Wheat Flour 101
There are several different types of wheat flour which makes wheat flour the most commonly used type of flour for baking goods. Wheat Flour 101 is to help you identify the different types of wheat flour and its uses.
What Is Wheat Flour
Wheat flour is made from grinding the seeds (grains) of the wheat plant, and is the principal cereal grain here in the United States.
Each wheat grain contains the endosperm, bran and germ. However, white flours only contains the endosperm; whole wheat flours contain all 3 parts, which is why whole wheat flour is a healthier choice for your body.
Wheat flour is also categorized according to its protein content, type of milling processing and its purpose. For example, “Hard” wheat is a wheat variety that has a high gluten content, while “soft” wheat has a low gluten content.
- Protein Content: All-purpose flour has a moderate protein content in the 10% to 12% range.
- Processing: Milled usually as a combination of hard and soft wheat varieties, and sold either bleached or unbleached. It’s also known as refined flour or white flour, since the bran and germ is taken out.
- Purpose: Due to its profile, it is the most versatile of flours, capable of producing a variety of baked products from pizza crusts to pancakes.
- Protein Content: Bread flour is always high in protein content at 12.5% to 14%.
- Processing: This type of flour uses only hard wheat, which explains the high protein content.
- Purpose: Since it provides a stable gluten structure, it is generally good for baking breads.
- Protein Content: Cake flour has low protein content at 8% to 10%.
- Processing: This type of flour uses soft wheat, and usually undergoes a bleaching process as well. In addition to the bleaching process, the milling process also makes it very fine compared to all-purpose flour.
- Purpose: Because of its low gluten content, it is appropriate for soft cakes and cookies.
- Protein Content: The protein content in pastry flour ranges between 9% and 10%.
- Processing: Depending on the miller, a pastry flour can be white or whole wheat, or somewhere in between.
- Purpose: Since it has that appropriate gluten percentage, use this for pastry for your pies, tart crust, quick breads, biscuits, muffins and some type of cookie batters.
- Protein Content: Self-rising flour have usually the same protein content as all-purpose flour, 10% to 12%.
- Processing: Essentially, this is a white flour with chemical leavening agents. Almost all manufacturers use around 3g of baking powder and 1 g of salt for every 100g of flour.
- Purpose: Since self-rising flour already has baking powder and salt, therefore it’s best to use this in recipes that call for leavening agents. Just adjust your recipe accordingly.
Whole Wheat Flour
- Protein Content: Whole wheat flour is high in protein content at 13% to 14%.
- Processing: Most noteworthy in a whole wheat flour is that it contains the entire grain (endosperm, germ and bran). As a result, it has a thicker texture, brownish appearance.
- Purpose: Used in baking breads and other baked products, but usually mixed with some percentage of white flour because of how heavy it is.
In conclusion, remember that you will find other variations of wheat flour out there. These are just the basic concepts that should help you navigate through them all.