Wheat (Triticum aestivum) is one of the oldest crops in the world, dating back approximately 10,000 years. It is the most widely used cereal in the world, in terms of production and nutritional value.2
Romans perfected the milling of wheat, but improvements in quality were still necessary. In the 19th century, Edmund La Croix improved the process using a purifier.2 Today, the most important wheat growers are the United States, Canada, China, India, France and Russia.1,2
In baked goods, unbleached flour has several functions:1
- Provides structure: flour acts as toughener and structure building agent in baked goods, due to its gluten and starch content.
- Absorbs liquids: aids in the binding of the ingredients by absorbing moisture.
- Flavor: provides a mild, slightly nutty flavor.
- Color: provides a creamy color. It also provides sugars and proteins for Maillard browning reaction.
- Nutritional value: contains carbohydrates as well as several vitamins and minerals.
Typical nutritional value of a commercial unbleached all purpose wheat flour per 100 g:3
Unbleached flour provides around 340 kcal. Due to its gluten component, it is not recommended for consumption by people with celiac disease.1,3
Wheat is low in lysine, an essential amino acid. It has a high glycemic index of around 70, and thus its consumption should be restricted for people with diabetes.1,3
Unbleached wheat flour can commercially produced through the following process:2
- Cleaning and conditioning: impurities (weeds, seeds, chaff and others) are removed with blasts of air. Then, metals are removed with a magnetic separator.
- Tempering: wheat is left in open bins to toughen the bran for removal.
- Warming: wheat is warmed to obtain a uniform batch temperature.
- Crushing: wheat kernels are cracked with several rollers.
- Screening: the grain passes through several sieves to increase fineness, and remove bran and germ.
- Particle size reduction: coarse particles are ground with roller millers, and sifted several times until the desired particle size is obtained.
Unbleached wheat flour can be used in several baked goods with functional consequences such as:
- Mild off-white color, due to the presence of carotenoids.
- Sticky dough that doesn’t handle very well.
- Lower loaf volume, and in consequence a denser product than its bleach counterpart.
- Denser crumb with an undesirable creamy color.
Unbleached flour is recommended for baked goods that require structure maintenance like puff pastries and yeast leavened products.
Unbleached and bleached wheat flour can be used interchangeably without extreme changes in product quality.
Unbleached wheat flour is considered safe by the FDA when following good manufacturing practices.4
In the EU, unbleached wheat flour is also considered safe. The EU Commission only regulates potential health hazards (microorganisms), flour additives and the use of enzymes.5
- Figoni, P. How Baking Works: Exploring The Fundamentals Of Baking Science. 2nd ed., John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 2008.
- BC Cook Articulation Committee. “Understanding Ingredients for the Canadian Baker”. 2018.
- U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service. FoodData Central, 01 April 2020. https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/789951/nutrients . Accessed 15 November 2020.
- Food and Drug Administration (FDA). US Department of Health and Human Services. CFR Code of Federal Regulations Title 21, Part 137 Cereal Flours and Related Products ,https://www.accessdata.fda.gov/scripts/cdrh/cfdocs/cfcfr/CFRSearch.cfm?fr=137.105 , Accessed 15 November 2020.
- European Commission (EC).Commission Regulation (EC) No 2073/2005 of 15 November 2005 on microbiological criteria for foodstuffs. Official Journal of European Communities, 15 November 2005.