A little over a year ago, we were needing to include more fiber in my then-four-year-old’s diet to help with potty training and constipation issues. We, of course, included more fruits and veggies, cut back on her dairy, and I started using whole wheat flour in recipes.
What I have learned is that whole wheat flour is not available in large bulk bags at Costco like white flour is because it will go rancid more quickly. In my research, many other bloggers who bake with whole wheat flour buy wheat berries in bulk and then use a grain mill to grind their own wheat flour. After doing more research into grain mills and their cost, I decided that for now just buying 5lb bags of store brand wheat flour will have to do. (There is a grain mill attachment for my beloved Kitchen Aid mixer, however after a couple of reviews that the mill burned up mixer motors, I decided I love and use my mixer too much to risk it). If you think it will take you longer than a week or so to go through a bag of whole wheat flour, just stick it in the freezer.
Wheat flour has more fiber, but is also more nutritious than plain, ol’ white flour. It it not only darker, but has a different texture and taste. The easiest way to start substituting whole wheat in for white flour is start with replacing 1/4 of the flour called for in a recipe with wheat flour. After a couple of trials, with your family’s approval, you can try replacing up to half the flour with whole wheat. For most recipes, this works just fine. There are exceptions: anything that should be light and flaky will probably require all white flour. Whole wheat works for pizza dough, but sometimes I like a crispier crust, like for thin crust, so I’ll stick to all white (I’ll have to remember to post pizza dough recipes, as we are weekly pizza makers). I have found I cannot do the whole wheat substitution for biscuits, they come out too chewy. I have not tried with pie crust, as I am sure it would be the same soft, chewy result, but it works for cookies and brownies just fine. Pancakes, muffins, rolls, bread, bagels and pitas are our favorites around here for using whole wheat flour.
One other tip for using whole wheat flour in yeast-risen baked goods (bread, rolls, pitas, bagels, etc.): use bread flour instead of plain white flour, or use plain white flour with 1 Tbsp of vital wheat gluten per cup of flour. For example, if a recipe called for 4 cups of flour and you are substituting whole wheat for half, you would use 2 cups whole wheat flour and 2 cups of white flour with 2 Tbsp of vital wheat gluten. My local grocery store, HEB, carries Hodgson Mill Vital What Gluten with Vitamin C in a 1.75oz box in the baking aisle for around $2 (the Vitamin C acts as a preservative and helps your bread keep longer). My closest natural foods store, Sprouts, has gluten in the bulk foods for $1-2 per pound, a much better price. Bread flour already has the extra gluten in it, and can be purchased in 5lb bags at grocery stores and 50lb bags at Costco, and would just be used instead of the white flour portion of the recipe. Using high protein gluten or bread flour in your recipe will help counteract the “heaviness” of the whole wheat flour, and makes for a lighter, fluffier baked yeast good.