Flour that is used in baking comes mainly from wheat, although it can be milled from corn, rice, nuts, legumes, and some fruits and vegetables. The type of flour of flour used is vital at getting the product right. Different types of flour are suited to different items and all flours are different you cannot switch from one type to another without consequences that could ruin the recipe. To achieve success in baking, it is important to know what the right flour is for the job!
All-purpose flour is a blend of hard and soft wheat; it may be bleached or unbleached. It is usually translated as "plain flour." All-purpose flour is one of the most commonly used and readily accessible flour in the United States. Flour that is bleached naturally as it ages is labeled "unbleached," while chemically treated flour is labeled "bleached." Bleached flour has less protein than unbleached. Bleached is best for pie crusts, cookies, quick breads, pancakes and waffles. Use unbleached flour for yeast breads, Danish pastry, puff pastry, strudel, Yorkshire pudding, éclairs, cream puffs and popovers.Shelf-Life: for cabinet storage, up to 8 months if properly stored in a sealed container or if tightly wrapped, and for refrigerator storage, up to one year.
Bread flour is white flour made from hard, high-protein wheat. It has more gluten strength and protein content than all-purpose flour. It is unbleached and sometimes conditioned with ascorbic acid, which increases volume and creates better texture. This is the best choice for yeast products.Shelf Life: several months in a cool, dry cabinet when stored in a sealed container or if tightly wrapped, and up to one year in the freezer.
Whole-wheat flour is made from the whole kernel of wheat and is higher in dietary fiber and overall nutrient content than white flours. It does not have as high a gluten level, so often it's mixed with all-purpose or bread flour when making yeast breads. Whole wheat flour is equivalent to British whole meal flour. Shelf Life: 6 months to one year in the freezer if stored in tightly sealed plastic containers or if tightly wrapped. It will keep for only a few months if stored in a cabinet. Due to the presence of the wheat germ, resulting in an unsaturated oil content that is higher than refined flour. The potential for rancidity is greater if whole-wheat flour is kept for long periods and particularly if it is not stored under refrigerated conditions. It is best to store whole-wheat flour in a tightly sealed container in the refrigerator or freezer.
Instant flour (Wondra from Gold Medal) is granular and formulated to dissolve quickly in hot or cold liquids. It will not work as a substitute for all-purpose flour, although there are recipes on the container for popovers and other baked goods. It is used primarily in sauces and gravies.
Cake flour is a fine-textured, soft-wheat flour with a high starch content. It has the lowest protein content of any wheat flour. It is chlorinated (a bleaching process which leaves the flour slightly acidic, sets a cake faster and distributes fat more evenly through the batter to improve texture. When you're making baked goods with a high ratio of sugar to flour, this flour will be better able to hold its rise and will be less liable to collapse. This flour is excellent for baking fine-textured cakes with greater volume and is used in some quick breads, muffins and cookies. If you cannot find cake flour, substitute bleached all-purpose flour, but subtract 2 tablespoons of flour for each cup used in the recipe (if using volume measuring).
Pastry flour also is made with soft wheat and falls somewhere between all-purpose and cake flour in terms of protein content and baking properties. Use it for making biscuits, pie crusts, brownies, cookies and quick breads. Pastry flour makes a tender but crumbly pastry. Do not use it for yeast breads. Pastry flour (both whole-wheat and regular) is not readily available at supermarkets, but you can find it at specialty stores and online.
Self-rising flour, sometimes referred to as phosphated flour, is a low-protein flour with salt and leavening already added. It's most often recommended for biscuits and some quick breads, but never for yeast breads. Exact formulas, including the type of baking powder used, vary by manufacturer. Recipes that call for self-rising flour do not call for the addition of salt or leavening agents.Make your own self-rising flour: Using a dry measure, measure the desired amount of all-purpose flour into a container. For each cup of all-purpose flour, add 1 1/2 teaspoons of baking powder and 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Mix to combine.
Semolina flour is used in making pasta and Italian puddings. It is made from durum wheat, the hardest type of wheat grown. The flour is highest in gluten.
Durum flour is finely ground semolina and is grown almost exclusively in North Dakota.
Organic flour is used in the same way as regular flour. It must follow U.S. Department of Agriculture regulations to be labeled "organic." Using this flour is a matter of personal preference.
Gluten flour is usually milled from spring wheat and has a high protein. It is used primarily for diabetic breads, or mixed with other nonwheat or low-protein wheat flours to produce a stronger dough structure.
Look for tightly sealed bags or boxes. Flours in torn packages or in open bins are exposed to air and to insect contamination.
Storage of Flours:
Flour must be kept cool and dry. All flours, even white flour, have a limited shelf life. Millers recommend that flours be stored for no more than 6 months. The main change that occurs is the oxidation of oils when flour is exposed to air. The result of this is rancid off flavors. During hot weather, store flour in the refrigerator.
Flour should be stored, covered, in a cook and dry area. This prevents the flour from absorbing moisture and odors and from attracting insects and rodents. Freezing flour for 48 hours before it is stored will kill any weevil or insect eggs already in the flour. It is better not to mix new flour with old if you are not using the flour regularly.
Do not store flour near soap powder, onions or other foods and products with strong odors.
If freezer space is available, flour can be repackaged in airtight, moisture-proof containers, labeled and placed in the freezer at 0 degrees F. If flour is stored like this, it will keep well for several years.
Keep whole wheat flour in the refrigerator the year around. Natural oils cause this flour to turn rancid quickly at room temperature. Throw away flour if it smells bad, changes color, or is invested with weevils.
Flour is always readily available so it should only be brought in quantities that will last a maximum of two to three months. Put a bay leaf in the flour canister to help protect against insect infections. Bay leaves are natural insect repellents.