Baking with Whole Grain Flour

Baking with whole grain flour

(photo: Jessica @forlornscape using Red Fife Wheat flour)

Gianforte Farm has been growing food grade certified organic grains for 18 years in the hills of Central New York.  In 2010, after years of hand milling our own grain to make pancakes, muffins and breads, we started to sell flour and grains direct to consumers.  As our milling business has grown, so has our understanding of the subtleties of baking with local grain.  Feedback from our customers (which includes restaurants) has been very helpful, as well as a workshop given by King Arthur Flour in Vermont.

Our customers choose to bake with local flour maybe because they believe in local food, want to know where there food is coming from, want to know their farmer or believe in supporting their local economy.  But the flip side of that choice is that local flour can be harder to work with and requires more attention from the baker and a willingness to approach each baking session ready to adjust to that day’s dough conditions in order to reach the desired final product.

We hope that the information below will help our customers use Gianforte Farm flour to create foods with the texture, taste and aesthetics that celebrate the rich, fresh flavor of our whole grain products. As you become more comfortable with baking with local flour, you will learn to make minor adjustments in moisture, yeast, rising time and the firmness of the dough.  Please continue to provide feedback – let us know your successes and challenges.


Background Information and Definitions

Anatomy of a grain kernel

The kernel of most grains consists of 3 different parts.  The outer layer is the bran of the kernel and is the source of dietary fiber in the grain.  The germ is the wheat embryo.  It contains polyunsaturated oil.  The endosperm is the bulk of the kernel whose role is to feed the seedling when it is sprouted.

Name of different types of flour

Commercial mills use a confusing mix of names for their different flours.  Some of these names also vary between mills and regions.  Below are descriptions of the flours offered by King Arthur:

     Unbleached All-Purpose White Flour:  Ground endosperm of hard wheat with bran and germ removed.

     Enriched Flour:  All-Purpose White with added riboflavin, niacin, thiamine, iron and folic acid

     Whole Wheat Flour:  Made from hard wheat.  ‘Traditional” uses red wheat and “White” uses white wheat.  Bran and germ included.

     White Flour:  Milled with a roller mill (not a grinding stone mill) with successive siftings to remove all but the finest endosperm grind

     Bread Flour:  Hard wheat flour with the bran and germ removed to enhance the rise, i.e. not ‘whole grain’

     Pastry Flour: Soft wheat flour.

     Whole Grain Flour:  Any flour made using the entire kernel, with nothing sifted out.  Grains used could be wheat, oat, rye, barley, rice, triticale, spelt.

Gianforte Farm Bread flour is a whole grain flour made from hard red spring wheat.   Gianforte Farm Pastry flour, when available, is made from soft white winter wheat with the bran removed. 


What’s the Difference between Commercial and Gianforte flours?

In addition to Gianforte Farm flour being whole grain, there are three other factors that make our flour different to work with than commercial flour:  Consistency,  protein and freshness.

1.  Consistency

Commercial flour is milled from grains from a large number of farms.  As each farm’s grain comes into the mill it is tested for moisture, protein and falling number and it is blended with grain from other farms to create a consistent product from batch to batchthroughout the year.

All of Gianforte Farm flour is grown, cleaned and milled on our farm.  Different environmental conditions during planting, the growing season andharvest will result in differences in the same type of grain from year to year.  Moisture conditions at the time of cleaning and milling will also result in very slight variations between each batch of flour that we mill from the same grain.

2.  Protein

The percentage of protein in wheat flour directly correlates with the amount of gluten available to help the dough rise or add structure.  Grain from the Midwest is typically higher protein than grain grown in New York and the Appalachian region.  As the amount of protein decreases, the baker should also decrease the amount of liquid used in the recipe.  Percent protein in commercial flours compared with that in Gianforte Farm flours is:

                                                                               Commercial Flour             Gianforte Flour (2012-15)

            All-Purpose Flour                                          10.5 – 11.7% 

            Bread Flour(not whole grain)                 11.7 – 12.7% 

            Whole Wheat Flour(whole grain)           13.0 - 14.2%                     11.3–12.4%  Bread Flour

                                                                                                                              11.6–13.2%  Red Fife Flour


3.  Freshness

Commercial all-purpose flour is said to develop its best flavor several weeks after milling as the flour matures.  But whole grain flour is different.   Remember that whole grain flour includes the bran, germ, and endosperm.   Fresh whole grain flour has a unique fresh taste.  As soon as the grain is milled, the oil in the germ starts to oxidize.  This oxidation slowly adds bitterness to the flour although it does not affect the flour’s performance or make the flour unsafe.  To maintain its fresh taste, whole grain flour should be stored immediately in a refrigerator or freezer in a closed plastic bag or air-tight container.  When getting ready to bake, take the amount you will need and bring it to room temperature in another plastic bag to reduce condensation forming on the flour.   We recommend that consumers buy smaller amounts of flour more frequently to maintain the special fresh taste of their whole grain flours.

Working with Gianforte Bread Flour

Our bread flour is made from the whole grain of hard red spring wheat.   We also mill a heritage wheat originally from Saskatchewan to make our Red Fife flour.  While pastry flour gives tenderness, bread flour gives ‘chew’.  It is typically used for leavened breads but can also be used for yeasted pastries and for pie crusts.

When working with whole grain flours to make bread, a long fermentation time aids in the development of the gluten that helps the bread rise and gives it structure.  We strongly recommend use of a recipe that includes a pre-ferment.  These are made of flour, water and either yeast or sourdough and have a wide variety of names (i.e. biga, levain, poolish, starter) based on the details of the mix and the country of origin of the recipe.   About 35% of your total flour should be in the pre-ferment.  Pre-fermentation is also said to increase the flavor of the dough.  Some customers report excellent results using an overnight pre-ferment and then using a minimum rise time the next morning.

King Arthur Flour uses dough temperature as another factor in making bread important in getting a consistent rise.  A baker’s desired dough temperature (DDT) for wheat breads is 75-78 degrees Fahrenheit at the end of mix time.  A higher temperature negatively affects flavor development; a lower temperature affects the gluten development and rise of the bread.

Variables in determining DDT are:  1) Room temperature, 2) flour temperature, 3) friction of mixing the dough 4) water temperature and, if applicable, 5) pre-ferment temperature.  Each of these 5 variables is given a number which, when added, should sum 228 for a straight dough or 300 for a dough which uses a pre-ferment.

For example, you are making bread using a pre-ferment.  Your room is 70, flour is 70, friction is 25(use this as a standard) and pre-ferment is 65.  These add to 230.  The difference (300-230) of 70 is the required temperature of the water to be added to the dough to reach the DDT.  This calculation helps us to learn to be more mindful of our baking process and all the factors that contribute to our baking success.

The added fat from the germ in whole grain can cause baked goods to brown more quickly in the oven.  If a lighter-colored bread is desired, place foil loosely over the bread during the final half of the cooking time.

Sprouted Wheat

Wheat kernels (aka wheat ‘berries’) can be sprouted to be added to salads, baked goods and a wide variety of other dishes.  When a wheat kernel sprouts, its nutrient level increases and its taste sweetens.  Wheat kernels can keep for up to one year in a cool, dark, breathable container.

To sprout:

Place ½ cup wheat kernels in a 1 qt Mason jar, add 2 cups of cool water and shake.  Soak kernels for 12 hours.  Then, for the next day and a half, every 12 hours drain the wheat kernels, rinse thoroughly in cool water, and drain again until damp.  Place the jar on its side out of direct sunlight with the kernels spread out inside it.  The cap should be loose or use cheesecloth to secure the top.  When the sprouts have grown about 1/2 inch long, they are ready to use.  Pat them dry and store them in a covered container in the refrigerator for up to 2 days.  Use sprouts in salads, sandwiches, stir-fry, breads, or just as a straight snack.


Good luck with your baking.  We look forward to hearing your stories.  Contact us anytime at   More product information is on our website at

We highly recommend King Arthur Flour's cookbook:  Whole Grain Baking: Delicious Recipes Using Nutritious Whole Grains.  Available through their website: