Are you in the kitchen baking? Is this the weekend you spend making bread from scratch, or baking a birthday cake? What is one of the first ingredients you grab from your pantry? Flour. That’s right. Now, let me guess – you have a bag of All Purpose, right? Did you know there are other flours that may just give your home baked items a boost?
Here’s a little skinny on flour:
Most flour is made from a type of wheat or grass (like rye and corn). The type of flour is dependent on how it is milled. Different flours have different gluten levels, and the more gluten, the more protein. If you are baking a cake, you want a very low gluten level in order to make your cake light and fluffy. Want to sink your teeth into a dense, chewy piece of bread fresh from the oven? Then you need a higher protein/gluten level in your flour.
Sifting’ Through the Differences:
All Purpose Flour – a blend between soft and hard wheats. 10% – 12% Protein. Can be used for most anything.
Bread Flour – White, unbleached flour. Sometimes citric acid is added, which creates a higher rise. Approximately 14% Protein
Cake Flour – A soft wheat flour that is chlorinated (a bleaching process that aids in improved texture). Approximately 8% Protein. Excellent to use for cakes, cookies and muffins. Don’t have any? Make your own: Measure one level cup of flour. Remove two Tablespoons, and replace with two Tablespoons of Corn Starch. Sift together well before using in your recipe!
Self-Rising Flour – A low protein flour with salt and baking powder added. This works great for biscuits, but do not ever use it when baking bread. If your recipe calls for it, and you don’t have any on hand, just add 1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder and 1/4 teaspoon salt to 1 cup of flour.
Whole Wheat Flour – is just that. It is the entire kernel of the wheat, and generally considered unrefined. It is high in nutrients and best used for baking breads. This is a heavy flour. If you want to use whole wheat for muffins or other delicate pastries, find one that is more refined. One thing to keep in mind: because the wheat germ has a high oil content, it can go rancid quickly. It is best kept in the freezer for 1 year. Be sure to store it in plastic zip-type bags, as the paper bag it comes in may cause it to freezer burn or absorb any odors in the freezer.
I have only purchased one bag of self-rising flour, and most of it still sits in my freezer (probably freezer burned by now). I do not use it in my biscuits, or any other recipe, unless it specifically calls for it. Then, I just make up a cup-full myself. Nothing like freezer burned flour to ruin an otherwise great recipe!
As with all recipes, using the freshest, best ingredients is a great start to delicious baking. Now – if I can just convince the Country Boy to grow me some wheat, I may just make another step towards sustainable living!