What are the different types of flour?
When making any type of baked good, bakers more often than not use flour to give dough rise and softness, and to add wonderful flavor and texture. We wanted to get up close and personal with this common, but often overlooked, kitchen staple.
About Wheat Plants
Wheat can produce a wide variety of flours depending on which part of the wheat berry is used. The bran, the germ and the endosperm all play an important role, and all of them vary in the type of flour they produce. A different mix of those parts can have a very different effect on the taste and texture of the baked good.
Once wheat is harvested, it goes to a flour mill to be inspected. During inspection, the wheat is graded on various factors, such as protein content. After a few more steps (sometimes as many as 20!), millers and bakers determine the best use for each flour based on the type of wheat and its protein content.
This is where things get really interesting. Because there are so many different types of wheat with so many different protein levels, the flours are all different. Whole-wheat flour and enriched flour have different effects, so bakers have to be familiar with the different types to make each recipe as tasty as it can be.
Types of Flour
The most common is all-purpose flour. As its name suggests, all-purpose flour can be used to make a variety of goods including cakes, cookies, yeast breads, pastries and quick breads, cinnamon rolls—basically all of the tasty treats our families love. This type is normally enriched and made from a blend of hard and soft wheats. When a flour is enriched, it means millers add nutrients back in that were lost during production. These nutrients include folic acid (a key vitamin that can help curb neural tube defects in unborn children), vitamin B and iron.
If you love breads, pizza dough or rolls, odds are you have tried whole-wheat flour. This type is milled from the entire kernel of a hard red wheat variety. According to the Wheat Foods Council items baked with whole wheat flour tend to be heavier and more dense than those made from white flour. That’s because it has less gluten.
Another variety is white whole-wheat flour, which is basically the same as whole-wheat flour, only it’s made with a white variety of wheat instead of a red variety. The color and flavor are lighter and milder than that of whole-wheat flour, however you still get a great flavor when baking with it.
Whole grain flours are also a hot commodity when it comes to baking. It simply means that the whole part of the seed is used. These can include flours made from corn and sorghum, as well as wheat.
Gluten flour is milled from spring wheat. It is high in protein and low in starch, which can make it a healthy choice. It’s normally mixed with a low-protein wheat to produce a stronger dough and can be great for baking breads and other hearty baked goods.
When you’re shopping at your local grocery, you might come across bread flour. This is milled mainly for commercial bakers, but is readily available at most grocery stores. It has a higher gluten strength and protein content than others.
If you enjoy making biscuits and gravy, you’ve probably used self-rising flour. Self-rising flour is basically like all-purpose, however, it has salt and leavening added. It’s used for biscuits and quick breads (and really shouldn’t be used for much else!).
Experiment With Flour
When choosing which flour to use for your baked goods, have fun experimenting. Each brings something a little different to the table, and all of them have a distinct taste worth mentioning. Be sure to look for different types of flours the next time you’re at the grocery store!
Ready to experiment with flour? Try Kansas Wheat’s signature cookie, the Whole Wheat Sugar Cookie! Want to learn more about the milling process? Head to the North American Milling Association!