flour

Yes, we’re all trying to eat a bit better these days; cutting out the sugars, refined foods and processed grains. But let’s face it; a cake made with whole wheat flour is just not the same as a traditional cake. In fact, it can be downright, um, shall we say—grungy? Whole wheat flour can make your breads and cakes thicker, coarser, heavier and far less yummy. Lo and behold, there is a wheat flour you may not have used yet, one that goes by the name of “white whole wheat flour.” What is this strange flour—is it white or whole? How can a white flour also be whole? Read on to find out exactly how that can be, and how you can use it in your cakes and pastries.

The term “white whole wheat flour” threw me for a loop when I first heard of it in culinary school. I thought that white flour is refined? How can it also be “whole?” I wondered. It all boils down to the wheat berry. Like all other plants, there are many varieties of the wheat berry, but (as also with many other plants we now grow on a large scale), only one is usually used in common food production. The traditional wheat berry we know and use is a hearty winter berry, and it’s the brownish, chewier variety that almost all wheat products come from—including the “whole wheat flour” that made your cupcakes taste like cardboard.

But another variety of the wheat berry—the spring berry—is naturally lighter, milder and “whiter” in color. It has all the fiber, protein and minerals of the winter berry, but in a more delicate version by virtue of its genes. So the spring wheat berry is ground into a finer, lighter and “whiter” flour, which is the “white whole wheat flour” you see and scratch your head over.

Since it’s lighter and finer in consistency, white whole wheat flour is more suitable for whole grain baking and pastry-making. Start by replacing half of the white flour called for in your recipes with white whole wheat flour, and work up from there to your preference. I’ve personally been able to use exclusively white whole wheat flour in my cakes and pies and be very satisfied with the results. Experiment to your liking. And stump your friends in the kitchen with this one: How can a flour be both white and whole? You’ll know.

Image: Lisa Brewster