Generally, winter wheats tend to be soft, and spring wheats hard, but that’s not always the case — some spring wheats are also soft.
Hard Wheat kernels require more force and energy to grind them up. Because of this, more of the starch is “damaged”, which actually enables the resulting flours to absorb more moisture in baking.
Hard Wheat flour feels a bit like body powder; soft wheat flour feels more granular. When you shake flour from hard wheat in your hand, it will fall in separate particles. When you shake flour from soft wheat in your hand, it will tend to clump.
Hard Wheat flours will be 10 to 16 percent gluten; soft wheat flours will be 7 to 8 percent gluten.
Hard Wheat requires more fungicide spraying than does soft wheat, because it’s more susceptible to mildew and other diseases while growing.
The yield is lower than for soft wheat varieties, but farmers get a better price for it than on soft wheat. It is high in protein, and therefore very desirable for making bread flour from.
Hard Wheat flours are used straight up to make the kinds of raised, baked-in-bread-pans bread that the English speaking world is fond of. It is also used in Europe to reinforce flour made from soft wheat, and used in Asia to strengthen soft wheat flour for use in noodles.
In America, bread-machine flours are often made from a combination of Hard Red Winter Wheat and Hard Red Spring Wheat.
Hard White Wheat is known as “prime hard wheat” in Australia. There it is 10% of Australia’s wheat crop, as of 2004, while it was only 2% of America’s in the same year. The flours from Australian Hard White Wheat are in high demand in Asia for noodles, so it fetches a good market price. It is preferred in noodles, because red Hard Wheats can cause noodles to discolour.
Also known as Hard Red Winter Wheat, Hard Red Spring Wheat.