Since all-purpose flour is the most common flour listed in recipes we try, we may not realize how many different wheat flours there are in the market. Unless you’re a baker, perhaps it’s the only kind of flour you have used. But if you’re interested in using other types of wheat flour, read here.
Basics of Wheat Flour
Among the grains, only wheat flour can produce gluten. Gluten is wheat’s natural protein, and it’s what gives baked goods its structure. When the dough is kneaded, the glutens develop and become elastic. There are two major categories of wheat flour: soft flour and hard flours. Soft flours are made from low-protein wheat are softer and lower in protein. Meanwhile, hard flours are made from harder, high-protein varieties of wheat. Each flour is used for specific purposes to get the best possible finished product.
To understand wheat flour, know these basic wheat products:
- Bran – the outer layer of a wheat kernel. Sometimes, it’s removed, while sometimes it’s added to baked products. It’s the source of fiber for flour, and it’s also rich in phytochemicals.
- Germ – the inner part (or the heart) of the wheat kernel. It’s rich in vitamins and minerals, and it’s added to baked foods to improve its nutritional value. It’s the component of whole wheat flour that makes it easier to turn rancid than regular refined wheat flour.
Wheat flour has two major types: white flour and whole wheat flour.
Refined white flour
Refined white flour is made from processed wheat. It’s the more popular flour because it produces lighter baked goods than whole-wheat flour. It consists of the ground endosperm of the wheat kernel. When the bran and germ are removed from the wheat kernel, along with dietary fiber, vitamins, and minerals. Therefore, white flour is enriched to replace some of the missing nutrients.
1. All-purpose flour
All-purpose flour is formulated to have a mixture of high-gluten hard wheat and low-gluten soft wheat flour. This type of flour is on the safe middle ground, making it suitable for either bread or pastries or cakes. It can also be used to thicken sauces and gravies, a coating for breading, or for thickening sautéed foods. All-purpose flour is an excellent general flour, but it’s not what most professional bakers use.
2. Bread flour
This type of flour contains more hard wheat flour and more gluten. It’s usually mixed with malted barley to increase yeast activity, making it ideal for making bread. The high gluten content is necessary for the bread to rise effectively. Using bread flour will result in larger bread loaves with light and less crumbly texture.
3. Cake flour
Cake flour is a fine-textured, almost silky soft flour milled from soft wheat. It’s used to make all types of yummy baked goods like cakes, cookies, bread, and other types of pastry. It has a higher starch content and less protein than bread flour, making cakes and pastries soft and delicate.
4. Pastry flour
Pastry flour is made from soft wheat and has a texture slightly stronger than cake flour. It’s finely ground, but not as fine as cake flour. It’s often used for making muffins, biscuits, pie doughs, cookies, and other assorted pastries.
5. Enriched flour
Enriched flours are processed flours with bran and germ removed, bleached to be whiter, and reformulated with nutrients such as vitamin D, calcium, iron, riboflavin, thiamin, and niacin. The reason why the germ is removed is to extend its shelf life. Though it’s healthier than regular white flour, it doesn’t have as much fiber.
6. Gluten flour
Produced from hard wheat that has been treated to remove starch, gluten flour contains the greatest percentage of gluten than other types of flour. This is used as a strengthening agent when mixed with other flours. It’s useful for making flatbread, pizza doughs, bagels, and rolls.
7. Bromated flour
Bromated flour is typically used as an additive to other flour to help ensure consistent results in baked goods. It develops gluten further, making the kneading of doughs easier. It’s rarely used in the United States now because ascorbic acid is used for its purpose.
Farina is a type of flour produced with removing bran from whole wheat grains and then ground into a fine powder. It’s the main ingredient in many hot breakfast cereals, but it can also be used to make pasta and to other dishes. Farina is produced by removing the bran from hulled wheat grains, then grinding it to a fine powder. It yields a denser product.
9. Instant flour
Also known as quick-mixing, instant blending, or granulated flour – instant flour can pour easily and dissolves in liquids easier than most flours. It’s most often used for thickening sauces, soups, gravies, and other types of food items. It’s not recommended for most baking because of its high starch content and powdery texture.
10. Self-rising flour
Self-rising flour is made of soft wheat, with a leavening agent already added. The leavening agent usually comes in the form of baking powder, but sometimes other substances like baking soda are, or any acid-releasing substance is present. It’s often bought in pre-packaged mixes such as cake mixes and was created to save time for the user. It must not be used in preparing yeast bread.
Semolina is made from hard durum wheat that’s rich in gluten. It’s the coarsely-ground endosperm of durum wheat, which means there’s no bran nor germ. It’s high in protein, making it ideal for making commercial pasta and some bread.
12. Durum flour
Durum flour is the by-product of producing semolina. It’s the flour with the highest protein content, which means it produces the most gluten. It’s frequently used to create pasta.
Whole wheat flour
Whole wheat flour is a low-protein flour produced from the entire grain of wheat, without removing the bran first. It’s visible in the flour as small brown flecks, explaining why whole wheat bread is usually brown. This type of flour creates a heavier and denser baked product than those made from enriched flour. Because of the presence of bran, gluten development is reduced, but some bakers add more gluten to counteract this. It has a shorter shelf life than refined white flour, but it keeps more of the original nutrients from wheat. Its high fiber content makes it good for digestion, too.
1. Graham flour
Graham flour is a type of wheat flour that is used to make graham crackers and other baked goods. It’s a coarsely-ground whole wheat flour developed by Dr. Sylvester Graham, the creator of the graham cracker. He believed that bran is beneficial for the diet and that bread must not be made of highly processed flour, but using whole-grain flour.
2. Bolted flour
Bolted flour, also known as reduced-bran wheat flour, has almost 80% of bran removed, making it lighter than a hearty whole grain. It’s an ideal flour alternative if you want a nutritious flour without all the weight.
3. Kamut flour
Kamut flour is made of an ancient grain – it’s actually a brand name for Khorasan wheat, a wheat grain closely related to durum. It’s known for its nutty and buttery flavor and high protein and nutritional content. It’s low in gluten, so it’s tolerable by people with wheat allergies. Kamut flour is used for bread making.
Spelt flour is made of the ancient whole grain spelt, which is also known as hulled wheat or dinkel wheat. This low-gluten flour is also great for people with wheat allergies and spelt bread can be tolerable by them. It can also show up in the form of pasta.