Almost all baked goods have a form of flour in them. There are a few exceptions, but not many. There are several different types of flour and we won’t cover all of them (I’m not including gluten-free flours or non-wheat flours at this time), but we will talk about the ones you will run into most often.
All-Purpose flour is a refined white flour that does not have any leavening agents added. It is known in Europe as plain flour. This is the most commonly used flour, though not always the best choice, and it is found in virtually all supermarkets and grocery stores. It has a gluten content of about 11%. All-Purpose Flour can be used in breads, pizza doughs, muffins, and quick breads. You can make other types of flour out of All-Purpose but generally if the recipe calls for a different kind of flour, All-Purpose Flour by itself will not be a good substite.
For example, you can make Self-Rising Flour by mixing 1 cup All-Purpose Flour with 1 1/2 tsp. of baking powder, and 1/2 tsp. of salt.
You can make Cake Flour from All-Purpose, too. Measure out the amount of cups needed for the recipe. Remove 2 tbsp. of the All-Purpose Flour per cup measured. Place remaining flour in a sifter along with 2 tbsp. cornstarch for each cup used (thus you will be replacing the amount of flour you removed with and equal amount of cornstarch). Sift together until well-mixed and very fine.
You can also make Bread Flour. For every cup of All-Purpose Flour used, add 1 tbsp. Vital Wheat Gluten. This increases the protein content of the All-Purpose Flour, which is really the difference between Bread Flour and All-Purpose.
Whole-Wheat Flour is made by milling the whole grain of wheat, called a wheatberry. It has not been bleached to remove color, thus it appears to be a natural brown. It does not contain any leavening agents, similar to All-Purpose.
Whole-Wheat Flours are typically better for you than the refined All-Purpose because it contains all of the grain, which gives bonuses such as fiber, minerals, and more protein (about 13%).
Whole-Wheat Flour will not keep as long as All-Purpose or other refined, white flours due to the fact that there is more natural oil. Shelf-life can be prolongued by storing in a cool, dry place or in the refrigerator.
This type of flour will create denser, heavier breads and other baked goods. If you are looking at a recipe that calls for All-Purpose Flour and you’d like to “healthify” it, you can replace up to half of the All-Purpose Flour with Whole-Wheat Flour. Suggested uses include wheat breads, some hearty quick breads and muffins, and pizza dough.
White Whole-Wheat Flour
This type of flour is milled from hard white spring wheat, rather than the traditional red wheat that Whole-Wheat Flour is made from. It has a slightly lower protein content than regular Whole-Wheat Flour at 9 – 11%, but is nearly identical in its nutrition.
White Whole-Wheat Flour can be used interchangeably with Whole-Wheat Flour. It has a much milder flavor, and gives the lighter color that we are used to when we use a bleached flour like All-Purpose.
This type of flour is mixed with leavening agents, such as baking powder. It is evenly distributed in the flour to make for an even rise in the baked good. It creates a light, airy crumb and is used to make quick breads, muffins, scones, and biscuits.
You can make your own (cheaper) version of Self-Rising Flour, as mentioned above, by whisking together 1 cup All-Purpose Flour, 1 1/2 tsp. baking powder, and 1/2 tsp. salt.
Bread Flour does not have leavening agents, but does have a higher gluten content (about 13%). The high gluten content allows breads to become elastic and flexible. It gives the chewy crumb we all love in breads.
Suggested uses for this type of flours is… you guessed it!… Bread.
This type of flour has a middle-of-the-road protein content that falls between Cake Flour and All-Purpose Flour at about 10%.
Uses for Pastry Flour include pie crusts, tarts, biscuits, and pastries. It is recommended that you sift the Pastry Flour well before use to create a light crumb and reduce clumps.
This flour has a relatively low protein content at about 9%. It is suitable for cookies and cakes. It typically comes bleached. Cake Flour must be carefully measured to keep from adding too much, which will make your baked goods dry and tough.
For all flour measurements, it is recommended that you use the spoon-and-level method, which is easy enough to master. Simply scoop spoonfuls of flour into the measuring cup until it is over-full, then level it off with a knife or the handle of your spoon. This prevents the flour from getting packed into the cup, which would cause you to use too much flour.
I hope you’ve enjoyed the first installment of Baking Basics! The next post will be up no later than Sunday, April 24th.
Thanks for reading!