What are the different Flour Types?

What are the different Flour Types?

It’s #TuesdayTips and today we will be talking about the various flour types. I’m sure you have heard of all purpose, bread, whole wheat, cake, coconut, almond and so many more, but maybe you don’t know the difference. Some flours can be substituted while others will just ruin your recipe. Speaking of which, if a recipe just says Flour, it is referring to All-Purpose Flour, which the is standard. All -Purpose (AP) can be substituted for any other kind of flour, majority of the time. The one exception that comes to mind immediately is Macarons, which needs almond flour.

All-Purpose Flour: Milled from a mixture of soft and hard wheat, with a moderate protein content in the 10 to 12%, all-purpose flour is a staple among staples. While not necessarily good for all purposes, it is the most versatile of flours, capable of producing flaky pie crusts, fluffy biscuits and chewy breads. A-P flour is sold bleached or unbleached; the two are largely interchangeable, but it’s always best to match your flour to your recipe.

Cake Flour: The flour with the lowest protein content (5 to 8 percent). The relative lack of gluten-forming proteins makes cake flour ideal for tender baked goods, such as cakes (of course), but also biscuits, muffins and scones. Cake flour is generally chlorinated, a bleaching process that further weakens the gluten proteins and, just as important, alters the flour’s starch to increase its capacity to absorb more liquid and sugar, and thus ensure a moist cake.

Pastry Flour: An unbleached flour made from soft wheat, with protein levels somewhere between cake flour and all-purpose flour (8 to 9 %). Pastry flour strikes the ideal balance between flakiness and tenderness, making it perfect for pies, tarts and many cookies. To make your own pastry flour, mix together 1 1/3 cups A-P flour and 2/3 cup cake flour.

Bread Flour: With a protein content of 12 to 14% , bread flour is the strongest of all flours, providing the most structural support. This is especially important in yeasted breads, where a strong gluten network is required to contain the CO2 gases produced during fermentation. The extra protein doesn’t just make for better volume and a chewier crumb; it also results in more browning in the crust. Bread flour can be found in white or whole wheat, bleached or unbleached. Unbleached all-purpose flour can generally be substituted for bread flour with good results.

Self-Rising Flour: Flour to which baking powder and salt have been added during milling. Long a Southern staple, self-rising flour is generally made from the low-protein wheat traditionally grown in the South. It’s best for tender biscuits, muffins, pancakes and some cakes. Self-rising flour is best stored tightly wrapped in its original box and used within six months of purchase — longer than that and the baking powder in it begins to lose its oomph. To make your own self-rising flour, combine 1 cup pastry flour with 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder and 1/4 teaspoon salt.

Whole-Wheat Flour: During milling, the wheat kernel is separated into its three components: the endosperm, the germ (the embryo) and the bran (the outer coating). In whole-wheat flours, varying amounts of the germ and bran are added back into the flour. Whole-wheat flour tends to be high in protein, but its gluten-forming ability is compromised by the bran and germ — just one of the reasons whole-wheat flour tends to produce heavier, denser baked goods. In most recipes, whole-wheat flour can be substituted for up to half of the all-purpose flour. Because wheat germ is high in oils prone to rancidity, whole-wheat flour is far more perishable than white. Store it for up to three months at cool room temperature, and then transfer it to the freezer.

Gluten-Free Flours: There is a wide variety of gluten-free flours available today, made from all sorts of grains, nuts and starches. Some of the most widely available are based on rice flour blended with tapioca and potato starch. A small proportion of xanthan gum is sometimes added to help simulate the chewiness normally associated with gluten. Consult the specific recipe or packaging for information on how to substitute gluten-free flour for wheat flour in your favorite baking recipes.

Coconut Flour: Coconut flour is high in fiber, gluten free, and low carb. It’s made from ground coconut and adds a sweet coconut flavor to baked goods. You can substitute this for up to 25% of the wheat flour called for in your recipe if you are not using it for low-carb. It’s very dry and soaks up a lot of moisture so it’s best to use it along with another gluten free product like almond flour.

Corn Flour/Cornmeal: Corn flour is what most of us call cornmeal. It’s gluten free and generally used for quick breads and pancakes. It can be used with yeast as a leavener as long as a larger percentage of wheat flour is added. Corn flour adds a sweet, nutty flavor to any bread or baked good.

Potato Flour: Potato flour is made from potatoes which have been cooked and dried. It gives a distinct potato taste to the baked goods it is used in. It has no gluten and can be used to replace up to 25% of wheat in recipes.

Oat Flour: Oat flour is made from oats. It can be used in breads, cookies, and dense cakes. You can replace up to 25% of the wheat flour with oat flour but be sure to add about an extra ⅛ teaspoon of your leavener. Although this is technically gluten free you need to be careful that there isn’t cross contamination. Many mills grind wheat as well as oats and the possibility of cross contamination is very real.

Rice Flour: Rice flour is a fine flour made from milling rice. It is gluten free and can be used in many baked products. Because of the lack of gluten your end results will have a different texture if you use it in the place of wheat flour.

Graham Flour: Graham flour is a coarse grind used in graham crackers and some muffins and breads. It is sweet and nutty in flavor. It averages 12% in protein. This flour is made by grinding the bran, germ, and endosperm (interior) of the wheat berry separately and then combining them again.

Almond Flour: Almond flour is a gluten-free flour that’s made out of blanched almonds that have been ground. It’s often used as a low carb substitute for wheat flour in baking. It gives baked goods a delicate almond flavor.

Amaranth Flour: Amaranth is an “ancient grain” that was used by the Incas and other cultures. It has an earthy, nutty flavor but takes on the flavors of other ingredients. You can use it to replace 25% of wheat flour in recipes but it can’t be used alone and should be combined with other flours when baking.

Buckwheat: Buckwheat is a low gluten grain that has a nutty flavor. It can be used in many baked goods and is most often used in buckwheat pancakes. This whole grain flour is high in fiber, amino acids, and protein. It is not wheat at all, but a type of fruit related to wild rhubarb. Since it does contain a little gluten you shouldn’t use it if you are gluten intolerant.

Rye Flour: Rye Flour has a low amount of gluten and without the addition of something with gluten the texture will be dense. Dark rye is the ground grain without the bran and germ removed. Light rye has both the germ and the bran removed.

Soy Flour: Soy flour has high protien. It is the results of soy beans being ground up. It should be stored in the refrigerator. Soy beans are naturally gluten free but cross contamination with wheat flour is possible.

Tapioca Flour: Tapioca flour is made from the cassava root. It is can be used in baked goods for people on gluten free diets.

Tons even within brands, the %s vary. Everyone has their preferences but I have found the King Arthur Flour has been consistent and top notch for both cooking and baking. Baking is a science and while it’s best to use a food scale over the measuring cups, it’s a must when substituting flours.

I'm the mom to Matthew, which we run and own Matthew's Kitchen. I'm 27 and studying to be a pastry chef. I love to cook and bake but my passion is in the pastry arts. Matthew is a 5 year old who began cooking when he was 1. Through the years he has not only gained valuable skills but has grown his palette. Together we want to share our passion for food with you and your family
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