adding wheat germ to bread dough IS a good idea

summary: 50% whole wheat bread, using Ken Forkish’s 50% whole wheat bread recipe and using Michael Pollan’s method of sifting the wholewheat flour; adding wheat germ;

We are still reading “Cooked” by Michael Pollan (it takes a long time to to read a book when reading it aloud) and just came to the fascinating section on milling. I’ve known for a while that, nowadays, whole wheat flour was simply white flour with the bran and germ added back in. But what I didn’t know was that it might be possible that all of the wheat germ has NOT been put back.

And I got to thinking about the fact that our 10kg bag of 100% whole wheat flour lasts a suspiciously long time without going rancid….

Further grinding of the gears in my brain deduced that if the reason that wheat germ tends to go rancid is because of the fat content in it, and that flavour is often carried by fat, maybe I should try adding wheat germ to boost the flavour of our bread.

So, yesterday, as an experiment, I added a good shot of wheat germ to bread dough made with 50% whole-wheat and 50% unbleached all purpose flours. We tried the bread last night. Wow!! The flavour was spectacular.

I do know that this is hardly scientific to base something on only one test but the result was so spectacular that I have resolved to ALWAYS add wheat germ to bread dough now. Even though the whole wheat flour we buy says “100% whole wheat” right on the package.

When millers mill wheat, they scrupulously sheer off the most nutritious parts of the seed—the coat of bran and the embryo, or germ, that it protects—and sell that off, retaining the least nourishing part to feed us. In effect, they’re throwing away the best 25 percent of the seed: The vitamins and antioxidants, most of the minerals, and the healthy oils all go to factory farms to feed animals, or to the pharmaceutical industry, which recovers some of the vitamins from the germ and then sells them back to us—to help remedy nutritional deficiencies created at least in part by white flour. A terrific business model, perhaps, but terrible biology.
The quest for an ever-whiter shade of bread, which goes all the way back to the Greeks and Romans, is a parable about the folly of human ingenuity—about how our species can sometimes be too smart for its own good. […] Unscrupulous millers routinely whitened their flour by adulterating it with everything from alum and chalk to pulverized bone. […] Whole-grain flour tends to go “off” within several weeks of being milled, releasing an unmistakable odor of rancidity. Part of what makes the germ so nutritious—its unsaturated omega-3 fats—also makes it unstable, and prone to oxidation.
[M]ills have been expressly designed to produce the whitest possible flour, splitting off the germ and embryo […] To leave the germ in the flour would literally gum up the works, I was told by an experienced miller by the name of Joe Vanderliet. This is why it is always removed at the beginning of the milling process, even when making “whole” wheat flour. […] Most commercial whole-wheat flour is actually white flour to which the bran and germ have been added back in. […] Vanderliet claims that many large mills, including ones he used to work for, simply leave the germ out of their “whole-grain” flour “because it’s just too much trouble”—a serious charge, but a difficult one to prove. (So here we are again, not quite certain what is really in a sack of flour.)
– Michael Pollan, Thinking like a Seed, Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation, p.576,577,579,583,586,602,603

No photos this time. I am realizing more and more that one of the reasons I don’t write regularly in the blog is because I imagine that each post HAS to have pictures. How silly to be hampered this way.
So I’ve given myself permission to post an entry with words only {gasp}


Speaking of photos, I keep forgetting to post about making 100% whole wheat bread, using Pollan’s sifting method. It did work beautifully (although maybe I didn’t get quite as much loft as I’d hoped for). I’ll try again and see if the results are better with added wheat germ.



This entry was posted in baking, bread - yeasted & unyeasted, cookbooks, etc., Flour Water Salt Yeast, food & drink on by .

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2 responses to “adding wheat germ to bread dough IS a good idea

  1. Barbara M

    How sad, that “they” sacrifice flavour like that. And how cool that in the case of bread flour, you can just add it back in. Too bad we can’t just add back the taste of tomatoes etc.

    I do like the photos, but I think it’s a-ok without photos.

    A blog isn’t at all the same as Facebook, but I find that on FB, I almost always read posts that don’t have any photo, and I skip about 75% of posts that have photos, not even reading whatever bit of text there is. (Although my understanding is that it’s the opposite for many people, who apparently don’t even see the text-only posts.)

    1. Elizabeth Post author

      It is pretty bizarre that we are willing to let “them” sacrifice the flavour that way. And yes. Why can’t we add the taste back to tomatoes? (We just watched a program about an organic tomato farmer in California on Think TV. He cut open tomatoes in various states of ripeness to show how they decided when to pick them. Inside, the ripe red tomato was gorgeously red; the slightly pinkish tomato had a rosy hue to the seeds and inside looked pretty much like every “red” supermarket tomato; the green tomato was entirely white inside. Clearly, our supermarket tomatoes have been picked either green or slightly pinkish and then artificially ripened. It’s no wonder they are pretty much flavour-free.)

      You’re right about FB. I too, often skip right over posts with photos. But I can’t stop slightly resenting the fact that FB has pretty much taken over, to be a “one stop” social media experience. More and more, I’m disliking the “like” button that has helped to eliminate any kind of discussion at all.


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