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Hello there! For this post, I am responding to a Tiktok I watched the other day and it was about a European woman talking about 5 things to not to do while in America. The 5th tip in this video was enlightening because she recommended for European to never try American pasta because it causes bloating. That made me wonder- what did Europeans do so differently than Americans for pasta. So I digged a little further to answer my own curiosity and the answer is not surprising.
what is in our Pasta?
The answer for this is a bit complicated. For American pastas, breads and many grains, we use primarily hard red wheat in our ingredients. This specific wheat has a higher gluten content than the other common grains such as soft wheat. Although hard red wheat does give a better texture and rise to many yeast breads such as buns, in many European countries and cities they usually opt out of hard red wheat and they stick with soft wheat or specialty grains. It makes you question, why aren't we making the same transition? I am someone who loves pasta, but it would be easier to eat pasta and other dishes if you didn't feel so bloated after a meal. So I'm going to dig deep into these questions: what is the difference between hard red wheat and soft wheat and what flours do Europeans use in their baking?
What is the difference between soft and red hard wheat?
The main difference between soft and red hard wheat is the gluten content. You might see this stark difference in using a soft wheat flour such as pastry flour and a high gluten flour such as whole wheat flour. Here is a great example when you look at an American flour brand Bob Red Mill and there several different products with gluten content.
As this flour charts shows, we offer several types and brands of flour in America, but I will say, the European flour system makes more sense. In many European countries, they number their flours so there's a better cohesiveness of using and finding the correct flour. I found this great blog post that explains all European flours pretty well: https://breadbakes.com/european-flour/. The flour goes as followed:
480 All purpose white flour 9% to 10%
550 Stronger All purpose flour 10% to 11%
630 spelt flour Depending on brand- very low gluten content
720 rye flour Depending on brand- 6.5%
750 white bread flour 12% to 14%
1600Ancient Grain Flour Naturally low content
I think what I found the most interesting when you compare the bread system in Europe and the breads we offer here, in Europe they stick to more of a 480 instead of the 550 for making pastries and cakes. As Americans, we usually stick to All purpose flours for most of our pastries (11 to 12% gluten) and then bread flour for even sandwich bread (which Europeans might still more to a 1600 or even a specialty such as 720 Rye). In addition, the bread flour we offer is usually 13% gluten, while the breads they someone's make uses 1600 Ancient Grains, which offers a low gluten content. We usually stick to bread flour since many of these specialty breads such as the ancient grains and rye are grown in Europe and not in America. Lastly, I think in many parts of Europe, Europeans take pride in their baking. Here, if I need to find pastry flour, they might not even offer it. There has been instances where I went to the store to get cake flour or pastry flour and the store (like Target) DOESNT EVEN OFFER IT OR THEY ARE OUT OF STOCK. It's very frustration!
What is the main difference between American and European Products?
If you are like me and you thought you had a gluten intolerance this whole time, it might of not been your system, but just the glutenous products we eat in America. In the United States, as a recap, uses primarily red wheat (harsher weather, longer shelf line) while European uses soft wheat. In addition, in our foods, we do not ban Genetically Modified Organisms and we also include refined grain products in our breads and pastas. While in Europe, many countries have banned GMOS and even have banned refined grained products in their food.
Here is a great example of our ingredient differences when you look at Barilla USA vs. Barilla Italy Spaghetti product. In the United States, the ingredients are: Semolina, Durum Wheat flour, Vitamin B3, Iron, Vitamin B1, Vitamin B2 and Folic Acid. While in Italy, the only ingredients are: Semolina and Water.
Here is a great link for further information regarding the issues with American grain versus European grain.
What to eat Instead?
There are some great alternatives to switch to if you looking for a low gluten wheat without fortified grains. My first suggestion would be to make your own pasta. All you would need is: seminola flour, eggs, water and a pasta machine. The second suggestion would be to locate brands that stick to the bare minimum ingredients such as RAOS Homemade Spaghetti and Rustichell D'abruzzo Spaghetti. Here is the link to the Raos Spaghetti and the Rustichella D'Abruzzo Spaghetti.
I hope this read was information and if you have further questions or comments, please link below!