Buying Flours

By janelle krause on April 28, 2013

No, you read the title right; That’s no typo. I didn’t realize exactly how many different kinds of flour there are out there until I started to get more into baking.

Every kind of flour has its own unique taste, uses, and effects. Once you get to know how certain flours work you can actually substitute one for the other (Especially great if you have allergies or are trying to eliminate gluten from your diet). Now, one more thing– I need to explain the relationship of protein, gluten, and the effects these two things can have on baked goods:

Gluten is a type of protein that is found in many wheat-type flours. Because of gluten, bread rises, goes stale, and is very absorbent. According to whatisgluten.net, despite a wide spread misconception, gluten alone is not bad for your health (unless of course you have a gluten allergy/intolerance).

So, gluten is a protein. Protein makes breads more dense and sometimes chewier. Simple bread typically has a lot of protein in it so therefore has more gluten in it. Pastries do not have much protein (if any) and therefore are low in gluten. So say you wanted to make some bread that was light and fluffy; you would want to use a flour that was low in protein/gluten. Make sense?

And now… for the flours!

All-Purpose: Just as the name would imply- This flour is a go-to for nearly anything. I would recommend buying the unbleached kind (just because less processed is healthier). It can be used for bread, cakes, cookies, pizza crust, gravy, and pretty much anything.

Almond: I recently heard about almond flour while talking to a friend of mine who has sworn off gluten. I will tell you now, I have no personal experience with this flour. My friend however, said that almond flour makes for very dense baked goods. So, if you really want something that will stick to your ribs, this is probably the flour for you!

Whole Wheat Flour: The flour of champions! Whole wheat flour contains the germ (the embryo of the wheat kernel) and because of this wheat flour is considered to be more flavorful. It also contains more nutrients since it is less refined and naturally occurring nutrients are not stripped out during the refining process.

A side note for you: whole wheat flour needs to be stored in the refrigerator or at least in a cool dark place because otherwise it will go rancid.

Cake: I know this may come as a shock, but light fluffy cakes really do require their own type of flour (unless of course you are partial to dense cakes). The reason why cake flour is so special is because is is very low in gluten (about 8 to 10%), Because of this low gluten content, baked goods made with cake flour tend to crumble.

In the spirit of kindness, I have decided to not go past four different types of flour (wouldn’t want to give you information overload). Hopefully, you are now a little wiser about flour and baking than your peers. You maybe even feel like baking something from scratch; Should you feel so inspired, here is a lovely little recipe for bread that is very simple and does not require the use of a bread machine. Good luck on your baking endeavors!

Side note: for those of you who do not bake but knows someone who does, this is something that is really adorable-ish that you can do with flours. Stranger than Fiction- “I Brought You Flours”

Currently I am a student at the university of Iowa. Yes, Iowa. Where they grow corn, not potatoes. Idaho does the potato thing. I am a BFA painting student with a minor in art history and a teaching certificate. I enjoy writing, painting, drawing, and making awkward facial expressions in photos.

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