Not all flours are created the same nor are they interchangeable. Find out the difference today on some of the most popular flours.
Let’s face it most of us today have at least 2-3 different types of flours in our homes. Growing up we had at most 2 but nowadays since everyone is a foodie we’re expanding our pantries and our baking repertoire. Long gone are the days of just having a bag of all regular all-purpose flour. Those days have been replaced by also having white whole wheat, gluten-free, pastry flour, cake flour, self-rising, rye, oat and etc… Needless to say the list goes on and on.
And today, even with many folks battling Celiac disease, there are now gluten-free flour alternatives such as Tapioca, Coconut, Teff, Sorghum and so forth. Since I’m not gluten-free, I stick to good ol’ fashioned wheat flour made from the heartlands of America.
This flour is milled from a blend of hard and soft wheat. It may be bleached or unbleached. All-Purpose Flour has 8% to 11% protein (gluten). All-purpose flour is one of the most commonly used and readily accessible flours in the states. Flour that is bleached naturally as it ages is labeled “unbleached,” while chemically treated flour is labeled “bleached.” Basically pure white flour is bleached. AP flour is best for pie crusts, cookies, quick breads, pancakes and waffles. You can also use it with yeast breads, pastries and cream puffs.
Cake flour is a very fine textured, almost silky flour milled from soft wheat. Because of that, it has a very low protein content of about 7-9%. Because cake flour has a higher percentage of starch it’s often used in cakes and pastries to give them a more light, delicate crumb. Cake flour is chlorinated thus leaving it just a tad acidic. Because of that, cakes set faster and distributes fat more evenly through the batter to improve texture. Find out here how to make your own cake flour!
Pastry flour kind of splits the difference between cake flour and all-purpose flour. It’s a low-protein flour that is used when baking powder or baking soda is the leavening agent. This is the best flour to use in pie crusts or when you are making delicate pastries or chewy cookies. If you wanted to go with a wheat type flour for this then go with Whole Wheat Pastry Flour. Regular whole wheat, while awesome, is too heavy for delicate baked things and best used for breads dough. Pastry flour has a little more protein than cake flour. Pastry flour produces less gluten so when the gluten is formed, doughs made with this are tender, flaky and don’t quite hold together as firm as say pizza dough.
Bread flour is one of the strongest flours out there with a protein content of 12-14% which means it provides the most structural support. This is most prevalent in yeast breads or pizza doughs where a strong gluten network is needed to contain the C02 gases produced during fermentation. Not only does the extra protein aid in making a puffier dough and making a chewier crumb, it also aides in browning the crust. Find out here how to make your own bread flour! Please note that not all starting AP flour is made the same.
Self-rising flour is flour that has baking powder and salt added to it while it’s being milled. Typically the shelf life for this is less than 6 months because baking powder loses its power to perform. This is most often used in biscuits, pancakes, muffins, and some cakes. Find out here how to make your own self-rising flour!
Whole Wheat Flour:
Whole wheat flour is ground from red wheat berries having a nutty, hearty taste. All 3 layers of the wheat berries are ground – the bran, germ, and endosperm. Due to it having a high protein content, it’s a great choice for hearty whole grain breads, bagels, pretzels, rustic rolls and buns.
White Whole Wheat Flour:
This flour is light in color (where as whole wheat is dark, almost reddish) and in flavor. It’s made from hard white spring or winter wheat. Like regular whole wheat flour the bran, germ, and endosperm are all ground to produce a 100% whole-wheat flour but because it’s paler in color and taste is milder it’s deemed white whole wheat. This can used interchangeability in any whole wheat recipe or can be substituted for half of the all purpose flour in a recipe. I actually prefer using white whole wheat flour in many of my breads and doughs as I find it adds a great flavor and great ‘chew’.
Now the list of other flours is endless – Teff, Buckwheat, Rice Flour, Rye, Durum, Spelt but for now I’ll just discuss those items.
Here are some of my favorite recipes using the above various flours:
- Pretzel Bun Philly Cheesesteak Bombs
- My best Pizza Dough
- Grandma’s Vanilla Bean Cream Cheese Pound Cake
- Aunt Nettie’s Orange Nut Cake
- My World Famous Super Soft ‘n Chewy Hoagie Rolls