I began baking as a young adult in Germany where whole grain traditions go back centuries. But it was only after moving to the US years ago that I stumbled upon white whole wheat flour in a health food store. Ever so slightly nutty-sweet, with just a hint of texture, it soon became my go-to flour.
White and whole wheat? Isn’t this a contradiction? Not at all. White whole wheat is a true whole grain, but milled from a different wheat variety that’s lighter in color than regular whole wheat flour—hence the term white.
While white whole wheat is not as fluffy as all-purpose flour, it has a lot going for it. Because it doesn’t have the bitter tannins found in the bran of regular whole wheat, cookies, muffins, and scones made with white whole wheat flour reveal an appealing, mild natural sweetness. They also emerge from the oven with a beautiful golden color—rather than the darker brown hues you might know from using regular whole wheat flour.
This means you get delicious baked goods, with the benefits of 100% whole grain flour—fiber and protein plus minerals and vitamins such as iron, potassium, and magnesium. (Who doesn’t want a bit more of a good thing when enjoying cookies and cakes, crackers and bread?)
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Thankfully, white whole wheat flour has become much easier to find across the country in the past decade or so. Both King Arthur Flour and Bob’s Red Mill have it in their line-up. About two years ago, Bob’s renamed theirs “ivory wheat” to make it clear that it is not another white flour.
An easy way to start incorporating white whole wheat flour into your baking is to replace up to half of the all-purpose flour in your favorite recipes (ideally by weight, using a scale). It works especially well in simple stir-together breakfast goods where hungry eaters likely won’t notice a thing—from muffins and quick breads, to pancakes and waffles.
Maple Oat Breakfast Bread
If you want to go all the way and use only white whole wheat flour in a recipe, you need to make a few adjustments. One, add a bit more liquid to avoid too dense a crumb (King Arthur Flour suggests 2 teaspoons liquid per cup of flour). And two, let the dough rest after mixing for 20 minutes or so—allowing the bran to absorb the extra liquid to avoid grittiness. This is the time to clean up the clutter and bowls on the counter while your oven preheats. Then sit back and wait for golden treats with just a tad more texture and sweet flavor to delight in.
Maria Speck is the author of Simply Ancient Grains and Ancient Grains for Modern Meals (both by Ten Speed Press). Her work has received multiple awards, including a Julia Child and an M.F.K. Fisher cookbook award. Raised in Germany and Greece, Maria is a veteran journalist and food writer with a lifelong passion for whole grains.