Thursday, March 3, 2011

First Use of Soft White Wheat - Room for Improvement

I have only ever used Hard White Wheat, which is supposed to be great for breads, because of it's higher protein levels that are useful in developing the gluten.  Soft wheat has a lower protein level, so is better for cakes, cookies, quick breads, etc.  I finally decided to try it and see if it might work for things like biscuits and pie crust...Things we didn't like when made of whole (hard) wheat.                                                                                                                             
I was a little aghast when I opened the bag of soft wheat and readily noticed pieces of stalk and little pebbles mixed in.  I emailed the friend with whom I'd discussed the merits of soft wheat and asked her if this was normal.  She said that occasionally she'd seen such things in wheat, but not as a rule.  I didn't make the time to use the wheat for awhile, so just put it away and didn't think much about it.                                                                                                                               
Electric Wondermill Whisper Mill the Worlds Best Grain MachineThis past weekend we had a guest overnight, so I decided to make a breakfast of biscuits and eggs for everyone, trying out the soft wheat.  I knew I'd have to sort through, since any of these foreign objects might ruin my beloved ($260) WhisperMill.  I sorted and I least 3 times through, to make sure I hadn't missed anything.

You can see in the photo what I found.  It amounted to approximately 1 Tablespoon in the 8 cups of grain...a little less than 1%.  That may not sound like much, but since one little pebble could wreck any of my mills, it doesn't take much to be a lot.                                                                                    

I took photos and sent them to my friend and also posted on the Gardenweb Cooking Forum, asking if this was normal or acceptable.  The answers were unanimous...NO!  Everyone said it showed a lack of adequate cleaning.  One woman said she'd be afraid to use the wheat at all, as it shouldn't be considered 'food grade' with that low level of cleaning.                                                                                                  
The place from which I bought it said they shoot for a debris level of less than 1/10th of 1%, so what I got wasn't necessarily common, but because it's tough to remove objects that are the same size as the wheat berries,  'it happens.'  (He also said they don't test for protein levels in their wheat, and that they knew of no such standards for wheat. Well, King Arthur Flour and Wheat Montana sure have them.)  Since everyone else I got answers from expressed such outrage, and said they'd rarely seen debris at all in the large bags of wheat they ordered, I think I'll play it safe and return to my old source...Central Market, who can order bags from me from Wheat Montana,  a company who puts out highly regarded product.
The other 'room for improvement' was in my use of the resulting flour.  More on that tomorrow.
Late update:  I got a follow-up email from the customer service rep at Azure Standard, from whom I'd ordered the problem wheat.  He checked with someone else more 'in the know' and amended his previous statements.  They DO test for protein levels and do NOT have such a casual attitude about the amount of debris in the wheat.  Apparently a few bags of a batch they refused a few months ago were accidentally sent out and this may be one of those.  Unfortunately, I have long since discarded the bag, which had the lot number on it.  Anyway, it sounds like I still may be able to order from them with some confidence that I won't have these same problems again.  I sent the debris photo and will see what they say from here.


  1. You're right - 1 tbsp seems like an awful lot of debris. It's good that they sent that follow-up e-mail, but I don't know that I could try them again.

    You know I don't use wheat flour, but I love reading about the science of baking. Can't wait to see your post on the soft white wheat baked goods.

  2. I'm really not sure I could try them again either, when I know I can trust the Montana Wheat and have that option. And I haven't heard back from them since that 2nd email. I hope they learned something about what they're sending out, and I hope they learned something about having customer service reps answer questions when they really don't know what they're saying!!


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