Whole Grains Explained

A guide to different types of grains and how to include them in your restaurant menu
Culinary World Oct 11, 2021
flour-blend

Whole grain flour has become increasingly popular in the last few years due to the rediscovery of its nutritional benefits. How can chefs choose the right grains and flours and make the most out of these products to implement new restaurant recipes?

In our latest episode of Choco CHEF LAB, our flour-blending-master Roe Sie from the baking supply shop The King’s Roost, in Silver Lake LA, brought us into a journey of discovery of the grains universe.

He introduced us to different types of grains like Sonora and Rouge de Bordeuax and spoke about the nutritional properties and health benefits of whole wheat flour while giving an outstanding demonstration of how to make his most beloved whole grain sourdough bread recipe.

Deepening knowledge around the different types of grains, their structural and nutritional properties, and the different usages in the kitchen allows chefs to customize their flour blends for different recipes. Are you ready to start grinding your own grains and add a personal touch to your bread, pastry, or pasta dishes?

Let’s get started with the science of whole grains.

What is whole grain flour?

Whole grain flour is made out of unprocessed whole grains, kernels, or seeds. Unlike refined flours, whole grain flours contain the germ (the fatty part of the grain, enclosing most of the flavors and nutrients) and the bran (the mineralised outer shell).

These two parts are usually taken off when producing flour for commercial baking purposes. The technology used for this process is called roller mill and was introduced in the 1880s to make it easier to preserve flour and obtain a less dense dough from it.

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On the other hand, products obtained from freshly milled whole grain flour are generally richer in healthy nutrients such as proteins, fibres, vitamins, antioxidants, and trace minerals. Working with whole grains also allows to explore new tastes, smells, and textures.

But of course, dealing with a less standardised kind of product requires more effort in searching for the right ingredients and mastering the technique behind different recipes. Here are some tips that can help you get started.

1. Choosing the right suppliers

There are several factors you should consider before purchasing grains for your restaurant kitchen including quality and price of the products, or the delivery options of your suppliers.

While our guide to choosing the right suppliers can help you select good products and keep your costs down, you should also look for local farmers and milling facilities to get to know which products your area is offering. By placing regular orders with your local farm you inevitably build a relationship whereby you can request them to grow a specific grain variety that fits your cooking or baking needs.

2. Choosing the right types of grains

You can choose to work with bulk grains or flours according to your kitchen capacities. Before purchasing ingredients in large quantities, you should run some tests to see which ones better suit your recipes - of course, your suppliers are always a good and trustworthy source to know how to get the most out of their ingredients. This is particularly important when working with seasonal grains that will be different from harvest to harvest and that cannot always ensure consistency in terms of outcomes.

What plays a big role in your culinary outcomes is the protein content of different grains. Although this is not a rule of thumbs, hard grains such as khorasan, durum, hard white or hard red wheat usually have a higher protein and gluten content, which makes them more suitable for bread, pasta, or pizza dough. Low-protein grains are usually soft grains, which include varieties like spelt or einkorn that are more commonly used to make pastries, cakes, pancakes.

You can choose to make your recipes entirely from whole grains or - as we often see in the baking community - mix some white flour to help lighten your loaf.

3. Exploring different varieties

Trying out different grain varieties gives you the possibility to discover new tastes and healthy options, and master your culinary skills. Some of the popular types of grains that became more popular in the last few years include ancient grains like millet, sorghum, rye, spelt, khorasan, teff, and oat, or pseudocereals like buckwheat, quinoa, amaranth, or chia.

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