Why white bread?

It seems that it would be easier to use the “whole” grain rather than remove part of it, so why hasn’t whole wheat flour been the most common, with “standard” white wheat being the exception?

Is it that the fibre in whole wheat was considered a negative since it provides no direct nutritional value?
Is it the appearance, or the texture?
Was it shrewd marketing by the millers?

It’s mainly that whole wheat flour goes rancid faster. (Without the oil from the germ, white flour has a longer shelf-life.)

White flour can sit on the shelf longer, so it’s more popular with grocers.

Once purchased, white flour can sit in the cupboard longer, so it’s more popular with homemakers.

I use whole wheat flour to make pancakes, but I have to keep it in the freezer so it won’t get rancid fast. Whereas, you can keep white flour (all-purpose, pastry, whatever) in the pantry.

Flour with the bran removed was, once upon a time, the food of rich folks. Poor people ate chewy, dense whole grain bread - the kind that costs more now. I don’t think it’s just snob appeal, however.

White flour stores much longer than whole grain flour. White flour, along with white sugar and hydrogenated oils, are preferred by military groups for their shelf stability. Dr. Ancel Keys, designer of the K-ration, used white stuff instead of whole grain stuff because he was concerned with getting lots of calories in a small space, in a form that wouldn’t go rancid or moldy before our soldiers could use it.

In time, manufacturers realized they could increas profits by selling “perishable” goods that don’t perish - or don’t perish as quickly. If white bread is kept in a cool, dry space, it will last far longer than whole grain bread. A company that sends out skids of white bread doesn’t have to get them to the store as quickly as whole grain, and doesn’t have as much loss due to product contamination. Grocers can hold onto the stuff and wait for sales for longer, as well.

I’ve never figured out why white flour is so much cheaper than whole grain flour, considering it takes more processing to make, but it is cheaper. So it’s the choice of cheap, shelf-stable food.

Or, on preview, what they said. :rolleyes:

White flour rises better than whole-grain flour. Bread dough made from white flour tends to be very elastic, while whole-grain dough tends to be very sticky and non-elastic. The elasticity of white-flour dough allows it to rise more and to form bigger holes (caused by the CO2 released by yeast). Most recipes for whole-wheat bread call for a mixture of whole-wheat and white flours, since bread made from 100% whole-wheat flour is too dense for most people’s tastes.

The elasticity of wheat dough is caused by a complex of proteins called “gluten.” The purpose of kneading bread dough is to develop the gluten - the kneading process causes the gluten molecules in the flour to line up and bond to each other. This is why dough becomes more elastic as it is kneaded. I believe the bran and germ in whole-wheat flour tend to prevent the gluten molecules from binding to each other, which is why 100% whole-wheat dough just won’t become as elastic as white-flour dough no matter how much you knead it.

Similarly, in Japan, only the nobles ate white rice, which led to many nutritional related diseases

nobles ate white rice, initially

I know this and used to follow “most recipes.” But now I just use whole wheat for pancakes. I like the taste. I add yogurt which makes it rise more. There may not be as many pretty holes, but the taste is better, and better for you. I also add walnuts and sometimes bananas, but I really don’t like bananas in my batter. Batter up!