a certain extent brown flour. One key difference remains: refined flours are missing the dietary fibre of wholemeal.

The term wholemeal is more commonly used in the UK, while wholewheat and wholegrain are terms more frequently used in the US.

There are exceptions to this rule of course. I frequently buy Gilchesters Organics wholewheat flour (produced in Northumberland in the UK).

Gilchesters Organics Stoneground Organic 100% Whole Wheat Flour
100% Whole Wheat – Gilchesters Organics Flour

To make things more complicated (in the US in particular), you might come across white wholewheat flour. White wholewheat is made using whole white wheat grains while regular wholewheat is made from red wheat grains. White wheat is a type of wheat which has no major genes for bran color. White wholewheat is a lighter flour with a finer texture and milder flavour compared to regular wholewheat. Nutritionally, the two types of wheat are very similar.

Note that due to the different climate/agronomy, the wheat varieties grown in the UK differ to the wheat types in the US.

White spelt flour bread recipe

 

Returning from a work trip mid-week, I discovered that pretty much all of our bread stash (fresh and frozen) had been eaten. Noooo! I had to act quickly and this white spelt flour bread recipe was just perfect. If you need a bread-fix quickly, use this simple recipe for a basic white sandwich loaf to help you get by.

Spelt sourdough bread slices
Spelt sourdough bread slices

White spelt flour bread recipe (using yeast)

This recipe uses white spelt flour which I prefer using over plain wheat flour, but it will work with any plain white flour you have at home.

What you’ll need to make the white spelt flour loaf –

  • 500g white spelt flour
  • 280ml lukewarm water
  • 7g salt
  • 7g sachet of dried yeast

How to make the white spelt loaf –

  1. Add all ingredients above into a medium bowl and combine well.
  2. Knead the dough thoroughly and patiently for about 10 minutes (this is the fun part!). The result should be a silky, smooth, elastic dough.
  3. Put the dough back into the bowl and cover with a lid for about an hour or longer until well risen.
  4. Once risen, take the dough out of the bowl and reduce its size again by ‘knocking it back’ (kneading it firmly but briefly to knock the air out).
  5. Shape into a boule and leave on the worktop for 10 minutes to relax the gluten.
  6. Place the dough into a baking tin and cover with a polythene bag to prevent it from drying out.
  7. Let the dough prove at room temperature until it’s doubled in size. This may take an hour in a warm room but longer in a colder room.
  8. Preheat the oven to 220°C about half an hour before baking.
  9. Bake the loaf for 45 minutes.
  10. Cool on a wire rack or wrap in a clean dishtowel if you like a softer crust.

The result –

A great looking white spelt bread loaf –  beautiful with butter and strawberry or raspberry jam in the morning. Great also for soaking up the juices from this amazing autumnal casserole dish.

White spelt flour bread recipe (using sourdough)

If you have more time, I would recommend baking the loaf with sourdough instead of yeast. Replace some of the white flour with wholemeal flour, infuse the dough with nigella seeds and you’ll have an entirely new loaf.

Spelt loaf with nigella seeds
Spelt loaf with nigella seeds

Here’s how to make it.

Ingredients for a spelt sourdough loaf –

  • 50g sourdough starter
  • 250g white spelt flour
  • 250g wholemeal spelt flour
  • 280ml lukewarm water
  • 7g salt
  • 1 tbsp nigella seeds

How to make spelt sourdough bread –

Day 1

Combine the sourdough starter with 100g white spelt flour, 100g wholemeal spelt flour and 200g water. Mix well and cover with a lid. Keep at room temperature for 16 to 24 hours.

Day 2

Take 50g of sourdough out of the bowl to put back into the fridge for future sourdough baking before adding the remaining 150g white spelt flour, 150g wholemeal spelt flour, 80g water and 7g salt into the bowl. Follow steps 2 to 10 below but beware that sourdough may take longer to rise. Just before step 6, sprinkle the nigella seeds into the baking tin before placing the dough on top.