Although humans rely upon a variety of grains for sustenance, one grain dominates all the others. It is WHEAT -- a grain with unique proteins that form gluten. Without gluten, the production of leavened bread would not be possible. In the United States, there are six main classes of wheat. Wheat classes are determined by the time of year they are planted and harvested, the shape and hardness of the kernel, and the color of the bran. The quality characteristics vary between the wheat classes and determine the end-product usage. Generally, high protein contents with strong gluten properties are desirable for hard wheats, whereas low protein contents with mellow gluten characteristics are desirable traits for soft wheats. The classes of most importance in the northern Plains are Hard Red Spring Wheat, Durum Wheat, and Hard Red Winter Wheat.
HARD RED SPRING WHEAT -- This wheat contains the highest protein content of all the wheat classes averaging between 13.5-14.5%. It has superior milling and baking properties and is used to produce bread products requiring strong gluten including hearth breads and rolls, variety breads, bagels, English muffins, and thin pizza crusts. It is often blended with lower protein flours to improve their bread making qualities. The four-state region of North Dakota, Montana, Minnesota and South Dakota grows approximately 90% of the Hard Red Spring Wheat in the U.S.
DURUM WHEAT -- Most of the durum wheat grown in the U.S. is produced in the northern Plains with 70-80% grown in North Dakota alone. Durum wheat is milled into a granular product called semolina, which is used primarily for pasta products in the U.S. Other uses of semolina include couscous and bread products. Pasta products made from durum are superior because of the desirable golden color and nutty flavor, and because they hold their shape and firm texture when cooked. A by-product of semolina production is durum flour, which is used in breads and pre-cooked pasta products.
HARD RED WINTER WHEAT -- This is the largest class of wheat produced each year in the U.S. Most of the wheat of this class is grown south of the Northern plains region, although Montana and South Dakota raise significant quantities. This is the primary wheat class used to produce white sliced pan bread and a variety of other yeast-leavened baked goods. There is a wide range in protein content with an average of approximately 11.5-12.0%.
HARD WHITE WHEAT -- The newest class of wheat to be grown in the United States. Closely related to red wheats (except for color genes), this wheat has a milder, sweeter flavored bran, equal fiber and similar milling and baking properties. It is mainly used in yeast breads, hard rolls, bulgur, tortillas and oriental noodles.
SOFT WHITE WHEAT -- Soft White wheats are primarily grown in Pacific Northwest. It is also grown in areas scattered throughout the state of Montana. Soft wheat flour is used in cakes, crackers, cookies, pastries, quick breads, muffins and snack foods. The bulk of this wheat class is exported for use in flat breads, noodles, and sponge cakes.
SOFT RED WINTER WHEAT -- This class of wheat is not grown in significant quantities in the northern Plains. The level and quality of protein is similar to that of soft white wheats, and is suitable for cakes, cookies, flat breads, pastries and crackers.