Flour Types You Should Know

Baking, while fun and engagingly creative can be a tad tedious if you don’t know the right type of flour to use. Flour is what gives structural support to baked products, but different products require different structures. Choosing the appropriate flour type for your baking needs will ensure the success of your baking endeavors.

Have you ever wanted to bake or do something flour-related and were unsure of what flour type would be perfect for your recipe? Don’t feel bad because we’ve all been there. Baking is a delicate art and must be treated as such. To make things easier for you, we have put together this shortlist of the different types of flour along with what they go best with.

The major differentiating factor in flour type is the protein content. High protein wheat contains about 10 to 14 percent of protein and is called hard wheat, while low protein wheat comprises about 5 to 10 percent protein and is called soft wheat. In summary, the higher the protein level, the higher the gluten level, and the higher the strength of the flour. Higher flour strength equals higher volume and a much chewier texture.

Dough mixtures that are made from flours with high protein content are more elastic and extensible – these flour types are good for bread and several other yeast-containing products, but bad for cakes as well as pastries.

In this article, we will be exploring the different types of flour and its uses. If you’ve ever been confused about what flour type to use for specific baking purposes, then this is for you. Also included are some tips on how to DIY your flour type or mixtures. Don’t forget to sift your flour before you begin!

All-Purpose Flour

If your baking/cooking recipe indicates just flour, then it is probably talking about all-purpose flour. This flour type comes from a combination of soft as well as hard wheat, with a protein content of 10 to 12 percent. All-purpose flour is the most widely used and known flour type.

While it may not be appropriate for all baking or cooking purposes, it certainly is very versatile and can produce flaky crusts or chewy pieces of bread, as well as fluffy biscuits. This flour type is sold as bleached or unbleached; these two are widely interchangeable, but it is always advisable to match the flour type to whatever recipe you’re using.

To DIY your all-purpose flour, you can combine equal amounts of cake flour and bread flour.

Cake Flour

This flour type has a protein content of 5 to 8 percent (the lowest). This low level of gluten-forming proteins makes it the perfect flour for soft and delicate baked products, like scones, biscuits, cakes, and muffins. This flour type is usually chlorinated, a process of bleaching that breakdowns its gluten proteins and changes its starch to enhance the flour’s liquid and sugar absorbing ability, thus ensuring moist cakes.

To make a cake yourself, you will need a 1-cup measuring cup. In that cup, add two tbsp. of cornstarch and fill it up with all-purpose flour.

Pastry Flour

This type of flour is unbleached and is manufactured from soft wheat. Its protein levels range from 8 to 9 percent, right in the middle of all-purpose and cake flour. Pastry flour gives the perfect texture between tenderness and flakiness, making it ideal for cookies, pies, and even tarts. The fun part about pastry flour is that you can make it yourself. All you need to do is get your measuring cup and combine 1 1/3 cup of all-purpose flour with 2/3 cup of cake flour.

Bread Flour

Bread flour has a protein content of about 12 to 14 percent and is the strongest flour type, giving the highest structural support. Its protein content is particularly vital in yeast-containing bread in which a tight gluten network is needed to hold the carbon dioxide gases manufactured during the fermentation process.

Bread Flour

This extra protein does not only give it more volume and chewiness, but it also gives it a browner crust. Bread flour has different variants; whole wheat/white, unbleached/bleached. If you can’t get your hands on bread flour, a good substitute for it is unbleached all-purpose flour.

Self-Rising Flour

This flour type has already been combined with salt and baking powder during the milling process. This southern staple is usually manufactured from low-protein wheat conventionally grown in the South. Self-rising flour is ideal for soft biscuits, some cake types, pancakes, as well as muffins. The best way to store this flour is by wrapping it tightly in its original packaging and using it within six months of its purchase – if it is used for longer, the baking powder component starts to diminish in quality.

To DIY your self-rising flour, mix one cup of pastry flour with one and a half teaspoons of baking soda and a quarter teaspoon salt.

Whole-Wheat Flour

During the milling process, the wheat kernel is usually divided into three parts; endosperm, germ, and finally, the bran. In manufacturing whole-wheat flour, some parts of the bran, as well as the germ, are re-added to the flour. This flour type has a high protein content, but with a low gluten-forming ability because of the added bran and germ.

In a lot of recipes, you can substitute whole-wheat flour for all-purpose flour. Whole-wheat flour has a much shorter shelf-life than white flour because the wheat germ is composed of oils that easily go rancid. It should be stored for about three months at cold room temperature, then transferred to the refrigerator or freezer.

Gluten-Free Flours

There are different types of gluten-free flours available for purchase today. They are typically made from different types of starches, grains, and nuts. The most commonly available are milled from rice flour ground with potato starch as well as tapioca. Sometimes, xanthan gum is added to produce the chewiness that is linked with gluten. If you can’t get or don’t want to use gluten-free flour, you can check the specified recipe to know how to substitute it for wheat flour.

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