Types of Flour
Many people are familiar with all-purpose flour, however there are many varieties of flour that bakers should know about. They have different properties and may act differently in your baked goods. The major difference is the percentage of protein that is in the flour, which indicates the level of gluten and how it affects the structure and mass of your baked goods. Below is a list of some common types of flour used in baking.
All purpose flour is known for its versatility and strength in a variety of baked goods. It has a high protein content - anywhere from10 to 12 percent (this can vary by brand or region). All-Purpose flour is ideal for baking cookies, cakes, breads and pastries.
This flour has a lower protein content, from 6 to 8 percent, and is usually made from soft wheat flour. Cake flour is bleached to break down the strength of the gluten, and has a smooth, velvety texture. Cake flour is ideal for baking cakes, biscuits, and cookies where a very delicate texture is needed. Usually these baked goods are more likely to crumble because of the lower gluten content.
Made from soft wheat flour, pastry flour is similar to cake flour but without chlorination. This results in a higher protein content of 8 to 10 percent. Pastry flour is used for pastry dough, pies and cookies.
Whole Wheat Flour
Whole wheat flour is made using all parts of the grain, including bran, germ and endosperm. This is unlike white and refined flours. Whole wheat flour has a high protein content, up to 14 percent. It has a textured, brown appearance, and typically does not rise as well as white flours.
Bread flour has a high protein content of 12 to 14 percent. It is composed of hard wheat flour. It has a high gluten content, which gives the bread its shape, structure and rise. Bread flour is available in whole wheat, white, organic, bleached and unbleached varieties.
Enriched flour contains vitamins and nutrients that have been added by a manufacturer. This usually includes niacin, riboflavin, thiamin, iron, and sometimes vitamins A, C and D, which makes up for the nutrients lost in refined white flours, that don’t have any wheat bran or wheat germ.
Self-rising flour is white flour that has baking powder and salt added to it. Baking powder is a leavening agent which allows the recipes that use this type of flour to rise without the adding any extra leavener. Self-rising flour is usually used for muffins, cakes and quick breads.
Bleached Vs. Unbleached Flour
Some manufacturers whiten flour with chemical bleaching agents, like chlorine. This may be done to achieve an attractive appearance. Unbleached flour maintains a pale yellow color until it has aged several months, then it begins to whiten naturally.
Most bleached flours are also enriched, since the chemical bleaching process removes some of the nutrient value of flour. Bleached flours are recommended for baking cakes, cookies and quick breads, when a light and fluffy texture is preferred. Unbleached flour is typical for making yeast breads and some pastries.