We have recently realized that every time we visit the supermarket, there are more and more varieties of flours on the shelf. One flour specifically that we noticed becoming more and more popular is spelt flour.
But we don’t even know what spelt flour is let alone how to use it. It’s so frustrating that there are all these wonderful new products, but it feels like no one is there to explain them.
Do you know what the difference between spelt flour and white flour is? The biggest difference is the type of grain used and the way they are produced, giving each their very unique characteristics. Spelt is also generally more nutritious and can be used for either breads or baked goods, but white flour is better saved for baking.
If you want to know more about these flours, we will discuss the production process, different uses, nutrition, and much more in the rest of this article.
How Flour Is Made
First, to understand the differences between different flours, you need to understand how flour is made.
A grain kernel consists of three primary parts: bran, germ, and endosperm. The bran is the outer skin of the kernel. It contains mostly antioxidants, fiber, and vitamins. The germ contains most of the nutrients of the kernel.
The endosperm is what is used to make flour. It contains a lot of carbohydrates, proteins, and the fewest amounts of vitamins and minerals.
What is Spelt Flour?
Spelt is an ancient grain that dates back to 3000-1700 B.C. There are many debates as to where it originated from, but currently the best bet is that it came from somewhere in Europe or Asia.
Its availability and popularity declined over the centuries, but due to new food trends and a big focus on environmentally conscious production of produce, it led to an increase in demand.
Spelt grows in a very similar climate and conditions than wheat but is much heartier. Unlike wheat, spelt grains are kept in their hulls through harvesting. The outer layer is eventually removed and the remaining grain is sent to a flour mill.
The grains are tested and graded for quality before being cleaned and separated from other debris. The spelt grains are then put through a process called stone milling, which uses millstones that repeatedly grounds the grain until it eventually becomes flour.
Because the spelt is milled as a whole grain (bran, germ, and endosperm) it doesn’t need to be enriched. It is rarely bleached as its darker color and nutritional value is part of its appeal.
What is White Flour?
White flour is also known as all-purpose flour or plain flour. It’s the best type of flour to have in the kitchen cupboard due to its versatility.
To start with the process of making white flour, the grains are harvested and then tested and sorted according to certain specifications such as moisture level or the variety.
The grains are then cleaned to remove any debris and stored in silos until they are ready to be used.
To make white flour, the husk and bran are removed from the grain and the remaining endosperm is what is used to make white flour.
The endosperm is milled (crushed) and further refined into a fine-textured flour. The loss of bran and germ is why white flour has virtually no nutrients unless enriched.
There are a lot more technical steps to this process, but it’s not necessary to get into that to understand the differences.
Most all-purpose flours are bleached to give it an extremely smooth texture and pure white color. It does however change the taste and nutritional profile of the final product even more.
Flour is bleached by being treated with chemicals such as benzoyl to help speed the aging of the flour.
Aging flour is important as it improves certain aspects of the baking process and quality of the final product. However, bleaching of flour is not allowed everywhere in the world due to the chemicals used.
You do get unbleached versions of this flour, but they aren’t as accessible as bleached flour in some countries. These are naturally aged after the milling process, but it takes much longer. That is why bleaching flour is so popular – to reduce the waiting time.
White flours (bleached and unbleached) are sometimes enriched with vitamins B, iron, and calcium to place the lost nutrients back into the flour.
Best Uses for Spelt and White Flour
As important as it is to understand the basics of making either flour, you also want to know how to use each one. After all, we don’t buy flour just to look at it.
Here are some basic ways to use spelt and white flour.
Uses for Spelt Flour
Spelt flour has a higher protein content than white flour, between 12-15%. This means that they can be used to make breads as they will be able to produce enough gluten.
However, the gluten found in spelt is different from that found in wheat. Spelt has a higher gliadin to glutenin ratio, meaning it will give the dough its stretchiness (gluten structure) but not the elasticity and structure to hold its shape.
Therefore, when making breads using spelt flour, be careful not to overwork the dough by working it in shorter periods.
Spelt flour still is perfect for making cakes, cookies, or most pastry products, not to mention much healthier than other flours.
Uses for White Flour
We would recommend using white flour for baked or pastry products, not breads or doughs. The reason for this is because white flour has a very low protein content (between 10-12%). The lower the protein content of the flour, the less gluten it will be able to develop.
To make good quality bread, the flour needs to have a higher protein content (around 14-16% like bread flour) to create a proper gluten structure.
You can use plain flour in breads if you substitute half of it with a higher protein flour like whole wheat flour.
However, white flour is still a very versatile flour that has many functions. It can be used to make flaky pastries, biscuits, cakes, and many other delicious baked goods.
When white flour is used in cakes, they are always combined with a rising agent like baking powder. You do get self-raising flour that is a combination of all-purpose flour and raising agents. You can also make self-raising flour at home.
We would recommend using unbleached flour (of any kind) as it has a lot more nutrients and is better for your health.
The most obvious difference is the type of wheat used when producing these flours. Spelt is technically not wheat but resembles it so closely that a lot of people categorize it as one.
White flour is made from whole wheat grains which are mixed to create a specific type of flour with specific characteristics.
Spelt flour is much more nutritious than wheat flour because when it is processed, the whole kernel is milled (the bran, germ, and endosperm) meaning the bran and germ contribute their nutrients.
When white flour is made, the bran and endosperm are completely removed from the milling process resulting in a lack of nutrients. White flour is further bleached, removing even more nutrients whereas spelt flour is rarely bleached.
Spelt flour has much more protein than white flour, but neither will make great breads as they either have too little protein or the wrong type of gluten.
Both flours are best used for baked or pastry products due to their lack of gluten.
Pros and Cons of Spelt and White Flour [Charts]
For an easy reference, here are a couple of charts summarizing the pros and cons of using each type of flour:
|Spelt flour has a high nutritional value and has a lot of vitamins and minerals due to the production method used.||Spelt flour has a high gluten content, but not the correct type so it will not make great breads.|
|The flour is unbleached so it doesn’t contain any hazardous chemicals.||It has a much lower water capacity so recipes will need to be adjusted to use a lot less water. This might alter a few other components of the final product.|
|It contributes its own unique nutty and slightly sweet flavor to the final product.||It will produce a much lower loaf volume.|
|Spelt flour will create a very soft dough if you are making breads.||Bread doughs will not be very elastic and will not be able to hold the gluten structure.|
|It could be an alternative flour for people who are mildly sensitive to gluten.||Not gluten-free so extremely dangerous to people with celiacs disease.|
|A lot cheaper and easily accessible than other specialty flours.||Doesn’t contain nutrients unless enriched.|
|Very versatile flour that can be easily substituted with other flours.||Most white flours are bleached using dangerous chemicals.|
|It comes in many varieties such as bleached, unbleached, organic, or self-raising to name a few.||Doesn’t contribute any flavor to final products.|
||Not gluten-free so extremely dangerous to people with celiacs disease.|
Composition and Nutrition of White and Spelt Flour
Spelt flour is one of the more nutritious flours on the market. It has a protein content of 12–15% and a crude fiber content of 10-15%. It also has much more vitamins and minerals than other flours.
Both flours contain gluten therefore it is not safe for people with celiac disease although people with light intolerances might find spelt flour to be a good substitute. If that’s not good enough, however, there are some decent substitutes for spelt flour.
||Spelt flour 100g||White flour 100g|
And there you have it! We hope this guide has summed up all the differences between spelt flour and white flour for you.