Kitchen Tip: Types of Flour for Baking

Food, Menus

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I know a lot of people who like to bake. That is: they like to take a box, mix or package of something, dump it into a bowl and mix it with two eggs and a cup of water or oil. I think it’s a great start but if you want to get technical, it isn’t really baking.

It’s assembly. Preparation.

Unless you’re altering the mix or product to be more innovative (think: Cake Pops) it’s hardly the same activity as getting down and dirty with a bag of flour and a few pounds of butter.

I didn’t mean for that to sound inappropriate.

This blog is a family place.

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If you’ve ever avoided the Baking Needs aisle in favor something boxed, bagged or frozen because you were intimidated by shelf after shelf of flour at the grocery store, then consider this a personal letter from me to you.

A key ingredient in any dough, crust, bread or pasty, flour comes in many sizes, colors and packages.

Here are a few of the types of flour that almost – if not always – live on the shelves in my cabinet.

All-Purpose Flour

The most common type of flour, all-purpose, is milled from the heart of the wheat berry, which holds the lightest color and richest, gluten-producing protein. You can use all-purpose flour in most recipes, so try it in some unique ones like brie and chive biscuits or peach crumb bars.

Whole Wheat Flour

Well known for its nutritional properties, whole wheat flour is milled from the entire grain (including the bran, germ, and endosperm). Since the entire wheat berry is used, the result is flour with a heavier texture and darker color. Start with a super easy recipe for whole grain wheat sandwich bread or  whole wheat beer bread.

Cake Flour

Though many recipes that call for cake flour are easily doable with all-purpose flour (hence the “all-purpose” in its name), cake flour has a lower protein content that will lend to a lighter crumb and a moister cake. If you’re ready to get your hands dirty with cake flour, start with a vanilla layer cake or olive oil lemon cake.

Bread Flour

Though it looks very similar to all-purpose flour, it’s made from a hard, high-protein wheat with more gluten strength than it’s counterpart. Because it often produces a lighter texture and finer crumb, it’s a great choice for no-knead refrigerator bread.

White Whole Wheat Flour

Milled from the high-gluten producing hard white wheat berry, white whole wheat flour has all the nutrition of the whole wheat berry but a milder flavor and lighter color. It produces baked  goods with texture lighter than whole wheat flour so for discerning palates, it’s a great way to eat more whole grains.

 

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36 Comments

  • Reply
    Mayeda Lane
    September 28, 2011 at 3:44 pm

    How does the different types of flour affect cookies

  • Reply
    Colline
    May 29, 2011 at 5:41 pm

    Thank you for the much needed education: I did not realise there was such a difference in flours!

  • Reply
    Geni
    May 29, 2011 at 10:32 am

    Thanks for the education. My new favorite flour is almond meal, which I suppose isn’t a flour, but I love the texture and layer of flavor it adds to muffins or quickbreads…even cookies.

  • Reply
    theUngourmet
    May 21, 2011 at 3:43 am

    Great info! I learned a lot about flours at a recent baking conference too. I love your photo of the measuring cup! 😉

  • Reply
    Nami @ Just One Cookbook
    May 20, 2011 at 9:14 pm

    Great post for someone like me who don’t bake and get confused by all different kinds! 🙂

  • Reply
    Maria @ Scandifoodie
    May 20, 2011 at 7:47 am

    This is great, especially for when I’m browsing US recipes (as here in Australia they tend don’t really use terms ‘cake flour’ and ‘bread flour’).

  • Reply
    Jessica
    May 20, 2011 at 11:56 am

    When I use younger I mixed and swamped flours in recipes without anything thinking twice about it. Now i know better when to use what but i love learning the whys and hows of ingredients. Like baking soda and baking powder are the same just have different leavening effects and in some cases/recipes can be interchangeable.

  • Reply
    Joanne
    May 20, 2011 at 11:46 am

    I am happy to say that I too have all of these flours sitting on my shelves! And now I actually know the difference between them. Awesome post!

  • Reply
    Barbara
    May 20, 2011 at 11:12 am

    Great informative post on flours, Maris!

  • Reply
    Tanvi
    May 20, 2011 at 6:34 am

    Wonderful article…I didnt knw the differences in such detail.Thanks for sharing.
    Q:- I needed self rising flour today but had no clue how to do it at home.from AP flour .do you have tips for that?

  • Reply
    Cakewhiz
    May 20, 2011 at 2:37 am

    thanks for summarizing all this! lately, i have been using unbleached all-purpose flour and i like how it’s working. it’s good to know what other types of flour can be used in baking. i am saving this for future reference 🙂

  • Reply
    Bee
    May 20, 2011 at 1:22 am

    I always use all-purpose since I know no better–thanks for the info!

  • Reply
    Tara
    May 20, 2011 at 1:19 am

    Thanks for the guide! I didn’t know the difference between cake flour, bread flour, and all purpose flour. I would love to try them and see how my baked goods turn out!

  • Reply
    Sherilyn
    May 20, 2011 at 12:05 am

    Great guide Maris. So easy and simple. My little boy was eyeing off the muffin say “me” ” me” when he spotted it in your post. I’m gathering i will be baking in a short moment from now.

  • Reply
    Caroline
    May 19, 2011 at 10:51 pm

    Great post, Maris! And very informative. That banana muffin looks spectacular. 🙂

  • Reply
    Tracy
    May 19, 2011 at 10:01 pm

    Wonderful and informative post!!

  • Reply
    mand
    May 19, 2011 at 7:22 pm

    Thanks for this post! I usually have all purpose, whole wheat, and cake flour in my pantry and use them randomly when I’m running low on one or the other.

  • Reply
    Gen
    May 19, 2011 at 7:06 pm

    Great post!!!!! Loved all of these tips!

  • Reply
    Kelly
    May 19, 2011 at 6:18 pm

    This is a fun guide for those who are getting started. Lately I’ve been having a lot of fun with different flours, like the coconut flour I used in the bars I brought to the bake sale:
    http://pink-apron.com/2011/05/apple-butter-coconut-crumble-bars/

    It’s so much fun to play around and try different things. I agree with you, using a cake mix is more assembly, though I will admit for a long time it was the only thing I knew as baking.

  • Reply
    Michelle @ A Voracious Appetite
    May 19, 2011 at 5:46 pm

    This is a great intro to flour. There are so many different types of flour out there it can get confusing. Thanks for sharing!

  • Reply
    marci
    May 19, 2011 at 3:07 pm

    Another one is whole wheat pastry flour. Flours are really confusing! Now there’s chickpea flour, almond flour, etc. Anything can be ground to a flour. I try not to complicate and just keep AP, WW, and whole wheat pastry in my pantry.

  • Reply
    Kate
    May 19, 2011 at 3:02 pm

    This is such a great post and an awesome guide! I oftentime just use all purpose because I never know what exactly I should buy and waht exactly I should use it for. Thanks so much!

  • Reply
    Delishhh
    May 19, 2011 at 2:37 pm

    Great guide – i didn’t know about cake box mixes until i moved to the US. Always curious how long cake boxes have been around.

  • Reply
    Lucy @ The Sweet Touch
    May 19, 2011 at 2:30 pm

    Thank you for this guide to flours. I usually just buy whatever the recipe calls for but I never knew the science behind it:)

  • Reply
    Nicole@HeatOvenTo350
    May 19, 2011 at 2:11 pm

    What a great summary of flour types. It really does make a difference what kind you use in certain recipes.

  • Reply
    yummychunklet
    May 19, 2011 at 1:57 pm

    Great flour rundown! And, sorry I couldn’t stay longer at the bake sale to search you out. I completely forgot about a late lunch with a friend, so I only had time to pop in and out. I’ll definitely have to try and sign up to bake something next year!

  • Reply
    Greg
    May 19, 2011 at 1:45 pm

    The first ever NSFW baking post! Ha, teasing. Such a great round up/tutuorial!

  • Reply
    Peter
    May 19, 2011 at 1:39 pm

    I am at war with gluten, so I make biscuit-y type deals with a mixture of rice flour and almond flour.

    They are surprisingly edible.

  • Reply
    Daryl
    May 19, 2011 at 1:36 pm

    This is a terrific guide for me. I veer know the difference in flours This is very helpful.

  • Reply
    Tara @ Chip Chip Hooray
    May 19, 2011 at 1:06 pm

    Aah, thanks for this, Maris! I’ll be honest, sometimes I get frustrated with recipes that don’t just use the all-purpose or whole wheat stuff I’ve always got in my cabinets, but reading about the effects each has on what I’m making is helping me see sense a bit. 🙂 One follow-up question for you–what about pastry flour? I’ve had several recipes call for that, and I’m assuming it falls somewhere in the realm of cake flour…

  • Reply
    Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella
    May 19, 2011 at 12:42 pm

    I used to wonder what cake flour was for the longest time because we don’t really get it easily here. If only I had had a guide like this! 😀

  • Reply
    Three-Cookies
    May 19, 2011 at 12:39 pm

    Flour, 2 eggs and cup or oil – whats this the recipe for?:)

  • Reply
    Beth @ DiningAndDishing
    May 19, 2011 at 12:36 pm

    I am a terrible baker! But trying to get better. I’m so much better with cooking because the ingredients and measurements do not have to be as precise. This is a useful little guide for sure :).

  • Reply
    Vivienne
    May 19, 2011 at 12:29 pm

    i’m trying to incorporate different types of flour in my baking these days! a lot of fun (when things go well heh!) thanks for the informative post – i didn’t know the diff between whole wheat and WHITE whole wheat before!

  • Reply
    Erica
    May 19, 2011 at 12:26 pm

    GREAT post! I am an avid baker. I really want to branch out and try some of the other “flours” like chickpea, coconut, etc. Its so much fun to experiment

  • Reply
    Nelly Rodriguez
    May 19, 2011 at 12:12 pm

    This is a great, simple guide to flours! Love it and will share it…

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