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Thursday, February 25, 2010

Education in Flour

For those that know me, I'm not formally train and really I just perform a lot of google searches to find an answer.  Some information is quite easy to find and some takes some work to locate the answer.  So I figured I'll document all my research and share my findings.  Flour is so basic, one would think the knowledge how the ingredient behaves and how it is should be used.  I had a basic knowledge and I mainly used all-purpose for everything.  As I explore more into baking especially when I was experimenting with breads, I read everything there needs to know about flour.  Especially bread flour.  I wanted to understand the attributes and behaviors.  Especially if the bread did not come out exactly how I wanted, why did it happen.  I guess it is the analytical side of me.  So I was at my local library and I found The Craft of Baking: Cakes, Cookies, & Other sweets with ideas for inventing your own by Karen DeMasco.  It is a very helpful book and I just got it last night.  I pretty much read the whole book.  Her tips were great and I found quite a bit of useful information. 
Flour is a constant in all baking.  The type of flour tends to very.  book.   
Unbleached  or bleached All-purpose Flour - Most common flour used in baking.  It could be used in all different purposes. 
Both bleached and unbleached flour is a blend of hard and soft wheat.  Bleached flour tend to have less protein than unbleached flour.  Unbleached, that means it is free of chemicals and potential harmful additives.  According to the What's cooking website (2010), Bleached flour is best for pie crusts, cookie, quick breads, pancakes, and waffles.  While unbleached flour should be used for yeast breads, danish pastry, puff pastry, strudel, eclairs, cream puffs, and popovers.  It seems like the author of The Craft is not really in favor of bleached flour.  Of course it depends on your person preference.  Best shelf life is up to 8 months in a sealed container or in the refrigerator up to a year.  Personally I keep mine in a huge Tupperware and my flour never last as long as a year. 
Buckwheat flour - This is a gluten-free flour.  This provides a good substitute for regular flour for the individuals sensitive to gluten. 
Cake Flour - A finely milled flour.  It utilizes a softer wheat than other grain flours.  It does contain a lower percentage of protein which produces a tender cake and pastry.  Most of the time, it is used with other flours like All-Purpose.  This is a high starch flour that is slightly acidic.  The use of this flour is mainly for cakes (obviously by the name) or any pastries with a high ratio of sugar to flour.  This flour stands up to the weight of sugar better.  A good substitute is using all-purpose flour but subtract 2 tbs for each cup in a recipe. 
High-Gluten Flour (Bread Flour) - As in the name, is mainly used for breads.  It is high in gluten (protein) which provides a better elasticity to the dough. 
Instant flour -  The benefit of this flour is that it dissolves quickly in both temperature of liquids.  You can't really use this instead of all-purpose and it should be used for sauces or gravies. 

 Nut Flour and Nut Meal - Could be purchased or made. Both flour and meal could be used interchangeably.  It could be stored in the freezer up to 1 month. 
  • Nut Flour - grounded from the cake that remains after the oils are pressed out of the nut.

    • For example Almond flour for 3/4 cups: 3/4 finally ground blanched almonds
  • Nut Meal - finely ground nut and 1 tbs of unbleached all-purpose flour.
* This deserves a whole post
Pastry flour - This is a middle flour in between all-purpose and cake flour in terms of the amount of protein.  It is made with a soft wheat and the attributes results in a tender but crumbly pastry.  It could be used for any pastries that doesn't require yeast.  It comes in wheat and regular. 
Rice Flour - another name is Mochiko.  It is used from milled rice (white or brown).  I used this the most in espasol, mochi, and other Asian desserts. 
Polenta and Cornmeal - Provides a gritty texture to cookies and tarts.  It could be frozen up to a year.  
Self-rising flour - sometimes called phosphated flour.  It is a low-protein flour with salt and leavening added.  The use is mainly for biscuits and some quick bread.  It should not be used for yeast breads.  If self-rising flour is required, other leavening agents will not be required.  To make it yourself, for each cup of all-purpose flour + 1 1/2 tsp of baking powder + salt.  Mix completely.  
Semolina Flour - mainly used for pasta and some Italian pastries.  It is made from durum flour which is the hardest wheat.  This is the highest level of gluten.  This flour could be also produced from other grains like rice and corn.  There are other types closely related to semolina.  Semolina meal is  coarsely grounded like farina.  Wheatena is a grounded whole-grain wheat.  Finally durum flour is a finely grounded semolina. 
Spelt Flour - This is a non-wheat flour.  The exact name is triticum aestivum var. spelta. It has a nutty and sweeter flavor than whole wheat flour.  It does have gluten and it is a good substitute for wheat flour. 
Teff Flour - It is a flour filled with nutrition.  This is intended to be used like millet or quinoa.  It is higher in protein to wheat and it also contains calcium, thiamin, and iron.  The source of the flour is teff which is quite small.  Other uses of teff is germ and brand.  It is high in fiber but there is no gluten. 
Whole-wheat flour - this is made of the whole kernel of the wheat plant.  It contains a higher level of fiber and nutritional content than white flours.  It doesn't have a high level of gluten so it is generally mixed with other flours like all-purpose or bread flour.  This flour is able to last from 6 months to a year in the freezer.  In a pantry, it will only stay a few months. 
I'm sure I'm missing some flours but there are so many, it will take a while to get through.  Please let me know if there are other flours any I should cover. 

DeMasco, Karen & Fox Mindy (2009).  The Craft of Baking: Cakes, Cookies, & Other sweets with ideas for inventing your own.  New York, NY:Clarkson Potter/Publishers.
Types of Flour (2010).  Whats Cooking America.

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