Wheat forms a part of the staple diet for most cultures across the globe. A type of grass, wheat is processed and consumed in various forms making it the most widely cultivated cereal grain in the world. For centuries, people have consumed wheat with little to no adverse effects on their health and well-being. In fact, contrary to the current trend, wheat was once considered to be a wondrous super-food that provides the body with many essentials vitamins and nutrients.
The most commonly cultivated strain of wheat is Tritium Aestivum. Other popular closely related species include durum, spelt, emmer and einkorn. Wheat is best adapted to temperate regions and can be broadly divided into two types based on it’s growing season: Winter Crop (sown in fall) and Spring Crop (sown in spring). Winter varieties generally produce a better crop (high gluten and starch content) but have more stringent climate requirements. India is one of the largest exporters of Aestivum and Emmer.
Roller Mills & Stone Ground Flour
The wheat berry (seed) contains an outer husk / bran, endosperm and wheat germ. The process of milling is applied to these seeds to convert them into flour. In roller mills the seeds are passed through a series of steel rollers that separate the husk and germ from the endosperm leaving you with 70% white flour. In stone ground milling, the entire berry is ground along with the husk. Both methods produce varying amounts of heat which affect the gluten and starch content of the flour. In India we stone grind most flours into a very fine powder that is ideal for Rotis (flatbread).
Wheat flour can be broadly divided into three categories with relation to its composition; Whole Grain / Wholemeal (bran, wheat germ, endosperm), Brown (70% endosperm, 30% mix of bran and germ) and White / Refined Flour (only endosperm). Most of the nutrients found in wheat are present in the bran (fibre, enzymes, antioxidants) and germ (essential fats, vitamin E & B, minerals). Due to this flour containing them tend to have a shorter shelf life but higher nutrient value.
The endosperm of the wheat berry is made up of carbohydrates (starch) and protein (gluten). Gluten, when worked and developed into strands, gives bread, and other baked products, a light, airy texture. Bran and germ have a counter effect of the development of these glutenous strands, i.e., they cut into the networks thereby reducing the air pockets and making the end product very dense. It is for this reason that bread made with whole wheat flour tastes heavy and chewy. The removal of gluten in no way adds to the nutritive value of the end-product.