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Wheat in the Army Ration

Excerpted from the 1916 edition of the Manual for Army Bakers

[Classification] [Grading] [Composition]

Wheat is the most important of the cereals grown in this country. It thrives in temperate regions, but does not flourish in the tropics.

All wheat's may be divided into two general classes:

  • Winter wheat, which is sown in the fall and is hardy enough to survive the winter.

  • Spring wheat, which is sown in the spring, in climates where there is danger of killing winter frosts.

Winter wheat is generally classified as soft wheat and spring wheat as hard wheat, but there are hard and soft varieties of both.

Classification of wheat

In the United States the wheat's used for making flour may be grouped under the following heads:

  • Soft red winter wheat, grown in eastern United States in a mild, even, moist climate -- light-red grain, containing a medium percentage of gluten.

  • Hard red winter wheat, grown in the region south of central Iowa and between Ohio and the Rocky Mountains, in a climate having extremes of temperature and moisture, with hot, dry summers. A red grain with a high percentage of gluten.

  • Hard spring wheat, grown in Minnesota and the Dakotas, Wisconsin, Iowa, Nebraska, and Canada, in a climate too severe for winter wheat. A reddish grain, containing a high percentage of gluten.

  • White winter wheat, grown on the Pacific coast and in some of the Rocky Mountain states, in a mild, even climate. A large, white, plump grain, containing a low percentage of gluten.

  • Durum wheat, commonly known as macaroni wheat from its use in the manufacture of that article, is grown principally in the semiarid region extending north and south of western Kansas and eastern Colorado. It will withstand drought and heat and flourish in dry alkaline soil. In some mild climates it is sown in the fall, but is generally classed as a spring wheat. It has large, hard, reddish-yellowish kernels containing a very percentage of gluten. Its flour is yellow and makes a dark bread and when unblended is not considered desirable by bakers for break-baking purposes.

Generally speaking, flour from hard wheat contains a relatively large portion of gluten, say 10 to 16 percent, and flour from soft wheat much less, generally from 7 to 9 percent. From a baker's standpoint starch is of secondary importance. Flour is composed almost entirely of these two elements, and each serves a most important function in the process of bread making.

Grading of wheat

The rules for grading wheat vary somewhat in different sections of the country, according to the kinds of wheat there grown.These rules are uniform, however, in one particular -- the number of grades.

  • No. 1 wheat must be perfectly sound, plump, dry, have am even color, be free from all foreign matter, and have a sweet flavor.

  • No. 2 wheat must be sound, unaffected by must, rain, sun, or dew.

  • No. 3 wheat may be somewhat bleached and otherwise unsound -- slightly inferior to No. 2.

  • No. 4 wheat, unsound from any cause, sufficient to render it unfit for No. 3.

All lower grades are rejected.

As a general rule No. 1 should weigh not less than 60 pounds per bushel, No. 2 not less than 58 pounds, and No. 3 not less than 56 pounds.

Only a small percentage of wheat will grade No. 1, it is usually, if not always, retained and used for seed.

Composition of wheat

An average hard wheat contains about:

  • 10 percent water

  • 12 percent gluten, producing flesh and muscle. The gluten cells are distributed throughout the heart of the grain among the starch cells. The amount and quality of gluten determine the water-retaining capacity of a flour and regulate the quantity of bread produced.

  • 68 percent starch, producing heat, energy, and fat. The starch cells comprise the greater portion of the kernel. Starch is the water absorber. During the process of fermentation about 2 percent is transformed into alcohol and carbonic-acid gas. The carbonic-acid gas forms in cells, giving lightness to the bread, but the alcohol vaporizes in the oven, where most of it escapes.

  • 2 percent fat, found mostly in the germ. As fat tends to produce rancidity in flour, the germ is now generally removed in modern milling.

  • 8 percent bran, the five outer coats of the wheat kernel are strong in woody fiber, mineral ingredients, and coloring matter. It is very indigestible in the human stomach and is excluded in the process of manufacture except where graham or whole wheat flour is desired.

The proportions in which the several ingredients appear vary considerably in different wheat's. For example, Oregon white winter wheat contains about 9 percent gluten, Minnesota hard spring wheat about 14 percent, Oklahoma hard winter wheat about 15 percent. All wheat raised in low, damp districts contains more moisture, generally less gluten, and gluten of inferior quality than that raised in higher and dryer climates.

Soft wheat contains less gluten and more starch and water than hard wheat.

Return to Bread Baking in World War I Army


Deitrck, Capt. L.L., ed. Manual for Army Bakers. War Dept. Doc. 563. Washington: GPO, 1916. 123pp. This material is taken from pages 5-8.

October 1999

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