Cooking with white whole wheat flour - avoiding the funk!
March 16, 2010 7:02 AM   Subscribe

I'm eager to add white whole wheat flour to quickbreads and other baked goods, but every time the resulting product has a strong, white-wheat-funky aftertaste. Almost sour. Am I doing something wrong?

I typically use half white wheat, half regular flour (eg, if the recipe calls for 2 cups flour, I'll use one cup regular, one cup white wheat.)

If you have good recipes for white whole wheat quickbreads, I'm eager to hear them. But better yet, do you have any proven rules of thumb for cooking with white whole wheat flour? Never use more than a cup? Double your eggs? This recipe just suggests extra vanilla -- do I just need a little extra sugar?

Thanks, AskMe cooks!
posted by lillygog to Food & Drink (16 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Have you had success with this kind of flour in other breads? Have you tried more than one brand, or even more than one bag?

I have done a ton of baking with whole wheat flour (not white wheat) and I've never noticed any sort of aftertaste. I'm wondering if you don't have a bad batch.
posted by restless_nomad at 7:05 AM on March 16, 2010

Any chance your bag of whole wheat flour has been sitting around a while? Whole wheat flour can go rancid.
posted by jon1270 at 7:29 AM on March 16, 2010

Hmmm... I feel like I've had this problem for a few years now, and have replaced bags since then. But maybe I've been letting the bags sit too long, since I don't feel confident baking with white whole wheat.

("Rancid flour" sounds so horrifying. That'll be my internet legacy: rancid flour.)

That said, though, I feel a though I've had other discussions with people (in person and online) talking about an almost-unpleasant, overly-wheaty taste from too much white whole wheat flour. Has anyone else had this experience?
posted by lillygog at 7:36 AM on March 16, 2010

White whole wheat is actually not my favorite flour. I've used recipes made for it, and still not been pleased with the taste or texture. It hasn't been downright funky, just slightly off. I feel that way about already-prepared bread that is labeled as white whole wheat.

I'd be interested to see if anyone has any fixes.
posted by DrGirlfriend at 7:41 AM on March 16, 2010

America's Test Kitchen recommends substituting a maximum of 25% whole wheat flour when baking. Maybe you're just using too much, especially if the recipes you are using have been formulated to use plain all purpose (or bread, or cake or whatever) flour.
posted by zooropa at 7:43 AM on March 16, 2010

If you want to prevent against your flour going rancid, keep it in the freezer. This applies to pretty much any whole grain, since the germ is what's going bad.
posted by Juliet Banana at 8:12 AM on March 16, 2010

Wheat flour has a stronger flavor and generally absorbs more water than white flour, so I tend to add about a tablespoon of brown sugar and a 1/4c. more water when I substitute with it in quick breads. I use brown sugar because it gives a little extra moisture and color and in my experiments helped with the wheat-y taste a lot better than white sugar. YMMV, happy baking!
posted by julie_of_the_jungle at 8:12 AM on March 16, 2010

Beg, borrow or steal a copy of the King Arthur Flour Whole Grain Baking Cookbook for more variations on white wheat/whole wheat than you can shake a stick at.
posted by jquinby at 8:17 AM on March 16, 2010 [1 favorite]

My favorite recipe that used whole wheat flour and all-purpose flour had 1 1/2 cups AP flour and only 1/2 cup whole wheat. But I've never used white whole wheat flour, only regular whole wheat flour.
posted by wondermouse at 8:21 AM on March 16, 2010

I got started using whole wheat flours after making some recipes from the 101 Cookbooks blog - here's a specific list of her white whole wheat flour recipes.

FWIW, I generally sub whole wheat pastry flour (instead of white whole wheat) in recipes, using a half-half to regular flour. My general rule when deciding to sub in whole wheat flour is to be baking something that has stronger texture and/or flavor from other ingredients than the flour. For example, I get great banana bread using half-whole wheat flour, and these holy-crap-awesome chocolate espresso cookies.
posted by dicaxpuella at 8:27 AM on March 16, 2010 [2 favorites]

The King Arthur's Flour Whole Grain Baking book adds orange juice as an ingredient to their standard wheat bread recipes to counteract the sour/bitter flavor. Don't have it here so I can't quote their discussion of it, but you can see the recommendation on their blog as well:

The orange juice won't add its own flavor to the bread, but will mellow any potential bitterness in the whole wheat.

This is supposed to counteract the taste of the phenolic acid that's present in standard wheat flour. You're using white wheat flour however, which theoretically doesn't have phenolic acid in it, so I'm not sure orange juice will work for you. You might want to give it a try though.
posted by longdaysjourney at 8:29 AM on March 16, 2010

As weird as it sounds, I always get a good smell of my flour before baking with it due to the one time I made bad tasting bread and tracked it all the way back to rancid flour. It'll smell bad if it is. King Arthur prints a use by data on the sides of it's flour. I've seen expired flour stocked in big name grocery stores. After shopping around I have my "bread store" and the one I do my other shopping at.

I was never successful at making a good loaf with KA's white whole wheat (no experience with quick breads though). I tried but the rise and flavor were always off. Zooropa's Test Kitchen recommendation is probably the way to go. I figured this is why whole grain breads are popular too. Dump some grain and molasses in and it looks like a hearty wheat. To Julie's point about the water ratio check out my comparison. KA's White Whole Wheat is the middle column of pictures. It just behaves way differently than the others.
posted by jwells at 8:30 AM on March 16, 2010

The recommendation to use more white flour than wheat is primarily for texture, not taste. Whole wheat flour doesn't rise as well as AP. I have used 100% whole wheat in breads before and have never been bothered by an off-taste, although the bread does tend to be pretty dense and dry - even with extra leavening. I've never used white wheat though, so I don't know.

I would recommend trying regular whole wheat instead of white and see if that tastes better to you. You might also try a stronger sweetener than sugar - honey and molasses both work very well in whole wheat breads.

Seconding the King Arthur book - I haven't used it myself since I've been pretty happy with the recipes I've found elsewhere, but I have frequently seen it referred to as The Bible of baking with whole wheat.
posted by Dojie at 8:31 AM on March 16, 2010

Great recommendations above. Wholewheat flour does indeed go rancid because it has more oils in it. If you're keeping it cold and/or refrigerated probably not an issue, but a bag of it certainly wouldn't last much more than a month in high summer here in Australia, for example.
posted by smoke at 4:49 PM on March 16, 2010

White wheat flour? Sound unnatural. ;D I've never used it myself, but as others have said, freeze your flour. It'll stay fresh much longer. I like to enclose the flour sack in a big zip-lock freezer bag to keep it from absorbing moisture and/or odors/flavors from the freezer. I also like to add a bit (maybe a couple of tbsp per loaf) of either honey or agave nectar to help take the slightly bitter taste wheat flour can give. I've been making a couple of loaves of "artisan-style" (aka big round loaves baked in a dutch oven/crock pot) a week for the past year or more. It's about the only bread we eat around here. In fact, sometimes breakfast/brunch on Saturday consists of half a loaf or more of freshly-baked bread. Mmmm... Good luck! :-)
posted by Death by Ugabooga at 8:15 PM on March 16, 2010

You are all fantastic -- delicious virtual loaves of white whole wheat bread for everyone!
posted by lillygog at 7:30 PM on March 17, 2010

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