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A blogger I generally trust recently posted a recipe for a simple, brown soda bread.

The recipe calls for: bread flour, whole wheat flour, and wheat germ.

What is the purpose of adding wheat germ to a bread dough? What function does that serve?

I thought wheat germ was what you removed to turn whole wheat flour into white flour. So is the wheat germ just there to make the bread darker? Or is it something to do with it being a soda bread, instead of a more standard yeast bread?

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Wheat germs are the repoductive parts of the wheat grains. Like all germs, they are rich in vitamins, nutrients and oils. The oils are the reason the germs are removed during the milling process: they can become rancid quickly and reduce the shelf life of the flour. In whole wheat, the germ remains included, hence the shorter shelf life.

But the germ is not what makes the bread "dark", that's the outer bran - also removed during milling for white flour. Your recipe uses whole wheat flour, which explains the "dark" in the name.

In your recipe, I assume the wheat germ is included to make the bread "healthier" - like in many totally different recipes that use it. It may also influence the taste with "nuttier" tones and a tiny bit the texture. But combined with whole wheat flour, the effect is limited.

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The recipe is credited to America's Test Kitchen - According to Cooks Country part of the ATK family:

Toasted wheat germ bumps up the sweet, nutty flavor of the whole wheat and adds texture.

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