Published: 04/29/2015 - Updated: 04/08/2016
Converting grains into flour has forever changed the human diet. Crushing carbohydrates to turn them into thousands of different forms, and preserving them so we no longer depend solely on foods within the season, has provide a huge step towards progression for civilized man. Just think about how many meals throughout the day include grains, and how many of these recipes include flour. Flour is found primarily flat breads (crackers, tortillas, pita bread, etc.), or leavened breads (pastries, doughnuts, baguettes, etc.), pastas, and as a thickener in foods. Flour is the intermediate step between converting something from inedible to edible. It would be hard to imagine having to eat hard, dry wheat and barley grains, rather than the soft loaf of bread or a crunch piece of toast. It almost seems like magic, and it can also be one of the greatest culinary treats around.
Undoubtedly, the most famous of all flours comes from wheat, because it contains properties that no other flour possesses: it is soft and naturally flexible when rolled into a dough. This property comes from its glycoproteins. Glycoproteins are a complex mixture of proteins that, when mixed with water, provide elasticity and plasticity. This is why we are able to braid it, to make donuts, or to roll out pizza dough without it tearing. The gluten contained in the flour determines its ideal use, which is generally referred to as its strength, providing a total of three strengths: weak, with 8-9% protein, also known as pastry dough which requires a little bit of kneading. This flour is commonly used in cookies or muffins. Medium, with 10-12% protein which requires kneading. Used for different types of table breads like rolls, baguettes, or make pizza. And lastly, there’s strong dough, which has up to 13% protein and takes a lot of kneading to develop elasticity. This is generally used in Panettone. It also requires more fat and sugar for preparation during the kneading process. Fat weakens gluten, thereby preventing a hard dough that is difficult to mold.
In addition to the different types of wheat flour strengths, we also need to consider the different types of what, including Triticum aestivum and Triticum durum. These are the most common species around, which provide the majority of the varieties most commonly consumed around the world. As is my country’s case, and in several parts of America, T. durum is most commonly consumed. The truth is, the majority of mixed flour purchased in the supermarkets could have different strengths. That is why a pastry recipe could or could not be prepared at a latitude different from that which would be ideal for the recipe, depending on the mixtures and varieties or wheat species present in the region. These results could then turn out successfully with common flour.
Wheat flour is not only very interesting and economically important, it is also highly nutritive. It has been supporting entire civilizations for centuries, especially in Europe, where at times the only food to be found was wheat bread or other grains. According the Roman legend, not only did they march with their weapons, but they took their portion of wheat so as to prepare their on bread on the journey. Just 100 grams of wheat contains 339 calories, and 3% of the fat our bodies need to consume it daily. It is rich in minerals, like iron, of which it contains up to 22% of our daily need in just 100 grams. It contains 34% magnesium, 35% phosphorus, and more. And that doesn’t even touch on the vitamins that could be a good source of folic acid, which is necessary to develop a good nervous system and brain for baby humans during pregnancy. Just 100 grams will provide11% of your daily needs, and the niacin contained therein will reduce cholesterol levels and will reduce the risk of cardiac disorders. Consuming 100 grams of wheat flour will provide for 32% of your daily needs
In summary, wheat flour is a rich and interesting foods that is worth continuing to explore. It has accompanied man’s diet for millennia, being a very complete dietary source which has provoked the creating of several great things. Of course, wheat should only be in your system if you don’t suffer from some sort of allergy or protein intolerance (if this is your case, there are also other interesting flours that would be good to explore) and a bit of olive oil or a nice cracker to make you smile while it’s crunching in your mouth.