Bread to feed the world
For much of human history the humble loaf of bread has been what feeds the masses. This obviously isn't the white pastey tasteless stuff they pass off as bread at the grocery store. We're talking old fashioned, grind the entire wheat berry up and put it in the bread bread.
In the last century, wheat has gone from the staple of life for much of the population to a commodity sold on a Commodities Exchange to make some pe0ple money. There are still many varieties of wheat around, but to enable trading wheat as a commodity it had to be classified into a limited number of classes.
If you want to get back to making that humble loaf of hearty bread you must go back to the even more humble wheat berry. This is what was ground to make the loaves of bread to feed the Roman Legions. No fancy processing to make the resulting flour whiter and with it less heathy. But today if you are looking to obtain some wheat for home use it's still helpful to be familar with the terms used to describe it today.
Red Wheat vs White Wheat
The color of the wheat berries
Credit: The Fresh LoafThis is about the easiest of the characteristics of wheat berries to discern for youself. It's the color of the wheat berry. Red wheat is going to have reddish hue to the berries where as white wheat will be paler and a simple tan color. This image is almost an 'ideal' comparison of red wheat and white white, in most cases the difference will no be a pronounced.
Hard Wheat vs Soft Wheat
Protein vs Starch
When you see hard or soft used to describe the wheat it is refering to the amount of protein or starch in the wheat berries. Hard wheat has a higher protein level and soft wheat has a higher starch level.
Here is a list of ratios as to how the two can be blended for different uses:
- Bread Flour - 100% fine ground hard wheat
- All-purpose flour - 50% hard, 50% soft find ground wheat
- Cake flour - 100% extra fine ground soft wheat
- Pastry flour - 66% all-purpose flour and 34% cake flour
- Biscuit flour - 75% all-purpose flour and 25% cake flour
Spring Wheat vs Winter Wheat
It is going to be very difficult to determine when the wheat was grown by examining it. This is where you'll have to take the given information at face value, if it says spring wheat you'll have to assume it was grown in the spring. If the wheat is being called winter wheat it means it was grown in the winter.
There may be some variation between the hardness and softness of wheat grown in the spring as opposed to wheat grown in the winter. Some of this can also be attributed to simply being different varieties.
What wheat to choose?
By now I'm sure that you are thoroughly confused about what wheat berries to choose for home grinding. The simpliest answer is, Choose what tastes right to you. Depending on what you plan to make with the flour, start with the ratios explained in the hard wheat vs soft wheat section. From this point experiment with what works for you.
To take your new found fondess of bread and wheat to the next level, try to locate a local farmer that you can purchase the wheat berries from directly or better yet, grow you own. You will need to clean the wheat yourself if you do this, but you'll also know a lot more about it. If you hunt hard enough you may even be able to find some heritage local varieties that aren't even commonly available. These would be ideally suited for growing in your area and also produce good flour as that is how it was always used.