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Whole Wheat Flour

By Cook's Illustrated Published March 2006

While baking loaf upon loaf of Multigrain Bread (see related recipe), we wondered how much the brand of whole wheat flour mattered. To find out, we brought eight into the test kitchen to see how they baked up in bread and biscuits.

All eight of the flours delivered decent baked goods: Grind coarseness, not brand, turned out to be key—and the coarser the better. Our favorites were the graham flours, named for 19th-century health guru Dr. Sylvester Graham (of graham crackers fame). The coarsest flours sold in most supermarkets, graham flours packed the wheatiest punch. Stone-ground flours aren't quite as coarse, but they're less refined than flours ground with steel rollers (the standard grinding method) and scored nearly as well.

Third down on the grinding continuum are traditional whole wheat flours (which, like clockwork, we rated third-best). The more extensive grinding that traditional whole wheat flours undergo yields a smaller particle size, which means that more of the fat in the wheat kernel gets exposed to the air. That, in turn, results in more oxidation, which can contribute a slightly rancid flavor to finished baked goods. (Some tasters registered this oxidation as complexity; others detected "faint off-notes.")

Finally, there's white whole wheat flour. Ground from white wheat berries, this flour looks more yellow than bronze and has a milder flavor profile than regular whole wheat flours (made from red wheat). Some tasters found the resulting baked goods to be one-dimensionally sweet. While we wouldn't go so far as to recommend against this style of whole wheat flour, in the test kitchen, at least, we'll stick to the more flavorful, coarser varieties.

WHEATY PUNCH

Whole Wheat Graham Flour

TOO MILD?

White Whole Wheat Flour