Q) Hello, Please tell me if white wheat is the same as soft white wheat? I'm trying to clarify the difference and its use. Is white wheat use to make white flour and soft wheat for pastry flour? Thanks.
A) To help you clarify, let's first talk about the color:
The color has nothing to do with the usage of the wheat - it only affects the taste and potentially the amount of niacin (which is not too lacking in most diets). Red wheats have a tiny bit higher niacin (a B vitamin) than white wheats, but that is about the only difference (based on color). They (reds) do have a more nutty flavor (almost bitter wheaty in my opinion) than white wheats.
Bagged flour is often bleached either by natural or chemical bleaching and the husk has been taken out (along with the germ, etc) thus the 'whiteness'.
White wheat when milled whole will not produce 'white' flour (like bagged flour white) because it is natural. It will be a very light golden color. It will bake to a golden yellow/brown color. It is the best transition grain (in my opinion) for those who are used to white loaf bread from the store. It is mild in flavor and aroma.
Red wheat when milled will be the more traditional 'whole wheat' color of a light brown. It will bake to a dark brown. It is stronger in flavor and aroma.
Again, color is not the determining factor of use, but will affect the taste. So it is taste and aesthetics (look) that determine what color you choose, what you want to use it for is a deciding factor in the type not color.
Now on to the type - hard or soft wheat:
This does affect the usage of the grain.
Soft wheats (regardless of color) have much less gluten thus are not as 'spongy' when used. They will not make very good loaf bread. Combine the soft wheat flours with hard for very good & fluffy muffins, pancakes, pie crusts, cookies (cookies can be all hard wheat too though) and more that does not require a 'rise' or elastic dough feeling.
Soft wheats are used as a pastry four, but in my experience are hardly ever used exclusively alone (often combined with hard wheat) except in cakes (to which you must also sift the flour to remove some of the bran for a real cake like consistency). Cake flour alone is best as only soft wheat.
Hard wheats (regardless of color) are the grains that make the most all purpose flour. The hard wheat contains the most gluten (which is a protein) that helps the bubbles hold together in a loaf of bread. Gluten helps to give the spongy effect. If used in other recipes like muffins etc, it can result in a tough muffin if over mixed (mixing/kneading helps gluten form the bubble pockets).
So to sum up - color is a choice for taste and look, while hard or soft is a choice for type of recipe.