I’m going to spend a little time talking about wheat and other grains here. It’s not something people know much about, and there are a lot more varieties than people know about.
Red Wheat: this is your cheapest most basic option
for wheat. The vast majority of wheat used in this country is red wheat.
Red wheat has a fairly strong flavor. Some people love it, some people
don’t. I personally don’t, and it kept me from eating wheat bread for
Hard White Wheat: This is a strain of wheat that was
developed in the 80′s, if I remember right. It has the same nutrient
value as red wheat, but a much milder flavor. It works well for breads
and other doughs where gluten is developed (i.e. you beat it or knead it
Soft White Wheat: A cousin of the hard white wheat,
it has a slightly lower protein content and works well for pastries,
cookies, and other more delicate doughs. I use it oven in cookies,
muffins and quick breads and my kids (and neighbors) can’t even tell I’m
not using processed white flour.
Durum Wheat: used for making pastas.
About using wheat flour:
Use quickly: Freshly ground wheat flour uses the
whole wheat berry. In commercial processes, they strip off the hull and
take out the germ and process the rest. This removes some of the oils,
and a lot of the nutrients. It has the advantage of making the flour
much more shelf stable though. You can purchase wheat flours, or make
your own (see the equipment page for an excellent grinder), but remember
to use it within a few months or it will go rancid. If you store wheat
and then just grind what you need for that month, you won’t have that
When making whole wheat products: use a recipe that
is intended for using whole wheat. You can substitute whole wheat flour
for white flour in some cases and the results will be good, but with
bread especially it’s good to work with a recipe that is intended for
whole wheat. You will find ingredients such as wheat gluten, lecithin,
or dough enhancer in these recipes. These ingredients help the bread be
soft and stick together without being crumbly. They’re well worth it,
and you can often find them in bulk supply or health food stores.
Work up slowly: Don’t just start feeding your family
whole wheat products all at once. The body needs time to adjust, and
toddlers and babies can have a harder time digesting whole grains. Start
with 1/4 whole wheat, move up to 1/2, and so on. I still use a little
white flour in whatever I make about 1/4 to 1/3 white flour). I just
like the results better than 100% whole wheat.
There are a variety of grains that are not talked about much but are
amazing. They have a full protein, complex carbs, and are extremely
Quinoa (pronounced KEEN-wah)
Millet (yes, you’ll find it in bird seed)
and there are others
A note about protein: Generally a legume (beans,
peas, etc.) are missing some essential amino acids and therefore are not
a complete protein. You need to “complement” it, or eat it with food
that has the missing essential amino acids. Grains such as wheat and
corn have those missing essential amino acids, but are missing some of
the ones the legumes have. Adding a little meat also helps complement
the proteins. So you’ll often find in regional diets the grains and
legumes are naturally complemented. For example: Corn tortillas and
beans, fish and rice, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.
The difference with these super grains is that they already have a complete protein. You can eat it by itself and it’s fine.
I’ve found that mixing some quinoa, amaranth, and millet in with my
wheat flour for my breads and muffins makes an amazing product that when
you eat it, you feel great! You don’t have to add much of these grains
to make a big difference.