January is THE month for healthy intentions to brave the winter blues; putting the indulgence of the festive season well and truly behind us. Eating well is hugely popular, motivating us to make more nutritious choices, such as baking with wholemeal flour.
Whole wheat flour adds fibre, vitamins, and nutrients to your recipes, but what stands out the most is the taste. Milled from 100% hard wheat, our Awesome Wholemeal Bread Flour has that classic robust whole wheat flavour that can add depth to muffins, cookies, scones, breads and even cakes. Substituting even 25% of white flour with wholemeal is a super simple start so what do you need to know about baking with the whole grain?
1. Take your time
When mixing up a cake or cookie batter, let it sit for up to 30 minutes. That way the wheat has time to absorb more of the moisture, making it more tender and softer. Then when your sweet treats are baking, the wheat will already be soft and not absorbing moisture during the baking process which causes dryness, particularly in cakes.
You can even make your batter a day ahead, letting the whole wheat flour soak up maximum moisture overnight. This will give your baked goods a much-improved texture.
2. Add more water
As wholewheat flour absorbs much more liquid than white flour, due to the bran, it helps to add a little more. For bread, a rule of thumb is for every 100g of flour, increase the water by two teaspoons. This will go some way to avoiding a dry and tight loaf, the infamous ‘brick’! Try also adding a small splash of fruit juice to cake and muffin batter.
3. Use it fresh
Wholewheat flours have more of the natural oils that can spoil, so the shelf life is shorter. It’s best to use this flour as fresh as you can as it will have the sweetest, mildest flavour. Store it in an airtight container for up to six months in the fridge.
4. Substitute in portions
While you can substitute whole wheat flour for at least some of the white flour in just about everything you bake, some baked goods are more amenable to this swap than others.
When baking bread, substituting 100% of the flour for wholewheat flour, unless it is a recipe specifically for wholewheat, will lower the rise. This is because the whole wheat flour absorbs more liquid, producing a stiffer dough which, in turn, makes it harder to rise. So, opt for starting with a 25% substitution, working your way up to 50%, depending on your taste.
For biscuits, brownies and cookies, the transition is barely noticeable, especially if the texture is hidden by the additional ingredients such as oats, nuts or chocolate. You can substitute up to 50% and get away with it!
For cakes and muffins substitute up to 30% to keep the cake light and sweet. The greater percentage of whole wheat flour in your cake, the more crumbly it will be. The bran’s sharp edges cut the gluten network that gives the cake its structure, causing it to weaken and crumble.
5. Handle with care when making bread
The bran flakes and germ in whole wheat flour act like tiny little razor blades that shred gluten strands, inhibiting gluten development, resulting in a reduced rise. So, when folding and shaping your dough, you need to be especially gentle. Expect the dough to have more of a tendency to tear and shaping won’t be as tight and effective. Just accept that your shaping will be more loose. The same applies to folding – you won’t be able to stretch the dough as much, so folds should be loser.
6. Reduce fermentation time
A dough made with whole wheat flour will ferment faster than one made of white flour. The reason for this is the whole wheat flour contains more nutrients for the yeast to feed on than white flour. If you are not aware of this, it is easy to over ferment your dough. So look to shorten fermentation times; keep an eye on your dough and watch out for over-proofing.
7. Add something sweet
Adding a tablespoon or so of brown sugar/honey/orange juice to wholemeal goods can help balance out the nutty, rich flavour of the flour. With yeast-based recipes, it will also give the yeast a boost as it rises your loaf. Orange juice is naturally sweet and also acidic. The juice will compensate for the harder, bitter taste of the whole wheat flour, making it more palatable.
So if you want to add six times more fibre to your baking or need a nutritional boast, start experimenting with wholewheat flour. Why not try out these top 3 recipes for muffins, cookies and soda bread and see how delicious using wholemeal flour can be.Get your bag of our Awesome Wholemeal Flour from our shop now.