A Wide Variety of Ingredients: 6 Types of Wheat
To most people, flour is flour and it is always made from generic "wheat", or else from a gluten-free source like rice. However, there are in fact many different kinds of wheat that your grain mill can grind for different purposes, and the results from using each kind to make different foods can be drastically different. The six types listed below are the primary kinds of wheat typically available to the consumer in the United States: within these groups are many varieties and sub-strains that add subtle changes to the overall product, but generally the primary traits of each kind of wheat will tend to dominate.
First is one of the most commonly used and grown in the U.S.; Hard Red Winter Wheat. Grown primarily in the Plains
States such as Kansas, it is very popular owing to its moderate characteristics. It's protein content is roughly 10.5%, which makes it good in
commercial mills to use for all-purpose mixes and excellent for the home grain mill owner
as a flour for pan-baked breads, Asian-style noodles, and hard rolls.
The second on our list is close kin to the first: Hard Red Spring Wheat. Typically grown in northern states and up into Canada, it has the distinction of being one of the hardest kinds of wheat used in the U.S., and also for having the highest protein content at a high of 13.5%. Oddly, though it is one of the hardest kinds when grinding it is used to make soft breads, pizza doughs, and croissant rolls that are usually considered to be of higher quality than when made of typical flours. As such, some will add a bit of the spring wheat to a flour mix to get some of the benefits of that added protein content, making it a popular blending agent as well.
Third, we have Soft Red Winter Wheat. Whereas the hard red wheat had high protein content, the soft variety is low in protein, and is commonly used in making pastries, pan bread, pasta, or cereal. Being soft, it is easier for most grain mills to grind than the hard varieties, which can be useful if you have a manual grain mill with a smaller grinding cone like the Victorio Deluxe or Family Grain Mill.
All kinds of red wheat have a distinct color and flavor to them when they are home-ground in a grain mill. Often described as having a "nutty" or "hearty" taste when compared to typical white flour, hard red wheat of either the spring or winter variety are excellent additions to a pantry or for emergency storage. Soft wheat is primarily suited to the pantry, as the low protein content is usually considered to be a negative trait when storing for emergency use.
The fourth variety is Hard White Winter Wheat. One of the newest varieties on this list, it is nevertheless rapidly growing in popularity. It has a similar protein content to the hard red wheat, but lacks the distinctive red coloring and has a sweeter, more neutral flavor. Some like this variety simply because the flavor still has all the goodness that home-grinding gives it, and yet is much closer to the white bread you buy in the store. It is used in many of the same applications that hard red winter wheat is, such as Asian-style noodles and pan breads.
Soft White Spring Wheat is our fifth kind, grown largely to the east or else in California. It is very similar to soft red winter wheat, and is commonly used to make pastries and cakes that need to have that sweeter flavor and white coloring.
The final variety of wheat is the hardest wheat in existence, and is also the highest in protein. Durum wheat is grown primarily in North Dakota, and is used for the highest quality pastas and noodles (Italy, for example, uses Durum wheat exclusively to make their world-famous pasta dishes). However, despite its high protein content it is very low in gluten, meaning that although it is an excellent ingredient to mix with other flours there are very few recipes for a purely Durum-based bread.
These varieties of wheat are the base of a number of dishes ranging from simple sandwich bread to the finest gourmet pastries. They are the chief ingredients of the home grain miller, who can bake with each of these flours as soon as possible to retain maximum flavor and nutrition.
We hope that this information will help you as you search for ingredients and recipes to use your flour in, and that it will allow you to make delicious food for yourself and your family.