Do you ever wonder why flour is refined? I used to think it was to make it smoother or to remove impurities.
That is not the case.
The reason flour is refined is a lot more sinister than you might think.
1. To Add Durability To The Wheat Grain
The flour is refined to make it finer and to remove any impurities.
This makes it easier to work with and makes the bread taste better.
In addition, flour can be enriched with nutrients such as vitamins and minerals to make it more nutritious.
Enrichment is important because wheat is a type of grass that is grown specifically for its seeds, which are used to make flour.
The seed of the wheat plant is rich in nutrients, but these nutrients are lost during the milling process.
Enrichment helps to replace some of these nutrients.
In the United States, flour is enriched with vitamins B1, B2, and niacin, as well as iron and folate.
Other countries may have different enrichment standards.
The milling process is also important because it helps to break down the gluten proteins in the wheat, which makes it easier to digest.
2. To Remove Germs And Bran From Wheat
The main reason for wheat flour refinement is to remove germs and bran from wheat grains.
Wheat germs are the reproductive parts of the wheat plant.
They contain nutrients, such as proteins, vitamins, minerals, and dietary fiber.
Bran is the outer layer of the wheat grain, and it is rich in fiber, minerals, and other nutrients.
Wheat germs and bran are removed from wheat flour during the refining process because they contain nutrients that are not wanted in white flour.
These nutrients may impart a bitter flavor to the flour, or they may make the flour spoil more quickly.
In addition, wheat germs and bran may also contain bacteria or other contaminants that can cause illness if consumed in large quantities.
Wheat flour refinement is a process that has been practiced for many years because it improves the flavor and shelf life of flour.
3. To Mill Flour Quickly
The flour milling process has evolved from Gravel being ground between two large stone wheels (although this process does still occur in a few mills).
In a roller mill the practice centres around separating the white endosperm from the Gravel seed – white flour from brown flour.
The white flour is then filtered to remove any large particles.
In the United Kingdom, this is done by passing the flour through a fine mesh strainer called a “bolter”.
In the United States, it is done by passing the flour through a device called a “screen” which is slightly coarser.
In the United Kingdom, wheat is tested for quality by grading it into one of four categories.
The highest quality wheat is “first class”; the next highest is “second class”; the next highest is “third class”; and the lowest is “fourth class”.
Wheat that does not fall into one of these four categories is graded as “unclassified”.
4. To Have A Longer Shelf Life
The reason flour is refined is to make it easier for manufacturers to produce products that have a longer shelf life and are more convenient for consumers to use.
Refining flour also helps to reduce the risk of contamination and foodborne illness.
Wheat flour that has not been refined can go rancid quickly, which means it will be oxidized and turn into a darker color.
This can lead to a change in flavor and texture, as well as an increase in the amount of time it takes for the product to be shelf-stable.
Refinement helps prevent this from happening by removing the germ and bran from the wheat kernel, which contain most of the natural oils in wheat.
In addition, wheat flour that has not been refined may have a coarse texture.
Refining the flour makes it smoother and easier to work with, which can be important for manufacturers who want to make products that have a finer texture.
5. To Create A Fine Flour Texture
The texture of flour is an important aspect of its quality and usefulness.
As a general rule, flour with a fine texture is preferable to flour with a coarse texture.
This is because fine flour is easier to work with and produces a more delicate and smooth product.
Flour is refined to make it more fine.
This is done by passing it through a series of sieves and rollers, which break up the large particles of flour and remove the bran and germ.
The resulting product is a fine, white flour that is more suitable for baking and other culinary purposes.
However, there are also some drawbacks to refining flour.
One is that it removes the nutritious bran and germ from the wheat, leaving only the endosperm.
This means that refined flour is not as nutritious as whole wheat flour, which contains all of the nutrients found in the wheat berry.
Another drawback is that refined flour has a higher glycemic index than whole wheat flour, which means that it is less healthy for diabetics and others who need to monitor their blood sugar levels.
The Bottom Line
Refined flour is what happens when you take natural flour and remove all the bad stuff that makes it nutritious.
So what is flour made of after it’s been refined? The grain processing industry has gotten pretty good at making sure that “enriched” flour is made from wheat, so that’s what you’re mostly getting, along with some additives to bleach it, so it looks like natural flour.