This section is from the book "Philadelphia Cook Book: A Manual Of Home Economies", by Sarah Tyson Heston Rorer. Also available from Amazon: Philadelphia Cook Book.
We begin with wheat, which, on account of its nutritive value, and the universality of its consumption, is placed at the head of all cereals. The whole wheat grain constitutes a perfect food. It consists of starch, gluten, sugar, gum, fatty matter, husk, water, and salts (potash, soda, lime, magnesia, phosphoric acid, etc.).
Wheat has several layers of bran coats. The outer coat, or true bran, contains silica and some other elements not found elsewhere in the grain, but is composed mostly of woody fibre. When flour is unbolted (the bran not separated), it is slightly increased in nutritive value, but at the expense of digestibility; consequently, bread containing bran should be rejected by persons of weak digestion.
Underneath the bran husk is a layer of rather darkish matter, the gluten cells surrounded by diffused gluten, containing the phosphates, other mineral matters, and the fatty matter, which are bound in by the true bran. This internal layer also contains cerealine. Beneath this are the cells which form the central mass, composed chiefly of starch, with a very little albumen and gluten. This part crumbles easily to a fine dust, and forms cur fine white flour. By this division it is seen that the brain, bone, and musclefeeding elements lie just beneath the true bran, the heat and force-producing elements in the central mass.
Wheat grown in different climates and soils, in wet and dry seasons, contains different proportions of gluten. The gluten of wheat is a gray, elastic, tough substance. If you make a dough of flour and water, and work it on a cloth drawn over a sieve, under a stream of water, you wash away the starch, and have remaining this gray, elastic sheet, closely resembling a soiled chamois skin. Now dry it, and you have a substance glue-like in appearance, hence its name, "gluten." This gluten consists chiefly of vegetable fibrin. Flour-dealers and bakers determine the quality of flour by the gluten it contains - the more the the better. Good flour should furnish sufficient gluten to to enable the bread, after a thorough kneading, to swell three times its original bulk; while the flour containing little gluten is soft and sticky, and, even after long kneading, produces a soft, flat, and watery bread. Bread cannot be made from pure gluten.
The Health Food Company make a most delicious bread, which they call "gluten bread," but it also contains starch.
Macaroni and vermicelli are made from gluten pastes. Wheat grown in warm climates abounds most in gluten, consequently our best macaroni comes from Italy.
Whole wheat grains, under the name of "cracked wheat," are frequently and wisely used as an article of diet. This should be boiled in a double boiler until the envelope of the grain is burst open (about three or four hours, or over night, on the back part of the fire), then eaten warm with sugar, salt, and cream. (See Suitable Combinations of Food.)
This is an excellent preparation, made from wheat, in a form generally acceptable to delicate stomachs. As it contains nitrogenous matter, it is superior in nutritive value to corn-starch or arrowroot as food for children. It is also excellent food for adults. It may be used by those who find grits or cracked wheat too irritating.