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Ask a Pastry Chef: Can You Substitute Whole Wheat Flour for White Flour?


Posted by : Catherine Jheon, Wed, Jul 07 2010

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Julia asks:Can you substitute whole wheat flour when the recipe calls for white flour? If so, what is the ratio?
Pastry Chef Steve Song: Whole wheat flour is nothing more than all purpose or white flour with added wheat bran. Yes, believe it or not, you can MAKE your own whole-wheat flour! It is a straight 1 to 1 ratio.

For every cup of all-purpose flour, you add the same amount of wheat bran. But keep in mind because whole flour has different structure and taste, not all baked goods should be substituted for whole wheat flour.

For example, from a professional point of view, if you are making delicate sponge or chiffon cakes, I would not recommend using whole wheat flour. However, less delicate baked items such as muffins, coffee cakes, biscuits,scones and breads are very whole wheat flour friendly.

In the category of quick breads (ie. scones and biscuits), I like to use 2/3 cup of all-purpose flour and 1/3 cup of whole wheat flour. For breads, I like to use a 1 to 1 ratio for whole wheat to white flour. Also, because whole-wheat flour has less protein(gluten) you may want to add either gluten or bread flour which has a higher protein level to give your bread some lift and structure.

Here are some very important things to keep in mind when using whole wheat flour:

  • Whole wheat flour is more dense than white flour, so you should sift, or if you are too lazy to sift, quickly aerate your whole wheat flour with a whisk.
  • If you are substituting whole wheat flour, you must increase your wet ingredients ever so slightly. Why you may ask? The bran in the whole wheat flour acts like a sponge, therefore absorbes more than the required moisture in your recipe.
  • Lastly, avoid over mixing when you use whole-wheat all-purpose flour in baked goods such as cookies and muffins because the denser flour mixture will create unwanted gluten and make your baked goods tougher and chewier.

I hope this answers your question and happy baking.

Steve Song is an accomplished pastry chef with 18 years of experience. He has worked at such acclaimed restaurants as Ultra Supper Club, Senses, Mildred Pierce, Oro, and Canoe in Toronto, as well as Restaurant Daniel, Mesa Grill, and La Cote Basque in New York.

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Posted: Wed, Jul 07 2010 by Catherine Jheon

Get to know:Catherine Jheon

Hi food lovers, I'm the managing editor of foodnetwork.ca. I've been writing and working in the food world for almost a decade! I'm always ready to explore new tastes and ideas so drop me a line with anything food related to share.

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