March 27, 2009

Spring Flours (get it? Flour? Flower?)

Sorry for the lame joke, but I feel like every time I turn around today I'm reading something about flour. The Examiner has a great article that explains all the different types of flour. The article is extremely educational and will help anyone who has ever found themselves staring at a shelf of flour in the grocery store and not sure what kind to buy. Also, the author provides some tips on how to store flour, which is something we should all pay attention to as to not be wasteful with our ingredients.

The Examiner: Choosing the Right Flour for Your Baking
March 27, 2009

With all the different types of flour on the shelf, it can be confusing to try and buy the right one for all your needs. Each type of flour works best for certain baked goods, and using the wrong flour can lead to unappetizing desserts. Flour is graded and sold based on the protein content and purpose. Perfect pastries are just around the corner if you keep these quick facts in mind.

Protein Content of Various Flour Types
Bread Flour - Bread flour has the highest protein content of the different types of flour, ranging from 11% to 13%. This helps it create strong gluten networks in breads.

All Purpose Flour - All purpose (or AP) flour typically has a protein content of 10 to 11 percent. It is created from a combination of hard and soft wheat and is the most common flour in home pantries.

Pastry Flour - Pastry flour has a slightly lower protein content than AP flour, falling between 8 and 10 percent. Pastry flour helps make tender pie crusts and cookies.

Cake Flour - Cake flour has the lowest protein content (between 6% and 8%) and is perfect for creating the delicate texture of most cakes. It is also typically chlorinated to soften the flour further.

Special Types of Flour
Whole Wheat Flour - Whole wheat flour uses the entire grain, causing it to have higher fiber content than the other types of flour. The wheat germ provides higher oil content, so it has a shorter shelf life and should be stored in the freezer if you are keeping it long-term.

Self Rising Flour - Self rising flour typically has a protein content of between 8 and 9 percent, but also contains salt and baking powder.

Semolina Flour - This hard wheat flour is typically used in making pastas and other Italian offerings.

Storing Your Flour
Proper storage is key if the flour is going to stay in your pantry for some time. Package the flour in a moisture-tight container and store it in a cool, dark location. All flour can be kept safely in the freezer, as long as it is in a secure container. Most flour has a shelf-life of approximately 6 months.

Every ingredient is important if you want to make the best tasting breads, pies, and cookies. Choosing the right flour for your project will improve your odds of success.

1 comment:

nick said...

Nice run down, some people have a really hard time finding all of this information in one place. It is interesting to note that in France, flour type is denoted by a number system, and each brand most conform to stringent standards to be labeled as such - kind of a catch all policy to know what you are really buying.

Also, note that some bread flours exceed 13% protein and some AP flours are more in the 12-13 range. Generally, I use King Arthur's AP for bread (still plenty of gluten) and a mix of AP/cake for non-yeast pastries - both with a fair level of success (I don't suck completely)

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