Beef en Daube
Solving Runny Tzatziki

Rancid Flour

I substituted white whole wheat flour in a Challah recipe that says to use just whole wheat flour.   I found that it tasted and smelled like play dough.  Is there a difference in white whole wheat flour and whole wheat flour. If so what is the difference?  Do you have any good idea for a whole grain healthy Challah?

By coincidence, just as I was reading your email I happened to take a taste of a restaurant whole wheat dinner roll that had a similar chemical taste.  Play dough is a good description.

White whole wheat flour is similar to whole wheat flour that has been milled finer so that it doesn't have the larger and tougher particles you find in regular whole wheat.  Some manufacturers claim that it tastes just like white flour.  While the flavor is much lighter than whole wheat, there is still a perceptible nutty taste.  You can make your own approximation of white whole wheat flour by mixing regular white flour with an equal amount of whole wheat flour that has been sifted using a fine mesh kitchen strainer.

My initial guess is that either the flour or oil you used had gone rancid.  If it was the oil, you would likely have noticed the taste in other dishes, so I'll bet it was the flour.  Because white whole wheat flour is made from the whole wheat berry, it contains considerably more fat than does regular flour.  According to King Arthur Flour's website, their 100% White Whole Wheat Flour for professional bakers contains 1.62 grams of fat per 100 grams of flour.  Compared to the USDA analysis for all-purpose white flour, which they give as 0.98 grams per 100, the white whole wheat flour contains 65% more fat.

Because of the extra fat, the shelf life of white whole wheat flour is shorter.  Robin Hood Flours in Canada gives the shelf life of their regular, all-purpose flour at 12 months, but their white whole wheat flour at only 9 months.  Also, white whole wheat flour is a bit of an odd mix, targeting a niche market looking for increased fiber in baked goods traditionally made with white flour.  Because of this, it may sit longer on store shelves than other products.

To tell if it is rancid, take a pinch of flour and place it on your tongue.  Regular flour will have a little taste.  Most of us know the taste of raw flour from undercooked sauces or raw dough.  White whole wheat flour will also have a slight nutty flavor, similar to whole wheat flour or wheat bran, only less distinct.  Rancid flour, on the other hand, will have a slight tang to it and will sting a little on your tongue.  If you have ever tasted the membrane that separates the two pieces of meat inside a walnut, rancid flour will have that same acrid flavor only not as strong.

I have tasted other baked goods with rancid white flour in them, so when I tasted the dinner roll, I knew immediately what the taste was, which is why I think that was your problem, too.  Try buying another bag of white whole wheat flour.  Taste it first to be sure it isn't rancid and if not try your Challah recipe again.  Also make sure that the oil you are using is new and has no off tastes.


I have a bag of whole wheat organic flour. It's been stored, sealed in the freezer. It has a sell by date of October 2013. I just cannot tell if its stale. No funky taste on the tongue but the smell is stronger than I recall. Not play doh... Just... Different. Thoughts?

How long will whole grain flour keep at room temperature using Food Saver to seal it in mason jars ?

Thank you! My whole wheat flour smelled just like play dough as well! I am pitching it in the trash and getting some new. Thanks this was very helpful!

For your readers' information - whole wheat flour will last longer in a sealed bag in the freezer. To the extent you have to buy more wheat flour than you will use in a few months' time, sealing it and freezing it will preserve it well. The same goes for other high fat-content flours - chestnut, nut "flours", etc.

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