Flour is a common ingredient in cooking and baking. It is a powder that is usually made from grain. Most of the time, it helps create a batter for cakes and pastries. It is also used as part of the breading for fried food.
How is Flour Made?
Back in the day, flour was created by using two stones grinding wheat together. Some used a mortar and pestle to beat down the wheat until it was powdery.
Fast forward to today, mills are being used to produce fine flour. The most current model is made from metal that grinds wheat to create the powder. Thanks to technology, flour can be mass produced without even using a lot of manual labor.
Most flour comes from wheat, that is why labels often say “wheat flour”. But flour can also come from other starchy plants like rye, oats, corn, and soybeans. All follow the same process with wheat flour.
Different Types of Flour and Where They are Used
Just by visiting the grocery, you already know that there are different kinds of flour. You’ll know this even more if you bake.
Different types of flour have different uses. Some make food thicker while some make food harder. So, here is a guide for all the flour types and where you should use them.
The most common type of wheat flour is all-purpose flour. When you go to the baking needs section of the supermarket, you’ll see this everywhere. This is also the flour you buy if the recipe just says “flour”.
All-purpose flour is called as such because it’s very versatile. It comes from soft and hard wheat and has a high content of protein. Some brands have even come up with vitamin A and D in their health benefits. Even if it’s called “all-purpose flour”, it’s not used for everything. But it is often used for making crusts, cookies, brownies, and breading. It is also the perfect flour for thickening sauces (like gravy).
Bread flour is the flour used for making bread. This is because it is so strong that it gives the structural support bread needs to rise. What gives bread flour its strength is the amount of gluten and protein found in its components. Without enough gluten, bread will not rise.
Bread flour comes from hard wheat mixed with barley flour in small parts. It’s sold in a variety of ways – bleached, unbleached, white, or whole wheat.
If you think that bread flour is enough to make cakes and other pastries, you’re wrong. Self-rising flour is the ultimate ingredient for food that needs to be very tender. Self-rising flour is a good alternative to all-purpose flour since it has the same properties. In fact, you can create your own self-rising flour with all-purpose flour. All you have to do is to mix all-purpose flour with salt and baking soda.
Because self-rising flour has faster expiry periods, you need to store it in an air-tight container.
And to cap off the wheat flours, you have the whole-wheat flour. Whole wheat flour is made from hulled wheat grain and it is rich in a lot of nutrients, fiber being one of them. This is a perfect substitute for all-purpose flour because it is also very versatile. But if you plan on using whole-wheat flour, know that you only need half measurements.
Whole-wheat flour can come in its original color and a white version. White whole-whea flour is made from white spring wheat. You can use this if you want your pastries to have a lighter color.
If there are wheat flours, there are also non-wheat flours. One example is corn flour. Corn flour comes from milled whole corn kernel. It is NOT cornstarch because the latter uses the corn’s endosperm.
Corn flour can be mixed with all-purpose flour to create pastries, cookies, and cakes. It comes in yellow and white. If you have corn meals at home, you can already produce corn flour. All you need to do is use a food processor.
Another non-wheat flour is oat flour. Taken from its name, oat flour comes from ground oat groats. Because of the natural taste of oats, oat flour can give a nutty taste to pastries. It also gives a denser texture to food. Even if oat flour is healthy, it doesn’t make pastries rise as they should. So, if you want to make a cake using oat flour, you need to mix it with all-purpose flour.
You should also know that oat flour is gluten-free so it’s perfect for those who are into the gluten-free diet. If you are staying away from any gluten in other flours, mix more water in your recipe to make it less thick.
Rice flour is another non-wheat type of flour. It comes from unpolished rice. Brown rice flour uses brown rice, while white rice flour uses white rice. But there’s a difference in the two.
Brown rice has a heavier effect on cakes and it has a mild nutty flavor. It is also rich in fiber which makes it healthier than white rice. It is better to be used in rougher types of bread because of its nutty texture.
Meanwhile, white rice flour is often used in cookies and in pies. Unlike brown rice flour, this has a very soft texture. This makes it perfect for pastries that should be soft and chewy. Rice flour can also be used in sticky rice pastries often found in Asian desserts.
And finally, you have semolina flour. If you ever wondered what flour is used to create pastas and Italian dishes, it’s semolina flour. Semolina flour comes from ground durum wheat. But this time, only the endosperm is used.
Durum wheat might be the hardest kind of wheat, but it has the highest gluten content. Sometimes, this type of flour is called pasta flour in the packaging.
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- A New Baker’s Guide to Choosing the Right Kind of Flour – LifeHacker
- Baking Flour Facts – HowStuffWorks