My husband and I recently signed up for a local CSA, and in addition to the fruit and veggie boxes we get each week we can add various other locally produced items, such as honey, vinegar and flour. I was excited to try the flour, so we ordered a small bag of it this past week. It is a soft red flour. I haven’t actually had a chance to try it yet, but my husband asked why the flour was red, and I thought that would be a good topic this week.
Having bought most of my flour at the grocery store over the years, I hadn’t paid much attention to the type of flour, other than the obvious all-purpose (bleached or unbleached), cake and pastry, and whole wheat. Seeing this little bag of red flour made me remember learning about wheat in my classes, and that the different types of flour go deeper than just those basic grocery store offerings.
There are various combinations of hard wheats and soft wheats, red and white, winter and spring. Hard wheats have higher protein content, which produces more gluten and is better for breads. Soft wheats, as you can probably guess, have lower protein content, producing less gluten and giving a softer crumb, which is better for cakes, pastry and cookies – so that is what I will be making with my little bag of soft red flour. Red, which refers to the colour of the wheat berry as opposed to the interior of the grain used for flour, seems to be the most commonly grown wheat in North America. And winter and spring refer to the time of year they are harvested.
I won’t get into all the different types here today, but if you’re curious, there is a more detailed article about the different types of wheat flour here. I’m looking forward to baking with this flour soon and finding out how it compares to other flours I’ve used; especially knowing that it is produced locally, which I never realized was a possibility on the east coast of Canada. It may not be on the large production scale of the Prairies, but it’s nice to learn how diverse the local market can be.