Today’s blog post is in collaboration with my Baking Background Series: Types of Flour YouTube video and it’s a different format than I usually post. Instead of a recipe, I wanted to share some baking knowledge! Straight facts, easily understood! If you’d like to view the video click here: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=cYrQjby2hvU
Before I jump into the different types of flours used in baking, I want to explain what gluten and wheat are.
Gluten is a group of proteins found in wheat. Yes, it’s that simple! The 2 main proteins are Glutenin and Gliadin. Glutenin gives bread dough its strength and elasticity. Gliadin contributes to allowing the dough to rise while baking.
Next, we’re talking about the composition of wheat! Wheat berries come from wheat, and flour comes from milled wheat berries. A wheat berry is 14.5% bran. Bran is the outer part of the wheat berry. Underneath the bran, is the endosperm. The endosperm makes up 83% of the wheat berry. Inside the endosperm is the germ. The germ is 2.5% of the wheat berry and it is the sprouting section of the wheat. To get flour, wheat berries are milled. Which means they are ground up between two moving stones resulting in flour. The flour that is made is whole wheat flour. The presence of bran in the flour is what makes a flour whole wheat, remove the bran and it’s no longer whole wheat.
One last thing you might see associated with flours are the words soft and hard. Soft wheat has a lower gluten content and is great for cakes and pastries. Hard wheat has a higher gluten content and is good for breads.
Time to talk about the different types of flours! I’m listing them from HIGHEST gluten content to LOWEST gluten content.
DURUM FLOUR: also known as Semolina flour has a protein content of 21-24%, which is more than double some of the other flours listed here. Durum flour is different than the other flours for a few reasons. Durum flour comes from a different wheat than the other ones, it comes from durum wheat. Durum wheat is very hard and needs more processing to grind the wheat into flour. Because of this, the starch content is ruined meaning its ability to ferment and rise are lost. The other thing about Durum wheat is that it is missing a genome, this missing genome makes durum wheat have a better extensibility than regular wheat flour. This means a dough with durum wheat can stretch easier without breaking, making it perfect for PASTA!
BREAD FLOUR: has next highest protein content at 12-14%! Bread flour is made from hard wheat and has great elasticity, making it great for… you guessed it… breads!
ALL-PURPOSE FLOUR: has a protein content of 8-12%. It is the most versatile flour out of all the ones listed here. It is most commonly a combination of hard and soft wheats. Self-rising flour is made of all-purpose flour, baking powder, and salt.
PASTRY FLOUR: has a protein content of 8-9%. Pastry flour is made of soft flour. It makes pastries more delicate and is great for pie crusts or cookies.
CAKE FLOUR: has the lowest protein content at only 7-8%. WAAAYY less than durum flour at 21-24%! Cake flour is made of very finely milled soft wheat. It is obviously best for cakes. Cake flour is usually bleached, which I’m going to explain shortly!
Before I move on, I wanted to explain rye flour a little bit. Like durum flour, rye flour isn’t made from the same type of wheat as the other kinds listed here. Rye four comes from rye grass wheat berries. Rye flour’s protein content is 15-17%, which would be right behind durum flour. It is a heavy flour so it is usually mixed with another flour to lighten it.
You might be wonder about buckwheat flour too. Buckwheat is actually a seed, not a wheat so buckwheat flour is in fact, gluten free!
Lastly, I wanted to bring up the controversial topic of bleaching flour. Usually a flour bag will say: Bleached & Enriched. From the research I have done there have been varying opinions about bleaching flour, ranging from “it’s fine” to “it causes diabetes.” I am neither a scientist nor a doctor but I will summarize what I believe as a person trying to be non-biased. Bleached flour is treated with a very very small amount of chlorine gas. In cake flour, bleaching it changes how a cake behaves. It will improve the structure and crumb of a cake. The bleaching process also alters how the flour reacts during baking, it takes longer for those gluten proteins to denature resulting in more time for the baked good to rise. Another reason flours are bleached is because it speeds up the aging time. All flours are aged, and they age naturally. Unbleached flour is aged naturally when flour comes in contact with oxygen. Aging flour strengthens the gluten! Bleached flour also results in a softer flour, making the baked goods softer in texture and having more volume. Compared to unbleached flour which would have more structure. The term enriched is used because when a flour is bleached all the nutrient and minerals are lost, so the flour is enriched with new nutrients. However, they aren’t all added back in.
When it comes to bleached flour, it sounds scarier than it is. But I do think it’s a personal choice what type of flour you use. I like to use unbleached more because I think it tastes better, but I do use bleached flour occasionally too! I recommend bleached cake flour if you’re baking cake since it will make the cake rise more and make the cake more soft and delicate!
Check out my full YouTube video on this topic here: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=cYrQjby2hvU