The same fondness for fluffy, soft texture that prompts Americans to prefer white flour for bread is shared by Koreans for steamed buns, pan bread and noodles. But the same health concerns that have caused more Americans to choose high-fiber, vitamin- and mineral-rich whole wheat flour also are affecting Korean preferences.

"In the United States, we are already experiencing significant health problems associated with diet, such as obesity, diabetes, heart diseases and cancer,” said Byung-Kee Baik, an associate professor and cereal chemist at Washington State University. "Those trends are the same in Korea.”

Baik and his colleague, South Korean scientist Induck Choi, are embarking on a three-year project to investigate whole wheat flour processing and quality. They are funded by a $220,000 grant from the International Technology Cooperation Center of the Rural Development Administration (RDA) in Korea, for which Choi works.

A research agreement was created for WSU and the RDA to work as one unit, sharing information, knowledge and resources, said Baik.

South Korea is developing a growing interest in consuming whole grain products, he said. But the products would be more popular if whole wheat flour behaved more like white flour in baking.

Without large amounts of added gluten, whole wheat bread is half the size of white wheat bread, he said. Whole wheat flour requires added ingredients to enhance the volume and texture of bread.

Baik and Choi will investigate the composition of whole wheat flour. They will explore milling methods that affect flour particle size and processing quality. They hope to develop novel whole wheat flour processing technologies that will improve quality for making bread, noodles and other foods.

Ultimately, they intend to develop a protocol for selecting wheat varieties most suitable for making whole wheat products with more desirable sensory properties.

Creating food security

As a side benefit, Baik said, their work will have a positive influence on Korean domestic production of wheat, consumption of whole wheat products, and creation of a strategic plan of food security. Wheat is the second major staple product in Korea, but close to 99 percent of wheat consumed in Korea is imported, he said.

"This research will provide us an understanding of wheat grain and information for developing wheat varieties suitable for developing whole wheat products,” he said.

Read an earlier article about Baik’s research here.