The Trouble With Wheat

Wheat does not always produce the same type of flour, the world around.  I provided a recipe for Northern Irish soda farls in this post, and want to provide a recipe shortly for Irish “wheaten bread,” a loaf of bread that is similarly leavened with baking soda reacting with buttermilk, but is baked in the oven and uses a whole wheat flour.

But first, we need to discuss flours. In the aforementioned soda farl recipe, I wrote that you could use all purpose white flour. And it does do the job not too badly. If you’re in North America however, you might want to consider a flour especially for cake and pastry making.  But you don’t really need to.

When it comes to the wheaten bread though, it will be tough to get the same flavor and texture using regular whole wheat flour that is available in North America. My mom, after we moved to Canada, would use the whole wheat that was easily found in the grocery store, but she would also mix it with something called “Graham Flour” which is no longer available for whatever reason. Adding graham flour gave the bread a much closer texture to what we would bake “back home.”

Perhaps you are wondering why this is? Well, North American wheat is generally a “hard” wheat whereas the wheat grown in Ireland is a “soft” wheat.  Soft wheat is lower in both gluten and protein and is easier to mill than hard wheat.  While lower in gluten and protein, it is higher in starch than hard wheat varieties.

If you are in North America and want to make Irish wheaten that is as close to that made in Northern and Republic of Ireland, you have a couple of choices. You could get a wholewheat flour made from a soft red wheat and this may be available at your supermarket if they carry the King Arthur brand of flours. If not, you can order it directly from their website:  King Arthur Soft Red Wheat Flour.

Your best bet though is to try to find a supplier of Odlums course wholemeal flour.  Odlums is the major supplier of flour throughout the island of Ireland, and it is milled from Irish wheat.  This is the exact same wheat flour that most people who make Irish wheaten bread in Ireland, would use. Thankfully, there is a specialty shop not far from me that imports Odlums flour products and I am able to get it that way, although it is not inexpensive.  If you’re interested though (I know they will ship across Canada, but not sure about into the US), you can try A Bit Of Home.

So now you know a little bit more about wheat flour and why your soda farls and wheaten bread might not be turning out exactly like the way it does in Ireland!

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2 comments on “The Trouble With Wheat

  1. […] A note about this recipe: I am using Odlum’s Irish wheat for the whole wheat. It is a coarsely milled wheat, although you can use North American whole wheat flour and it will still turn out quite good;  not just quite the same. For more on why this is the case, please see my post on “The Trouble With Wheat.” […]

  2. […] as pointed out in this post, “The Trouble With Wheat,” North American wheat is not the same as Irish wheat. As a result, using all-purpose flour […]

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