As I’ve said before, ingredients matter. High-quality and the correct ingredients are the difference between a delicious recipe and a…well, disaster. Or at least a low-quality product.
Part 2 will include all the other types, which are milled from various other things (such as rye, corn, oat, rice, nuts, etc.).
-Most Common Wheat Flours
- All-purpose flour: this flour is a blend of soft and hard wheats. It comes both bleached and unbleached. Some bakers use unbleached, simply because it has undergone less chemical processing. Other bakers recommend using bleached for cookies and pie crusts, and unbleached for breads. U.S. flour is generally enriched.
- Self-rising flour: all-purpose flour with additional leavening agents. Never use self-rising flour unless specifically directed by a recipe. One cup contains 1 & 1⁄2 teaspoons of baking powder and 1⁄2 teaspoon salt. Used mostly for biscuits.
- Bread flour: unbleached flour made from hard wheat. It has a protein (gluten) content of 12-14%…the higher gluten works perfectly for lighter, more elastic bread. This is the perfect and best choice for yeast breads.
- Cake flour: bleached flour made from soft wheat. Higher starch content, lower protein content of 8-10%, and milled very finely. This flour is best for cakes, pastries, and some muffins. If a recipe calls for it, definitely use it. (While some sources also call this pastry flour, it technically is not). Must be sifted before use.
- Pastry flour: bleached flour made from soft wheat. Somewhere between cake flour and all-purpose flour, aka- medium protein content. Used mostly for pie crusts.
- Whole-wheat flour: flour made from entire whole wheat berry, including the bran and germ. Low gluten level makes difficulties in bread making, so it is generally mixed with either all-purpose or bread flour. Bakers may also try adding additional gluten. Makes heavier and more dense products. Also called graham flour.
-Less Common Wheat Flours
- Gluten flour: usually made from hard spring wheat, and has starch removed. High in protein and low in starch. Used in diabetic and other special-diet breads.
- Semolina flour: made of the finely ground endosperm of durum wheat, the hardest type of wheat grown. Used for pasta making. (Semolina meal is a more coarsely ground product, and should not be used interchangeably).
- Spelt flour: also known as spelt wheat. Higher nutritional content than regular whole-wheat flour, and widely used by those who have trouble digesting whole-wheat flour. Thus again, a special need flour, though a popular one.
- Cracked wheat- made from complete wheat kernel. It can be ground fine, medium, or coarse. Added to other flours/breads; it is not used alone.
- Bulgur wheat- made from complete wheat kernel, though it is first soaked, cooked, and dried.
- Wheat germ- part of the wheat kernel, but a by-product of the milling process. Some recipes call for this to be added to improve fiber and nutrition (and color).
- Bran- made of outer layer of wheat kernel. High in fiber and sometimes added to baked goods.
- Crushed wheat, rolled wheat, farina, etc.- specialty goods that are used very rarely, if ever, by the average baker.