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All about Flour

Recent(ish)ly I started a series on here called Seb’s Baking Helpline. Thinking about it, I’m pretty sure I only made one post in the “series”. Oops. Haha!

But we’re back! Every second weekend of the month we’ll be back to a Baking Helpline post. I love doing these posts because I learn a TON from researching! I love it!

This month we’re talking all about that most basic ingredient in baking; flour. We’ll be focusing on the different varieties of wheat flour in this post, if you all are interested, we could go for a gluten free flour post in the future.

If there is something you’re interested in learning more about and want me to do a post on it, let me know!

All-purpose Flours:

These are the flours you will use for any recipe not specifying a type of flour, or recipes specifying “AP” flours

Bleached: This variety of flour uses bleaching chemicals like benzoyl peroxide and chlorine gas to quicken the flour’s aging process. This technique results in a softer and bright white flour. What does this mean for your baked goods? It means whatever you bake will be a brighter color, have more volume and be a more delicate texture.

Uses: It’s a good all-purpose flour but, you might reach for bleached flour over other kinds for cookies, pie crust, muffins or pancakes.

Unbleached: This flour doesn’t use bleaching chemicals to age it. It ages naturally, resulting in an off-white color which will continue to dull as it ages. Unbleached flour may still be treated with chemicals depending on the brand, so you may want to check the labels if you want untreated flour. It is slightly more expensive to buy because of the increased time it takes to produce. Unbleached flour has a denser grain providing more structure to baked goods.

Uses: It is also a good all-purpose flour but, you might reach for unbleached over bleached when making pastries, choux pastry or yeasted breads.

Specialized Flours:

There are many varieties of flour. Most recipes will use All-purpose, but some will specify another type. The flours I’ve listed are the most common varieties I’ve seen in recipes.

Bread: This type of flour is higher in protein. It is milled from a harder wheat than all-purpose flours, making it high in protein and gluten. This high gluten flour contributes to a chewier crust, a more structured shape and a tighter crumb in breads. Uses: artisan breads, pretzels, baguettes and basically any bread you want to have a crunchy crust.

Cake: Cake flour is very soft. It is milled to a super-fine consistency and is usually bleached. This process of milling and bleaching allows the flour to take in more liquid than other varieties resulting in tender baked goods. It can be difficult to spot on the store shelf because it’s usually packaged differently. One of the most common cake flours is from Pillsbury called Softasilk.

Uses: any variety of sponge (also Christina Tosi primarily uses cake flour in her cakes)

Self-rising: This variety is not commonly found in recipes in the United States. Some Southern recipes will use it, but it is a much more common ingredient in the United Kingdom. Self-rising flour does just what it says, it rises without other leavening ingredients added to it. This flour is a mixture of baking powder, salt and flour. (You can make your own by combining 1 cup all-purpose flour with 1/ 4 tsp salt and 1 1/ 2 tsp baking powder.) You will automatically find a nice rise out of any baked good when using this flour. I would not recommend using this flour unless your recipe calls for it or unless you’re creating a new recipe. Using self-rising flour when it’s not mentioned in a recipe can throw off the balance of leavening agents in a baked good.

Uses: cakes, biscuits, pancakes and quick breads

Whole wheat: It is more absorbent than white flours, requiring you to add more liquid to mixtures. You can pretty much make any baked good whole grain, but you need to have a balance between the ingredients and the amount of mixing you do. For example, overmixing a recipe will typically result in a crumbly bread rather than an elastic and chewy one.

Uses: Pretty much anything, but you will need to adjust the balance of ingredients if you’re substituting whole wheat flour.



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