Ever since the "whole grain" movement started a few years ago, you've undoubtedly seen claims on loaves of bread as being made from "white whole wheat." If you're like me, you've questioned how one goes about making white flour from whole grains as the outside portion (i.e. the "healthy parts) of the wheat grain is nearly always brown. I wondered, do they have some chemical bleaching process that's probably not good for you? Is this really just some marketing scam to keep you buying Wonder Bread?
First of all, the US Government won't let you label a flour "whole grain" unless you've ground the flour from the entire kernel--the endosperm, germ, and bran. For a visual, see this Wikipedia article. Regular white flour comes from only the white endosperm part of the kernel. The bran and germ are discarded (or sold separately).
So how do they do it?
First of all, they use a wheat variety that's lighter and color and has a milder flavor to begin with. They then plant it for harvest in the spring, when it won't be quite as hard as "red winter wheat" (the gold standard for most bread flours and pasta). The result is a flour that can be ground whole and that will be a slightly off-white color when finished. Lighter color flour = lighter color bread.
Being very curious and having satisfied myself that it was indeed unbleached whole wheat flour, I finally picked up a bag of King Arthur Flour's version about two weeks ago. I've been slowly using it in my pizza and bread doughs as I would regular whole wheat flour (i.e. mixed 30% to 50% with plain white flour) and I have to say I'm quite impressed. In fact, it behaves much more like white flour than classic whole wheat does in that it doesn't dry things out and produces a decent gluten structure.
I'm thinking I may bite the bullet soon and try it in a dessert like cookies or cake just to see how it turns out. In the mean time, if you're looking for ways to get more whole grains into your diet and you like to bake, I highly recommend that you pick up a package and start experimenting.
The photo was "borrowed" quite shamelessly from KAF's website. Hopefully, they're happy that I'm promoting their wonderful products and won't get too upset. :-)