When I first started substituting whole wheat flour for white, I had a host of problems. Nothing seemed to turn out right – my quick breads burned on the outside before they were done on the inside, or were too dry, or too wet. After reading some whole grain books and listening to the advice of seasoned bakers, I was able to change the way I looked at whole wheat flour.
Here are a few simple guidelines for substituting whole wheat flour.
Know Your Flour
I used to think that there was one kind of whole wheat flour. It never occurred to me that there were different types of wheat. After reading Whole Grain Baking, my eyes were opened. Now I use three types of wheat: hard red, hard white, and soft white. Choosing the right type of flour for a particular recipe is essential to getting good results.
1) Soft White Wheat (A.K.A. Whole Wheat Pastry Flour)
This flour most closely resembles white flour. It is soft and light, and is therefore ideal for pastry, quick breads, muffins, cakes, pancakes, biscuits, etc. Because it has such a low protein content, it is not suitable for yeast bread without added white flour or gluten.
2) Hard White Wheat (A.K.A. White Whole Wheat Flour)
This type of flour, because it has a higher protein content, makes good yeast bread, with a milder flavor than traditional whole wheat. It can be used in cookies, bars, muffins, etc. with fairly good results.
3) Hard Read Wheat (A.K.A. Traditional Whole Wheat Flour)
This type of wheat has the highest protein content of the three. It makes wonderful yeast bread with a rich, nutty flavor. However, it may result in dry, dense, or tough quick breads/pastries.
Weigh Your Flour
When I first started substituting whole wheat flour, I noticed that everything seemed too wet. I didn’t understand why – I measured my flour carefully enough. Then someone wise told me that when flour has been freshly ground, it is lighter than when it has had time to settle. But how to get the proper amount?
Weigh your flour. If you don’t already own one, I highly recommend that you invest in a kitchen scale. It doesn’t need to be anything fancy or expensive.
So, how much should your flour weight?
Each type of wheat flour has its own weight per cup. Different sources disagree on the proper weight, but I have found these weights work well:
- Hard Red Wheat – 5.5 ounces per cup
- Hard White Wheat – 5 ounces per cup
- Soft White Wheat – 4 ounces per cup
Know Your Recipe
Not all recipes will adapt easily to whole wheat flour. You may find that you will never get satisfactory results with certain recipes. Pie crust is such a recipe for me. No matter what I do, the results aren’t quite right. Other recipes adapt so easily to whole wheat flour that you will never want to use white again. Banana bread is such a recipe for me.
If you are unsure whether a recipe will turn out well with whole wheat flour, try substituting half or a quarter of the flour for whole wheat and work from there. I often use half whole wheat, half white flour for cookies with excellent results.
I hope this will help you to start incorporating more whole grains into your diet. Here are some of my favorite recipes to get you started!
If you have any further insights/tips about substituting whole wheat flour, please share in the comments!