After eons of farmers and then scientists isolating and encouraging the genetic development of more “user friendly” characteristics, there are over 30,000 varieties of wheat today, each with its own merits. Most simply, we can classify current wheat varieties as some combination of each of the following: hard or soft, red or white, winter or spring.
- Hard wheat
has a higher protein content than soft wheat and thus produces more gluten, the elastic component of a dough that can capture and hold carbon dioxide (CO2). Therefore, hard wheat is critical for yeast-leavened baked goods, but is also appropriate for a wide range of baking.Hard winter wheat
is planted in the fall, mainly in Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, and other prairie states. It grows until it’s about five inches tall, and then with the onset of winter and cold weather, it becomes dormant under snow cover, and continues growing the following spring. It’s harvested in late spring and early summer. The protein content of hard winter wheat ranges between 10–12%.Hard spring wheat
grows predominantly in the Dakotas, Minnesota, and Montana, as well as in Canada, where the climate is more severe. It’s planted in the spring and harvested in late summer and early fall. Generally, the farther north you go, the more spring wheat you’ll find and the greater the levels of protein—generally 12–14%.Soft wheat
has a larger percentage of carbohydrates and thus less gluten-forming protein. Soft wheat can be red or white, and is almost always winter wheat. Soft winter wheat is grown primarily east of the Mississippi, from Missouri and Illinois east to Virginia and the Carolinas in the South and New York in the North. There are also important crops of soft white wheat in the Pacific Northwest. Soft wheat is used to make cake and pastry flour.
the color of wheat
The color of wheat relates to pigments found primarily in the bran. Both hard and soft wheat can be either red or white. White wheat varieties simply lack the pigment that gives red wheat its dark color.
- Hard red winter wheat
has ample protein content to yield the necessary amounts of gluten, the elastic component of a dough that can capture and hold carbon dioxide (the gas produced by yeast that raises your dough) for most yeast bread baking, yet is mellow enough to use in other baked goods including muffins and scones. Planted in the fall in the prairie states, hard red winter wheat lies dormant under snow cover during the winter and continues growing until harvest in late spring. It gets its red color from pigmentation in the bran layer of the wheat berry.Hard white spring wheat
has a high protein content and thus is good at producing gluten, the elastic component of a dough that can capture and hold carbon dioxide (the gas produced by yeast that raises your dough). Unlike red wheat, white wheat lacks some of the pigmentation in the bran layer of the wheat berry; since that pigment carries an astringent flavor, white wheat is lighter in both color and flavor. It’s planted in spring and harvested in late fall/early winter.Hard red spring wheat
- is typically higher in protein content than hard red winter wheat and thus is very good at producing gluten, the elastic component of a dough that can capture and hold carbon dioxide (the gas produced by yeast that raises your dough), making it ideal for breads, rolls, and pizza. Planted in the spring in the Dakotas, Minnesota, Montana, and Canada, hard red spring wheat is harvested in late summer and early fall. It gets its red color from pigmentation in the bran layer of the wheat berry.
- (Source – http://www.kingarthurflour.com/flours/learn-more.html)