As you might have noticed, here at Bob’s Red Mill we have a huge selection of different types of grains and flours to choose from. One of the questions that we are asked most often here in the bakery is the difference between two specific kinds: hard red wheat and hard white wheat. We thought we’d take a minute to give you some information to help you pick out the flour that is best for your baking needs.
What is the difference between hard red wheat and hard white wheat?
The terms “red” and “white” are used to identify the color of the kernel. Hard Red Wheat has a reddish hue to the bran (exterior layer) of the kernel. In comparison, Hard White Wheat has a sandy-beige color to its bran. Though the kernels differ in color, the flour that is milled from these kernels is relatively indistinguishable in color.
Hard Red Wheat has a high protein content while Hard White Wheat has a moderate protein content.
Though both hard red wheat and hard white wheat belong to the same wheat species, they are classified differently because of their color and protein content.
Should I use hard red wheat or hard white wheat in my baking?
Red wheat has a slightly higher amount of protein which makes it better for more rustic, artisan, and generally harder bread loaves. In contrast, hard white wheat’s more moderate level of protein makes for softer loaves such as your typical pan loaves and dinner rolls. In the bakery, we use hard white wheat to create a single-twisted sliced pan loaf that is very soft in texture.
Is there a flavor difference between hard red wheat and hard white wheat?
Yes, there is a flavor difference between hard red and hard white wheat. It's thought that the same genes that give Hard Red Wheat its darker bran also contribute to its nuttier (sometimes experienced as bitter) flavor. The lighter colored bran of Hard White Wheat is thought to coincide with a sweeter and milder taste.
Of course, the best way to discover which flour is the one that you prefer is to test both out for yourself. Here is the recipe that our Quality Control Laboratory uses to test all our batches of flour for consistent quality. If you try this experiment at home, you will find that just the difference in flours makes for vastly different types of loaves of bread. Our Lab uses a machine that makes consistent 1.5 lb loaves.
Test Loaf Recipe
for a 1.5 lb loaf
1 ½ cups plus 2 Tbsp Warm Water (above 80 degrees Fahrenheit)
3 Tbsp Canola Oil
3 ¾ cups Flour (Hard Red, Hard White, or Unbleached White All Purpose)
2 Tbsp of Sugar
1 ½ tsp Salt
1 tsp Active Dry Yeast
Add the ingredients to your machine in the order listed above. Start the machine according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
Be sure to share the results of your experiments with friends and family!