Cookies, brownies, and bars: from white to wheat, a baker's guide

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Have you ever hesitated over your mixing bowl, looking at the butter and sugar and eggs, and musing, “Hmmm, I wonder if I can sneak some whole wheat into these chocolate chip cookies?”

This vexing question usually gives way to caution, habit, and all-purpose flour – and once again, you’ve lost the opportunity to do the test:

Will the family notice if I add whole wheat to these cookies… or not?

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The cookies on the right are made with King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour; in the center, with our 100% white whole wheat flour; and on the left, our 100% traditional (red) whole wheat flour.

Would your family be able to tell the difference?

Yes, probably, if you use red whole wheat flour. Probably not if you use white whole wheat flour.

And certainly not, if you use a 50/50 blend of white whole wheat and all-purpose flours.

Does this rule of thumb hold fast across all different cookie genres, from the most delicate vanilla cutouts to hearty, chewy oatmeal cookies?

And what about brownies and bars?

Let’s find out.

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Here are our two whole wheat flours: white whole wheat flour, and (red) whole wheat flour.

Let me modify that: our two 100% whole wheat flours.

There’s a lot of confusion around white whole wheat flour. If it’s really whole wheat, how come it’s called “white”? Is it bleached, for lighter color? Is it a blend? Is it really 100% whole wheat?

1) It’s called white whole wheat flour because it’s milled from white whole wheat berries. Wheat berries, like roses, come in more than one color. Unlike roses, though, they’re limited to just two colors: red, and white. Are red roses and pink roses both roses? Yes. Are red whole wheat flour and white whole wheat flour both whole wheat flours? Yes.

2) White whole wheat flour isn’t bleached.

3) White whole wheat flour isn’t a blend; it’s 100% whole wheat – “nothing added, nothing taken away.”

4) Yes, honest, we wouldn’t fool you – white whole wheat flour is really 100% whole wheat.

Now, back to our cookies. I decided to test cookie recipes calling for all-purpose flour three ways: using 100% all-purpose flour; 50% white whole wheat/50% all-purpose; and 100% white whole wheat.

So, how come I’m not testing cookies with RED whole wheat flour?

Because I tried that initially, with 40 fellow King Arthur Flour employee-owners as a test group for those chocolate chip cookies pictured at the top of this post.

And the cookies made with red whole wheat flour, while acceptable to most, earned a negative reaction from some. “Funny texture,” was the consensus. Since red whole wheat is darker and stronger-flavored than white whole wheat, and its slightly coarser grind can change cookies’ texture, I decided to relegate it to the sidelines.

If you like the flavor and “bristly bran” texture of traditional whole wheat flour, feel free to use it in cookies. But if you’re trying to “get away with” using whole wheat flour, white whole wheat is your best choice.

As for recipes, I chose the eight types of cookies featured in our King Arthur Flour Cookie Companion cookbook. Labeled “essential,” these are the broad varieties of cookies we Americans make the most.

Let’s jump right in by making an old-fashioned, all-time favorite, the #2 cookie (after chocolate chip) in our “What’s your favorite cookie?” Facebook poll.

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Snickerdoodles.

Considering how “blonde” these are, I figure they’ll be a good test: will anyone notice the color difference?

12snickGOODI make three batches of dough: 100% all-purpose flour; 50% white whole wheat/50% all-purpose; and 100% white whole wheat.

Mix, roll into balls, shake in cinnamon-sugar, flatten…

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…bake.

Side by side, yes, you can see a slight color difference between the white (all-purpose) flour cookies, and the whole wheat cookies. But it’s subtle; you really need all three types, side by side, to see the color gradation from light to darker gold.

And texture? The mouth feel of the 100% whole wheat cookies is very slightly more “grainy” than that of either the 50/50 or AP cookies.

Let’s try that again, this time making everyone’s holiday favorite: cutout sugar cookies.

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I don’t want to use only King Arthur Flour recipes; this guide is designed to test whether you can substitute whole wheat flour in ANY recipe: from your favorite cookbook, a trusted online source, or your grandma’s recipe box.

Anyone familiar with Cook’s Illustrated magazine knows they’re a quality outfit, with good recipes. Let’s try one of their recipes.

4starsYou can certainly see a difference in the dough, before the cookies are baked; the 100% whole wheat cookies are darker in color.

But once baked? The picture at lower right in the block above shows how, with baking, the color difference fades. Left to right, there’s a vertical column of all-purpose flour cookies, 50/50, and 100% whole wheat.

Again, the 100% whole wheat are slightly darker; but without another cookie alongside for comparison, would you be able to tell? Probably not.

Texturally, though, the 100% whole wheat cookies display some definite “grit.” They’re so crisp and dry, and so plain (no oats, no chips, etc.), that you can definitely “feel” the bran in your mouth. Icing them would probably help, but hey, why not just go with the 50/50 blend here?

After all, you’ll be benefiting from the nourishing vitamins and minerals found in enriched all-purpose flour, and the fiber plus additional vitamins and minerals in whole wheat flour. The two flours complement one another wonderfully well – not just in flavor and performance, but in dietary benefits.

IMG_4095These are the scraps from my roll-outs, all mixed up. When cutting out rolled cookies, I very seldom bother to “gather and re-roll the scraps.” I mean, why bother? All it does is make tough “pretty” cookies.

I’d rather enjoy tender/crisp “scrap” cookies. Just consider them my salute to modern art.

Next up, the very plainest cookie of all – and thus a great test for substituting whole wheat for white flour.

IMG_4196Shortbread. Butter, sugar, flour, and salt; that’s all she wrote.

In this case, thick, crumbly, oat-enhanced Classic Scottish Shortbread.

10shortbreadDifferent shades of dough; different shades of shortbread. But all tasty; all good. Again, the potential grainy mouth-feel from the bran is overshadowed by the crunchiness of the oats.

Let’s move on to another classic: oatmeal cookies.

IMG_4088And who better to provide us with our oatmeal cookie recipe than Margaret Rudkin, the original proprietress of Pepperidge Farm? Her 1963 cookbook includes recipes for dishes as disparate as white wine jelly and crab mousse; though Milano cookies are nowhere to be found!

IMG_4061Since the cookie dough includes oats, molasses, cinnamon, and raisins, it’s harder to see a color difference.

5oatmealAnd, once baked, it’s virtually impossible to see any difference between the white flour and 50/50 cookies; the 100% whole wheat cookies are a shade darker.

And flavor-wise? No difference.

How about texture? Well, with the aforementioned oats plus raisins, it’s hard to detect any textural difference, either.

Sad to say, the recipe itself isn’t a winner; I find the cookies bland and boring. Thankfully, Pepperidge Farm has come a long way with its cookies since these. Bring on the Tahoe Chocolate Chunk Chocolate Macadamia Cookies!

Molasses cookies are another traditional American favorite…

IMG_4080…and nowhere are they as beloved as in Maine, where you’ll find one iteration after another, from soft, cake-like tidbits to crunchy disks big around as your hand.

8molassesRolling the dough balls in sugar gives these thin molasses cookies extra crunch.

I don’t notice any difference in the dough, save slightly different color. Ditto the cookies; their crispness, plus the crunchiness of the sugar, overwhelms any possible graininess from the bran, texture-wise, in the 100% whole wheat cookies.

The verdict? I’ll gladly consume any of these.

IMG_4136Despite the growing preponderance of food allergies, peanut butter cookies are still beloved by many. My favorite PB cookie recipe comes from our Cookie Companion. It’s also in our online recipe archive.

2PBcookies1Hey, what’s up with the circles, instead of the traditional fork criss-cross?

I like to change things up every now and then by flattening cookie dough using the end of the pusher from my Cuisinart food processor.

3PBcookies2No difference, right?

Well, hold on; in the process of scooping and flattening dough, one of my baking sheets sits around for about 25 minutes before going into the oven. And the 100% whole wheat cookies from that particular baking sheet don’t spread quite as much; they’re slightly taller, slightly smaller diameter.

What’s up with that?

Whole wheat flour, due to its coarser grind, takes longer to absorb any liquid in a recipe. Which means, when your dough is stiff to begin with – as this peanut butter cookie dough is – if you don’t bake the cookies right away, the whole wheat will absorb their liquid, making them spread less.

Hmmm… Should I consider adding extra liquid to cookies made with 100% whole wheat flour?

IMG_3545I give it a try with chocolate chip cookies, just to see what will happen. And I don’t wait for the wheat to absorb the water; I want to see what will happen when I bake the cookies right away.

The result? It’s a bit difficult to tell from this picture, but the cookies with added water spread more than those without. Which makes total sense; the higher the liquid/flour ratio in a cookie, the more it’ll spread as it bakes.

So, given some recipes call for cookie dough to wait awhile before being baked (most often in the fridge), is it necessary to add extra water to 100% whole wheat cookies, in order for them to match the spread of cookies made with all-purpose flour?

Let’s find out.

IMG_4114(1)I decide to make my favorite Chocolate Chip Cookies, the ones I bring to every occasion requiring them: i.e., anytime kids are in the audience. For this experiment, though, I leave out the chips – they interfere with how the cookies spread.

Going on the premise that yes, cookies that’ll wait at least 25 minutes before hitting the oven will need extra liquid, I perform the following experiment:

Five batches of cookie dough: 100% all-purpose flour; 50/50; and three 100% whole wheat flour doughs, using increasing amounts of liquid – in this case, orange juice.

Why OJ? While it doesn’t lend any flavor of its own, orange juice (used in small amounts) seems to temper the sometimes assertive flavor of whole wheat.

IMG_4040I divvy up each of the five doughs into four batches. Yes, things are starting to get complicated!

The first batch I bake immediately; the remaining batches go into the fridge.

Later, I come back and bake cookies after the dough has rested for 4 hours, 24 hours, and 48 hours, all in the fridge. I want to see if the varying amounts of OJ will create different amounts of spread after successively long chill times.

IMG_4020And the envelope, please:

1cccookiespreadThe 100% all-purpose flour cookies (B); and the 100% whole wheat cookies with added liquid (1, 2, and 3) spread the same amount, from 4 hours right through 48 hours. The 50/50 cookies (A) spread a bit less.

IMG_4120Here’s a closer look. See how the 50/50 cookies stand a bit taller, spread a bit less? Apparently using even half whole wheat flour requires adding a bit of liquid, if you’re going to let the dough chill (or rest) longer than 25 minutes or so.

I’m surprised that the cookies baked after 48 hours spread the same as those baked after 4 hours; I would have assumed the older dough would have been drier, and the cookies would have spread less.

You can’t argue with your results, though, right? Admittedly this is very casual science here; done in a more serious environment, perhaps the 48-hour dough WOULD have spread less. But we’re home bakers, not working under controlled conditions in the Keebler test kitchen. It’s good news that you can stash your cookie dough for a couple of days without affecting your cookies’ ultimate texture.

Next, let’s try a very soft cookie dough that yields a very hard cookie –

IMG_4093Biscotti. Specifically, American-Style Vanilla Biscotti.

What makes this biscotti “American-style”?

While Italian biscotti are rock-hard, perfect for softening in a glass of wine or cup of coffee, American biscotti are crunchier and lighter; they can be enjoyed as is, without dunking.

When I stir up the biscotti dough, I notice the 100% whole wheat dough is noticeably stiffer than the 100% all-purpose flour dough. I wonder if I should add some liquid to the whole wheat dough…

Nah. Let’s see what happens just doing a straight whole wheat substitute, without tweaks.

6biscottiIn fact, the whole wheat biscotti log doesn’t rise quite as exuberantly as the one made with all-purpose flour. Next time, I’ll add additional liquid (orange juice) to the whole wheat dough.

7Biscotti2Still, the resulting biscotti are delicious, no matter what their percentage of whole wheat flour. Slightly darker, slightly smaller, the whole wheat biscotti don’t reveal any bran in their mouth-feel; the crunchiness of the cookie negates the bran’s grit.

Let’s move on to bars, shall we?

I’ve been looking for a good pumpkin bar recipe forever. What I’m after is something with fudge brownie texture, and pumpkin flavor.

IMG_4106Does the Pumpkin Bar recipe in this 1981 book from the State Historical Society of Wisconsin fill the bill?

No. Dry and cakey, these pumpkin “bars” might as well have been muffins – and not very good muffins, either. Darn: and I’m a Wisconsin gal!

9PumpkinStill, the test was “Does using whole wheat flour in this white flour recipe make a difference?”

Slight color difference, but beyond that – not that I can tell. Especially once the bars sit overnight, the bran softens, its grainy texture disappearing.

IMG_4108And if you want a colorful bar – well, you’ve found it!

Last, and most certainly not least, let’s try brownies.

IMG_4137This picture doesn’t begin to do justice to my favorite brownie recipe. Studded with chocolate chips, sporting a thin, shiny crust that disintegrates into a shower of shards at first bite, these are the brownies to take along on your trip to a desert (dessert?) island.

Does whole wheat flour diminish them: taste, texture, appearance?

Not a single iota. Since brownies are mainly sugar, butter, eggs, and cocoa anyway, this isn’t surprising. Really, the flour in brownies plays a minor role; it’s there simply to distinguish them from fudge sauce.

So, at the end of this odyssey, what have we learned?

A cookie, bar, or brownie recipe calling for all-purpose flour can be made with half all-purpose, half white whole wheat without changing its flavor, texture, or look (beyond the slightest darkening); and without tweaking any of the remaining ingredients.

•Drop cookies calling for all-purpose flour can be made using entirely white whole wheat flour, without changing any other ingredients, if the cookies will be baked immediately. If they’ll be baked later (say, after chilling in the fridge), add about 2 teaspoons water (or orange juice) per cup of whole wheat flour. The final product will be slightly darker in color.

•Some cookies made with 100% whole wheat flour will have a slightly gritty mouth-feel, due to the bran in the flour. This is particularly true with plain (no chips, oats, fruit, etc.), crisp, crunchy, or dry cookies, like roll-out sugar cookies or shortbread.

•Brownies and bars can be made using entirely white whole wheat flour, without changing any other ingredients. Some plain, moist bars (e.g., brownies, blondies) benefit by resting overnight, to soften and “tame” the flour’s bran.

At the end of the day – well, if the truth be told, several days – I was left with cookies. Lots and LOTS of cookies.

Serendipitously, I noticed my favorite independent bookstore, Titcomb’s, was having a book signing and presentation. Knowing they always served refreshments, I rustled up a plate of test cookies to bring over.

IMG_4144Now, would customers see these on the refreshment table and think, “Hmmm, these look like whole wheat cookies; think I’ll give ‘em a pass.”

No, I didn’t think so.

Next time you’re standing over your mixing bowl, eggs and butter and sugar and chips at the ready, wondering whether you can “sneak” some whole wheat flour into your favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe – go for it!

Try a 50/50 ratio to start. And if that passes muster, gradually increase the percentage of whole wheat flour. Go all the way up to 100%, if you like; you may need to add a touch of water or OJ to some recipes, but that’s a small price to pay for adding fiber and nutrition to those treats in the cookie jar.

Interested in seeing how to substitute whole wheat flour for all-purpose flour in your favorite yeast bread, roll, and pizza recipes? Read Yeast bread, rolls, and pizza: from white to wheat, a baker’s guide. How about substituting whole wheat in scones, muffins, batter breads, biscuits, and pancakes? Check out Breakfast: from white to wheat, a baker’s guide.

Interested in purchasing King Arthur flours, including white whole wheat, at a store near you? Check out our store locator.

P.S. Aw, Don M, we didn’t mean to tease you, really. Enjoy!

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PJ Hamel
About

PJ Hamel was born in Wisconsin, grew up in New England, and graduated from Brown University. She was a journalist in Massachusetts and Maine before joining the King Arthur Flour Company in 1990, where she's been ever since. Author or co-author of three King Arthur ...

comments

  1. Mary from Virginia

    Nice post, PJ, largely confirming my family’s experience with your white whole wheat flour. Now I’ll add a little more liquid. I’m wondering if you identified why the Pepperidge Farm recipe was “bland and boring.” I’m guessing that there was too little sugar for our over-sugared palates, but then I find most dessert recipes too sweet. Was that it?

    A helpful baker on your hotline told me I could cut the sugar in most recipes by 15% without affecting the texture and that works well for me.

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel , post author

      Actually, Mary, I think it was too little salt and too little oats. The cookies were mainly flour (which is why I chose them – I wanted to flour to actually have the potential to “make a difference” in the recipe), and thus were missing oats’ nice, nutty flavor. They were also dry – which points, as you say, to too little sugar, and too little fat. All in all – very different from what we consider a good oatmeal cookie today. Thanks for connecting here – PJH

  2. Anna

    Thank you for this. I prefer to use red whole wheat flour and wish you would do a post using that split with AP flour. I use RWW flour because I don’t want my son growing up only appreciating the mouth-feel of white breads. So all bread products that I buy for my son’s lunches are whole-wheat. I make sourdough (using my KA sourdough starter but now, after all these years, it’s become my Maryland starter), baguettes and boules at home. I often throw in RWW flour but only up to 1/3 of the total flour amount called for because I found it affected the rise of the bread. I also always have to add more liquid when using whole wheat flour, so it was nice to see that you found the same need.
    Oddly enough I grew up eating breads that couldn’t be more different from each other: Wonder Bread (it’s a wonder it’s bread!) and Russian-style rye breads, the really dense ones that seem to be all whole grain and no ground flour.Could you do a post on splitting RWW flour and AP flour? If you’ve done it already, could you post the link?

    Reply
  3. Kalisa

    Wow, what a great study in the differences in baking with AP and White Wheat flours! I have both in my pantry, but have yet to give the White Wheat a chance. This is a nice exploration in what happens when you incorporate it so now I think I will give it a try.

    The ultimate test will be chocolate chip cookies. I use my Mother-in-Law’s (awesome) recipe, and my husband is wholly dedicated to them as his favorite cookie. It will be interesting to see if he notices any difference. What good is family if they can’t serve as test subjects, right? :)

    In other flour related news, I have started making big batches of cookie dough and freezing it. Friends have reported that they taste “extra good” and I believe that might be because the time in the freezer gives the flour time to hydrate. Science is delicious!

    Reply
  4. Erica

    Thank you so much for these posts! I always try to add more whole wheat when I can, and this is so helpful. Now I want to make cookies!

    Reply
  5. Carolyn

    I’ve been counting the days to this post since you posted on the flour comparison with bread. Thank you for this tremendously valuable info.

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      We are happy to offer all the information that we can! Are there any other recipes you need a whole wheat conversion for? Jon@KAF

  6. Chloe

    I just thought I’d chime in and second PJ’s observation that 100% whole wheat brownies are indistinguishable from their white flour cousins. My father is a very vocal whole wheat skeptic, and he devoured the better part of a batch of KAF’s “on the fence” brownies made with red wheat flour.

    p.s. The whole wheat challah recipe in the KAF whole grains baking book has become my go-to challah recipe. Even Israeli guests with very tradition bound tastes loved it!

    Reply
    1. MaryJane Robbins

      Now Chloe, inquiring minds want to know… did you ever tell your dad about the WW flour? We’d love to hear his reaction to WW brownies. :) ~ MJ

  7. Whitney Robertson

    I’m surprised you didn’t mention Whole Wheat Pastry Flour– that’s my favorite, and I use it in almost all non-yeast-bread applications (cake, cookies, muffins, etc.). Perhaps a post on WWPF would be fun? Comparing it to AP and WWW?

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      I think that is a great idea, Whitney! We should test the whole wheat pastry as well. Jon@KAF

  8. Don M

    I was thrilled when I saw molasses cookies included in your comparisons. They look so good, and I was excited to read that I could use 100% WW flour too! But when I couldn’t find the recipe, it was like being poked in the eye! Aww, KAF, don’t tease me like that!

    Reply
    1. MaryJane Robbins

      Hi Don,
      Think of it this way, you’ll be able to hunt little bookstores and yard sales for a copy of that cookbook this summer. We’re just leading you on an adventure. Okay, that may be a bit much to buy, so how about a link to our great molasses cookie recipe for now? ~MJ

    2. PJ Hamel , post author

      Don, rub your eye and take heart – I’ve added the recipe to the end of the post, above – just for you! Enjoy – PJH

  9. Jessica A

    I really like this post! Thank you for giving lots of information about whole wheat flour PJ! :) Now, I wonder what do you think about substituting all purpose flour with spelt flour? (white or wholemeal spelt). I heard that we need to either increase the amount of spelt flour or decrease the amount of liquid in the recipe to make it work?

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel , post author

      It’s true, Jessica – decrease liquid when using spelt. While it’s high protein, like whole wheat flour, its protein is more mellow, so it acts like a lower-protein flour – which would require less liquid. You’ll need to do some experimenting with it, but I’m sure the trial-and-error will prove delicious! :) PJH

  10. Joan

    I usually bake with whole spelt flour (my family’s used to it by now) as well as AP, and I make flour decisions like this: anything chocolate just gets AP; anything rustic like zucchini bread or carrot cake gets all spelt flour; anything nonchocolate that I haven’t tried before gets half and half, just in case.

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      That is a great way to adapt your recipes! half and half will usually work well for nearly any recipe. JoN@KAF

  11. Rohner

    My comment is off topic from flour types and effects so thank you for your indulgence:) I just LOVE all of the cookbooks you feature in this blog post. It must be a dream to have such a breadth at your fingertips! Yes, the internet provides access to old, new and everything in between but to me there is something so satisfying about sitting down and reading an old school, well worn cookbook! Perhaps this is a topic for the Community General Discussion Forum! “Ol’ reliable” books, books that have special meaning and the like. Once again KA you have inspired me :)

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel , post author

      I have a bookcase right in back of my desk that’s stuffed with books – mostly old, as those are the ones I treasure. Also boxes of recipe cards, some stretching back to the turn of the 20th century (early 1900s). If you want to know how to make head cheese, or whiten a straw hat – I’m your woman! And yes, this does sound like a good discussion topic for the community – why not start the post? I’d chime in with “Good Maine Food,” by Kenneth Roberts; How about you? :) PJH

  12. Lin

    I’ve been using whole wheat for years now and my family doesn’t really notice any difference. As far a pizza, I notice the dough is usually a little heavier as compared to AP flour,especially if you use to much, but we still like it. I substitute whole wheat for AP in most all my recipes except for my mother’s tea cookie recipe. this is one recipe that I have been able to alter, including butter and sugar or it doesn’t turn out right. I always use less butter and sugar in my recipes and try to sub oats, flaxseed and whole wheat for the AP flour to make it healthier.

    Reply
    1. MaryJane Robbins

      Hi Lin,
      If mom’s tea cookies are very light and tender, you may want to try them with whole wheat pastry flour. It’s much lighter but still full of whole grain goodness. ~ MJ

  13. grandma4five

    I found your recipes very fascinating. Since finding after many tests and a surgery, I am allergic to egg yolk, mushrooms (molds – which include much more than mushrooms) and a husband allergic to beef finding out after almost dying of sepsis – also includes milk (and cheese when over indulged in), I have become very familiar with substitutions.

    I have been a scratch cooker from the time I began cooking at my Granny’s apron strings, 55 years ago, and truly enjoy it. We have been considering using more with whole wheat, white whole wheat, etc, so this was very interesting to me. Always looking for healthier ways of cooking.

    Funny, people will tell you if you used only whites, adding a little extra for removing the yolks, a recipe will not work (even some of the KA bakers) and while true I’ve had to do much in the way of try and wait and see, to finally get something that tastes great is such fun and so rewarding.

    Thank you for going through the tests and posting all of your results for us – they are very much appreciated!

    Donna

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel , post author

      Donna, we keep learning throughout our lives, don’t we? Change is inevitable (and good) – and it’s healthy to keep up. Kudos to you for figuring out your own baking substitutions – and glad we could help. PJH

  14. Roz Chavda

    Wow! What a great post! I use ALL whole wheat (WW) flour for all of the baked goodies that I make for my family and friends. And everyone loves them! (Well…they request them, eat them, and rarely leave leftovers so, I am almost sure that they love them!). I don’t use any all-purpose (AP) flour. In fact, I have the KAF whole grains cookbook and have modified many of the half AP and half WW flour recipes to all whole wheat. In addition to using white whole wheat, I use a lot of whole wheat pastry flour. I have successfully used whole wheat flour for my coconut cake, double chocolate cake, lava cake, brownies, chocolate chip oatmeal coconut walnut cookies, chocolate chip cookies, bialys, Sally Lunn bread, and more! Thank you for this post!!!

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel , post author

      Wow, Roz, that’s quite the lineup of whole wheat goodies! I’m looking forward to experimenting with whole wheat cakes – judging by what I’ve learned so far, I’m thinking at least a 50/50 substitution will be just fine. Are you making your cakes with 100% whole wheat flour? PJH

    2. Roz Chavda

      Hi PJ. I do use 100% whole wheat pastry flour for my cakes. I just make certain that the flour is super-fresh, add a bit of olive oil, and add a bit of water (depending on the season). I look forward to reading more about your experiments with whole wheat!

  15. Carolyn

    I routinely reach for your White Whole Wheat flour, rarely using AP … have been making cut=out cookies with 100% WWW for many years. Grade schoolers never sent any back :)

    The one place I haven’t tried the switch is cookie-press cookies. I do find the edges of the cut=outs ever-so-slightly ragged, and though the cookie-press recipe is EXACTLY the same (you just don’t chill the dough), the shapes need to come out nice and smooth.

    Have courage and take the plunge … unless you line ‘em up side by side, I’ll bet no one notices at all (except occasionally folks say the WWW cookies taste even better than the same recipe made with AP flour … butterscotch brownies a heavy winner of that compliment)

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel , post author

      Carolyn, clearly you’re a whole wheat veteran – interesting observation about the ragged edges on the cookie-press cookies. I agree with you 100% about the others, though – unless you put them side by side with white-flour cookies, no one can tell. And now I HAVE to try butterscotch brownies… :) PJH

  16. Hannah

    Just wanted to add my voice to the chorus of thanks for such a great series of articles (the bread one and then this). Though a scientist at work I’m much less systematic at home, and appreciate your putting the time and energy into this comparison. The posts are comprehensive, thoughtful and beautifully laid out, exactly what I have come to trust PJ Hamel and others at KAF to put together in this blog. Thanks for your work!

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel , post author

      Hannah, thank you SO much for taking the time to share your thoughts here. Your kind words are very much appreciated! We love to teach people about baking, and it shows, doesn’t it? Glad you’re enjoying the series – check out the next post this Friday – PJH

  17. Mary O

    This great side-by-side comparison of so many popular baked goods is really appreciated. I will feel more confident going 50/50 with whole wheat and all purpose flour, or maybe just switching over to white whole wheat. Thank you!

    One of my favorite chocolate chip cookie recipes (Joanne Chang’s Flour cookbook) uses some bread flour in the recipe, along with all-purpose flour, for the higher gluten content. Can you speak to the difference in gluten between bread flour and white whole wheat flour?

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Bread flour = 12.7% gluten or protein while white whole wheat = 13.2%. Bread flour is milled from the endosperm of the wheat berry, while the white whole wheat uses the bran, the germ, and the endosperm. You can always call our baker’s hotline (855-371-2253), or use the LiveChat option of our website for more info. Happy Baking! Irene@KAF

  18. Carolyn

    I just want to live in your kitchen! You do a fantastic job of explaining and showing every delicious last morsel there is to be had. Let me know my move-in date. I promise to leave the husband home. ha ha ha

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      If you live in our kitchen, you’ll also need to accept the extra weight from taste testing food! Thanks for your salute to our blog efforts! Happy Baking! Irene@KAF

  19. Mary

    Wow! I certainly appreciate your in-depth research, that was wonderful! I now feel brave enough to start adding some wheat flour into my baking! On an aside, I remember as a child making a simple shortbread recipe that was on the side of the box of superfine Domino sugar. I believe it had rice flour? I cannot remember it well enough, nor can I locate it. I do recall it was absolutely delicious…or possibly my childhood memory!?

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel , post author

      Mary, thanks for connecting here. I found this recipe on the Domino site, and while it doesn’t use rice flour, you might want to try it anyway. If you like it, try substituting 1/4 cup white rice flour for 1/4 cup of the all-purpose flour. Good luck! PJH

      1/3 cup – Domino® Confectioners Sugar
      1/2 cup – butter (no substitutes), softened
      1/2 teaspoon – vanilla
      1 cup – all-purpose flour
      1/4 teaspoon – salt
      Domino® Granulated Sugar

      Preheat oven to 325°F.

      In large mixing bowl, combine confectioners’ sugar and butter and beat until light and fluffy. Add vanilla and combine well. In small bowl, sift together flour and salt. Add to sugar mixture and beat until well combined.

      Pat or roll dough into 8-inch circle about 1/2 inch thick, on an ungreased cookie sheet. Press with your fingers to scallop or flute the edge. Cut the circle into 12 wedges; leaving wedges adjoining in the circle. This keeps the shortbread from breaking when you cut it after baking. Prick each wedge with a fork. Sprinkle with Domino® Granulated Sugar.

      Bake 25-30 minutes or until bottom just starts to brown and center is set. Cut circle into wedges again while still warm. Cool on cookie sheet for 5 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack; cool completely.

      Makes 12 wedges.

  20. Karen Schmidt-Dill

    Hello PJ and King Arthur staff,
    Thank you so much for these “basic” posts. I have been baking bread with my mom since the early 60′s. She taught me to use about 50/50 of red whole wheat/AP. Every now and then I experiment with other recipes like cookies or muffins, etc. Until your blogs talked about the 100% white whole wheat I was one of those with a misconception that it was red wheat mixed with AP. I didn’t realize there was white wheat. (No excuse, I’m a farmer’s dau.) Since red whole wheat is all I know, I can’t say I have ever struggled with the flavor although honey whole wheat bread is by far my favorite recipe. Now I can hardly wait to get white whole wheat and try it out. I just opened a new bag of red yesterday so guess I will wait a little while.
    It also will be nice to try the white whole wheat in some recipes for the developmentally disabled guys I work with. They have some very picky tastes and mostly want “Wonder” type bread. I can get them to try my homemade but usually only once. LOL. I will also be adding a bit of liquid with the wheats.
    Thanks again for the science you bring to the kitchen!

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel , post author

      Thank you, Dorothy – I appreciate you taking the time to share your comment here. PJH

  21. Melanie Bengtson

    Great article! I’ve been incorporating more whole grains into my baking over the last several years. I have found that using kamut works very well for muffins, cookies, and bars. I usually use a combination of kamut and whole wheat pastry flour for muffins, and they are delicious. I also live at 5400 feet above sea level and have to adjust for those conditions as well when I bake.

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel , post author

      Melanie, kudos to you for finding the whole-grain substitution you like best – AND for figuring out those high-altitude adjustments. Happy baking! PJH

  22. Sharon Brigner

    I have used the www flour for several years. Each Christmas my daughter-in-law and I make large amounts of Spritz cookies to give to friends. Some years we had a lot of trouble getting the consistency to go through the cookie press easily. I started substituting 1 cup of the www flour for AP in a double batch of cookie dough and magically the dough pressed out beautifully. We also make molasses cookies and I did the same, just for nutrition sake. And I’ve used in in banana bread ever since I found it sold locally. Next year I’m going to try making the molasses with just the www. Thanks for all the work on this.

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel , post author

      Sharon, thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts and experiences here. Very helpful and much appreciated. PJH

  23. Grace DeShaw-Wilner

    Excellent post! I’ve wondered about this for a long time, and have done some substitutions on a hit-and-miss basis but this article provided some tips I hadn’t thought of. Very appreciated!

    Reply
  24. Dana

    At our house, we like to add nuts to all cookie recipes, especially brownies. Do you have to make adjustments to the recipe when adding nuts?

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel , post author

      No, Dana, probably not; if you add a lot of nuts to cookies that otherwise don’t have any nuts, then they won’t spread as much – but that will happen ehatever flour/flour combination you use, so no adjustments should be needed. Enjoy – PJH

  25. Narissa

    Hi PJ,

    My name is Narissa Sacranie and I’m studying Food Science and Chemistry at the University of Illinois. I’ve previously interned with Diageo and am currently working in Kraft Foods R&D. However, running test kitchen trials like these is basically my dream job – Any recommendations for getting my foot in the door?

    Thank you!

    Reply
    1. Susan Reid

      Narissa, have you visited the careers section of our website? We have a position posted. Check it out. Susan

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