Flour is the resulting powder made when grains, nuts, roots, or seeds are ground up. Flour made from grains and cereals is the main component of bread, which is a staple in many cultures and cuisines around the world. There are two types of flour available, whole grain flour, which includes the endosperm, germ, and the bran all ground up together and refined flour which just uses the endosperm. Refined flour is usually enriched with nutrients and minerals to make up for the nutrients lost during the refining process.
- While there are many different kinds of flour made from different raw materials, the term “flour” in itself usually refers to flour made from wheat.
- The first steam mill used to mill wheat into flour was in London, this was in 1879.
- Bleached flour is treated by chemical agents to speed up aging which leads to a whiter and softer flour.
- It takes 350 ears of wheat to make enough wheat flour to bake a standard 800g loaf of bread.
Flour Buying Guide
For the uninitiated, there are many different types of flour on store shelves and sometimes it can just get confusing. Don’t worry though, we’ll go over the most popular types so by the end of this section, you’ll know the difference between all-purpose flour, bread flour, and all the myriad of other flours out there.
- All-purpose flour – This flour is your jack-of-all-trades when it comes to flour. It has a protein content of around 10 to 12 percent and it is very versatile. Whenever a recipe calls for “flour” without any qualifiers, then it’s usually referring to all-purpose flour. All-purpose flour can be used for bread, pie crust, pancakes, pasta, pizza dough and whatever recipe calls for flour.
- Cake flour – As the name implies, this type of flour is for cake. It has the lowest protein content of all the flours at anywhere between 5 to 8 percent. Lower protein content also means lower gluten content which results in fluffier and softer baked goods. This type of flour also absorbs more liquid leading to a moister end product. This is best for, you guessed it, cakes and other cake-like baked goods.
- Pastry Flour – While not really common, this type of flour sits in-between all-purpose flour and cake flour with a protein content of around 8 to 9 percent. The balance of tenderness and flakiness that pastry flour imparts makes it perfect for anything that needs a textural component to it but needs to be fluffy at the same time like muffins, pancakes, cookies, and biscuits. If you can’t find pastry flour, you can make your own by mixing 2 parts of cake flour to one part of all-purpose flour.
- Bread Flour – This is the “hardest” type of flour out there with protein content of around 12 to 14 percent. This high protein content also means that bread flour has a higher gluten content which comes in handy when it comes to baking applications that use yeast. High protein + high gluten means that the resulting product will be chewier and will rise better. This is good for bread, bagels, pretzels and pizza dough (if you want it thick and chewy).
- Self-rising flour – this type of flour has baking powder and salt added during the milling process. Self-rising flour usually has a protein content of around 8 to 9 percent (which is the same as pastry flour) Make sure to use self-rising flour only if your recipe calls for it as it may mess up your ratios. If you can’t find self-rising flour, you can make your own by getting pastry flour (or making your own) then adding 1 ½ teaspoon baking powder and ¼ teaspoon salt per cup of flour and mixing thoroughly.
- Whole wheat flour – This is flour made from the whole wheat which includes the endosperm, germ, and bran. This type of flour has a higher protein content at around 13 to 14 percent. This type of flour is best for breads and is usually used for denser bread applications.
- White whole wheat flour – This type of flour is still unbleached, but uses a pale variety of wheat that is known as hard white wheat. Due to the lower tannins in hard white wheat, bread made from this flour will typically taste sweeter. This type of flour is perfect for those who want the traditional sweetness of white bread but want the texture and nutrition of bread made from whole wheat flour.
- Almond flour – As the name implies, this is made from flour. This type of flour is becoming more popular nowadays because of its low carb content and high nutritional content. To replace wheat flour with almond flour, simply use a 1:1 ratio by volume and add a little bit of rising agent like baking powder or baking soda to offset the heavier weight of the almond flour. It’s best for baked applications like bread, muffins and cookies.
- 00 Flour or Italian flour – This kind of flour is also made from wheat and its ground to the finest setting. It has a protein content almost like all-purpose flour at 11-12 percent. The name “00” comes for its super-fine texture. This is best for, you guessed it, Italian-dish applications like pasta and thin-crust pizza dough. It is also great for flatbreads and crackers!
There are a lot more flour varieties out there, but these are the main types that you can find and are commonly used in many households.
Flour Production & Farming in Texas
Texas is lucky to have a lot of functioning gristmills that still grind and process flour the traditional way. Locally milled flour is available at many specialty stores, farmers markets and direct from the millers themselves. There is no shortage to locally produced flour in the state from local farmers and gristmills. In fact, some of the best flours in the country are milled right here in Texas!
Pesticides, Additives, and Chemicals:
Any pesticide and chemical contaminant that can be found on flour raw material is transferred over to the final flour product. Pesticides such as Malathion, methoxychlor, and piperonyl butoxide among others that can be found on wheat can also be found on wheat flour
Flour is usually packaged in one pound bags for retail and in sacks for larger volumes. Flour packaging is very utilitarian unless we’re talking about heavily marketed “artisan flours” in many supermarkets. Real artisan flour by local mills are simply packed and don’t require as much single-use plastics as commercially available flour.
Flour is best consumed in its baked form. From bread, pie crusts, muffins, pancakes, and cookies!
Storing flour isn’t as simple as folding over the original packaging and sticking it in the pantry. Transfer your flour to an air-tight container to make your flour as long as possible. Depending on the type of flour, it can last anywhere from four to eight months as long as it is stored properly. Whole wheat flour and almond flour has a lower shelf life than refined wheat flour as they have a higher oil content that your typical refined flour.
Basic Bread Recipe
We can’t do an article about flour and not share a recipe to make bread. If it sounds daunting, don’t worry too much, it only seems like it, but once you’ve tried it and you’ll be surprised how simple it is to make home-baked bread.
Active dry yeast, 1 tablespoon
sugar, 1 tablespoon
salt, 1 tablespoon
Warm water, 2 cups
All purpose flour, 5 ½ to 6 cups
flour for dusting
In a large mixing bowl, mix together warm water, yeast, sugar, and salt. Let it stand until the yeast has fully dissolved. Once the yeast is dissolved, slowly add in the flour one cup at a time and continue mixing. Once all of the flour has been added and it pulls away from the side of the mixing bowl, dump the dough on to a well floured surface and start to knead.
Knead the dough. Fold the furthest edge of the dough toward you and press/push away from you. After each push, rotate the dough 90 degrees and repeat. Keep doing this for about five minutes, remember to keep adding flour to your kneading surface to keep it from sticking. Scrape out your mixing bowl and brush it with a bit of olive oil or with some non-stick baking spray.
Return the dough into the mixing bowl and cover with a damp towel, allow to rest and rise for two hours.
After the dough has risen, punch down the dough to remove the excess air. Split the dough into half and shape into loaves.
Place the dough on a well floured cookie sheet.
Place an almuminum baking sheet at the bottom of the oven and fill with about an inch of boiling water.
Slash the top of the dough with a knife to give it a nice design and place the baking sheet with the dough inside cold oven. The warmth from the boiling water will allow the dough to rise further while the oven is climbing in temperature.
Set the oven at 400F and bake for 40 minutes.
Take out the loaves and wait for 10 minutes before slicing. Serve and enjoy!