Six (6) Types of Wheat Grains
Wheat is the most widely grown crop all over the world. Although its product like wheat flour is popularly known as an ingredient in baking, there is more to wheat than just these pastries and other western products.
Wheat is among the top three most popular grains along with rice and corn and in today’s post, I am sharing with you the types of wheat grains and their culinary uses. Just keep reading.
All About Wheat
Wheat is a kind of grass whose fruit is a “head of wheat” with edible seeds. Wheat’s most common product is wheat flour which is chiefly used to make bread, cakes, and pastries. Wheat is also used to produce beer. The most common type of wheat is durum wheat which is popular as being used to make semolina flour which yields couscous.
Attributes and Brief History
Wheat is a member of the grass family Poaceae or Gramineae and is a true cereal. Wheat is considered a refined grain and is said to have originated in the “cradle of civilization” in the Tigris and Euphrates river valleys, near what is now Iraq.
Wheat, as a plant, is a bunch of grass with upright tillers. The leaves are rolled in the whorl. It has a long and slender inflorescence and a somewhat flattened spike. As a cereal grain, it comes in different colors such as white, red-brown, or yellow. Wheat tastes nutty and sometimes has a gummy texture.
Types of Wheat and What They Are Used For
- Hard Red Winter
Winter wheat is a type of wheat that is planted in the fall and harvested in the early summer. Hard Red Winter (HRW) grows in the fall and is ready for harvest the following spring. This wheat type makes up about two-thirds of the wheat produced in the U.S. and is 95% of the wheat grown in Kansas.
Because it is high in protein and strong gluten, HRW is most suitable for yeast bread and rolls and some would use this to make flatbreads, tortillas, cereal, all-purpose flour and Asian-style noodles. Full-flavored hard red winter wheat is the primary grain used for whole grain and whole wheat blends.
- Hard White
Hard white wheat, which is grown in a much smaller case than the other types, is a type of wheat that is lighter in kernel color and with a sweeter, more subtle flavor than hard red wheat. It is typically milled whole, preserving its moderate protein and nutrient content.
Due to its naturally milder, sweeter flavor, hard white wheat is commonly used for whole-wheat white flour and in making pan bread, tortillas, flatbreads and Asian-style noodles like ramen.
- Hard Red Spring
Hard Red spring wheat cultivars are normally planted in the spring and harvested in the fall throughout the northern reaches of the U.S. and Canada. This type of wheat is planted in early spring, rather than the fall, and does not go dormant over the winter. Hard Red Spring wheat is also appreciated as a great enhancer in flour blends.
Can be considered as the “aesthetic wheat”, hard red spring is best for “designer” wheat foods such as croissants, rolls, hearth bread and bagels. Its high gluten content also makes this wheat ideal to use in tensile pastries like croissants and doughs that rely on a texture with some elasticity, like pizza dough.
- Soft Red Winter
Soft Red Winter wheat is mostly found east of the Mississippi River. This is often planted as a double crop with soybeans by farmers east of the Mississippi River. Red winter wheat is best for making baked goods like cookies, crackers, and cakes because it is easier to mill and produces a finer, more “soft” feel.
Low protein and weaker gluten are characteristics of soft wheat. Because of this, Soft Red Winter wheat is perfect for pretzels, pretzel sticks, cookies, crackers, and pastries.
- Soft White
This wheat type is primarily grown in the Pacific Northwest — both winter and spring varieties. Soft White wheat has low moisture, but high extraction rates and is the go-to grain for all of the crumbly, meltaway pastries, yeast bread, and snack foods.
Soft White wheat is ideal for delectable cakes, pastries, Asian-style noodles, and Middle Eastern flatbreads because of its low moisture but high extraction rates characteristic. Most cake and pastry flours are also composed of soft white wheat.
Durum wheat is also known as “pasta wheat” as it is the main ingredient to produce pasta, bread, bulgur, couscous and noodles because of its high content of protein and because it is the hardest type of wheat among the rest. Durum wheat is very hard, which facilitates a high yield of semolina.
This is mainly produced in two areas of the United States: the northern plains, which grow hard amber durum, and the desert southwest (Arizona, California) grows Desert Durum® under irrigation.
Durum wheat semolina is what milled durum wheat yields when broken into fairly uniform fragments and coarsely ground to produce a good paste texture. With a rich amber color and high gluten content, durum wheat is used primarily for pasta, couscous and some Mediterranean bread. Bulgur, which is a popular cereal, is also made from the cracked and parboiled wheat berries of durum wheat and is a staple cereal grain in Levantine dishes like tabbouleh and kibbeh.
Health Benefits of Wheat
Wheat contains a good quantity of carbs and has no cholesterol. It is also a good source of fiber—per 100g of wheat contains 12.7grams of dietary fiber. Wheat contains phytochemicals that act as antioxidants that help protect our bodies from free radical damage.
The versatility of wheat is way more than anyone can write about. From wheat flour to pastries, pasta and making pseudo cereals, there’s no wonder why wheat is the most grown and used crop all over the world. There are still more culinary uses and health benefits that wheat can bring to us. More than the carbs and calories which are our sources of energy, wheat is also rich in protein, antioxidants and fiber which helps improve our digestive health.