Flour is the main ingredient in the majority of baked goods. There are many different types of flours that have different uses and produce very different results. It is generally not advised to substitute one kind of flour for another. Here is a rundown of the most popular flour types:
♦ All-purpose flour is the most common type of flour and may be referred to in recipes simply as “flour”. All-purpose flour does not have a leavening agent. This flour is available in bleached and unbleached. All-purpose flour is ideal for cookies, cakes, biscuits, muffins and other baked goods.
♦ Bleached flour is white flour that has been treated with a bleaching agent. This process gives the flour a whiter appearance and allows the flour to produce more gluten.
♦ Bread flour is made from hard wheat and has more protein than all-purpose flour. Bread flour can be white or whole wheat and works well in making yeast breads. The addition of ascorbic acid allows bread to rise in volume. Bread flour is ideal for a large variety of breads, pizza and other baked goods.
♦ Cake flour is fine textured, soft wheat flour. Cake flour has both a high starch content and low protein content. The bleaching process produces flour that is able to distribute fat more evenly which improves the texture of the baked product. If you cannot find cake flour, you can substitute bleached all-purpose flour, but you will need to remove 2 tablespoons of flour per cup needed (1 cup all-purpose flour minus 2 tablespoons is equal to 1 cup cake flour).
♦ Gluten flour is milled from spring wheat and is higher in protein. Gluten flour is used when baking for diabetics or those needing lower carbohydrate options.
♦ Instant flour is formulated to dissolve quickly and is used mostly in things like sauces and gravies. This flour cannot be substituted for all-purpose flour.
♦ Organic flour can be used interchangeably with all-purpose flour. Organic flour follows USDA regulations in order to be labeled as organic.
♦ Pastry flour has a protein content between cake flour and all-purpose flour. Pastry flour is used in pie crusts, pastries and other quick (non-yeast) breads. This type of flour can be found as white or whole wheat.
♦ Rice flour is flour made from finely milled white or brown rice. Rice flour is a good gluten free alternative.
♦ Semolina flour is primarily used for making homemade pasta. It is milled from durum wheat and is high in gluten.
♦ Self-rising flour has the addition of leavening agents (unlike all-purpose flour). Self-rising flour is made with all-purpose flour, baking soda and salt. The addition of the leavening agents helps produce bread that is both lighter and softer in texture. In addition to self-rising flour, there is also self-rising cake flour. Some of the more common uses of self-rising flour are biscuits, muffins and pastries. If you do not have self-rising flour, you can combine 1 cup all-purpose flour, 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder and ½ teaspoon salt for each cup of self-rising flour needed.
♦ Whole wheat flour is made from whole kernel wheat. Whole wheat is higher in fiber and contains more nutrients than white flours. But because whole wheat flour does not have a high gluten level, it needs to be mixed with all-purpose or bread flour when making yeast breads.
Now that we have gone through the different types of flours, there are a few other things you should know about flour:
How do I measure flour?
The most accurate way to measure flour is to spoon it onto a food scale. If you do not have a food scale, you should use a spoon and dry measuring cup. Flour typically gets compacted during storage. Prior to scooping the flour for measurement, you can use a spoon or other utensil to lightly stir the flour and aerate it a bit. Use a scoop or spoon to place the flour into your dry measuring cup until it is overflowing. Use the back of a knife (or your finger) to quickly level the flour. You want the flour to be light and airy so you never want to pack it in tightly.
Do I need to sift the flour?
As a general rule, you do not need to sift all-purpose flour unless a recipe specifically states that it should be sifted. Cake flour tends to clump in storage so it should be sifted prior to mixing. If you find that your flour is too lumpy for your liking, you can always do a quick sift.
How do I store flour?
As a general rule, flour can be stored for up to 6 months in a cool, dry place (such as a pantry or cabinet). Keeping flour in the refrigerator can extend that shelf life to around 12 months. Whole wheat flour should always be stored in the refrigerator. Flour can also be repackaged in an airtight container and stored in the freezer which will extend the shelf life past 12 months. One exception to this general rule is self-rising flour. The leavening agents is self-rising flour lose their effectiveness after 6 months, regardless of storing it in the refrigerator or freezer.
I hope this helps! Happy Baking!
Copyright SugarEd Productions 2012