What is Flour and where does it come from: Flour is the main ingredient in breads, pastas, pastries, etc. Flour is basically achieved through a pulverization (grinding to powder/dust) of any dried grain. There are SO many different types of Flour but the most common type is made from wheat kernels. Each kernel seed is comprised of 3 main components also known as the “wheat berry” (entire wheat kernel).
Main Flour Components:
- Germ (embryo): is the main part of the sprouting kernel seed that encompasses lots of fiber, trace minerals and B-complex vitamins. Sometimes this is separated and sold separately as a nutrient.
- Bran: is the exterior part of the kernel containing small amounts of major B-vitamins, fiber and minerals.
- Endosperm: encompasses about 83% of the wheat kernel. The largest amount of protein, iron, carbohydrates and major B-vitamins are found in the endosperm.
Gluten: is the main protein in the endosperm and is mostly found in cereal grains such as wheat and barley. All types of wheat grains contain gluten. When cooking, gluten provides texture and elasticity to baked foods. It helps to contain the gases that enable mixtures to rise as they bake. Gluten is also used as a thickener when making broths and soups. Other types of grains that contain gluten include rye, semolina, faro, durum wheat, triticale, etc.
Note: Gluten can also act as a harmful ingredient to people who have celiac disease. If a carrier of celiac disease consumes gluten, they begin to experience difficulties with the small intestine as it will not absorb nutrients it needs which eventually causes many problems with the skin, digestion system, strength, etc.
Most Common Types of Flour
All-purpose Flour: is a blended flour mixture that consists of low gluten (soft wheat) and high gluten (hard wheat). During the milling process of the flour, the bran and germ are removed creating a lower protein content which gives a fair balance of tenderness and strength. Because of the composition of All-purpose flour, it is very versatile and can be used to make pastries, breads, pizzas, cakes, cookies, biscuits, muffins, pies, gravy’s, etc. There are different types of All-purpose flour:
- Bleached Flour: Is All Purpose flour that undergoes a process in which it is bleached using edible chemicals to provide a white color. Chemicals used to bleach flour include Chlorine, Chlorine dioxide, Azodicarbonamide benzoyl peroxide, Calcium peroxide and Nitrogen dioxide. Foods made with bleached flour usually represent a finer grain and a higher loaf volume. Chemicals such as Chlorine help to preserve the product from spoilage as well as texture.
- Unbleached Flour: Is All Purpose flour that has not been exposed to the bleaching process.
- Self-Rising Flour: Is All Purpose flour with two other ingredients added; salt and baking powder. These extra ingredients are evenly distributed throughout the flour giving the product a quick rise when baking. It is best used when baking biscuits, muffins, certain cakes and dumplings, waffles, pancakes and even in gravy. When Self-rising flour is used in baking, chemical leavening agents normally added in a recipe is no longer necessary. You may need to make slight adjustments in your recipe to factor in the baking powder and a salt already provided in the flour.
Whole Wheat (Grain) Flour: Is the whole wheat kernel (wheat berry) pulverized into flour. The whole wheat kernel as mentioned above is composed of the germ, bran and endosperm. The term “whole” refers to the fact that 100% of the wheat grain is used to make the flour. It offers more of robust and bitter flavored flour. Because all parts of the grain is used, whole wheat flour has more nutrients as well as more, protein, vitamins and minerals than white (All-purpose) flour. However, because of the higher oil content, the shelf life is shorter than white flour. It also creates a heavier and denser baked good than white flour. When baking with whole wheat flour it is important to note that this flour absorbs more water than with white flour which is due to the inclusion of bran and germ. You also must factor in additional kneading time as this allows for the development of gluten which helps with adequate dough rising. Because of these drawbacks of working and baking with Whole Wheat Flour, it generally is not the main or only flour ingredient in most baked items. White (All-Purpose) Flour or White Whole Wheat Flour is usually combined to combat the “heaviness” that affects the rising process.
White Whole Wheat Flour: is flour made from a different type of wheat as compared to Whole Wheat Flour. The wheat grain generally used is in whole wheat flour is red wheat and has about 3 bran color genes. But the wheat grain used in White Whole Wheat Flour is made from white spring wheat having no major genes of bran color. The bran in white wheat not only is lighter in color but it also producers a milder and sweeter taste as compared to Whole Wheat Flour. It does contain the same nutritional benefits as Whole Wheat Flour but because it is softer wheat it has lower contents of gluten and protein allowing for an easier flour to work and bake with.
Rice Flour: basically is rice (white or brown) pulverized into a flour/powder. Rice flour is obtained by removing the husk and then putting it through a milling process. Rice flour does not contain gluten and achieves a light and fluffy baked good that is milder and easier to digest than Whole Wheat Flour. It is commonly used in Asian cuisine and is used in gluten free baking as a flour substitute. It also is a great thickener for sauces and gravies. It is also a great use for making batters when coating and frying fish (Tempura Batter). When combining Rice Flour with a chemical leavening agent, you will create a light and crispy batter ideal for seafood batter. (“Different types of Rice Flour” explained coming soon)
Durum (Durhum) Flour: Is flour that has been pulverized from Durum Wheat and is generally described as the by-product in the production of semolina. Durum flour has high protein content and is one of the strongest wheat’s. This type of wheat is best used when making soft pasta’s and different types of breads (flatbreads, etc.). When durum flour is used in baking breads, it is generally combined with White/Wheat flour.
Semolina Flour: During the milling process of Durum Flour, the endosperm is separated and ground into flour called Semolina. It has a coarse texture and is very high in protein and gluten. A best use for Semolina is hard pasta’s. Pasta that is produced from non-wheat grains usually is also referred to as Semolina. Different types of Semolina include Rice Semolina and Corn Semolina. Semolina flour is also used in baking breads and making pastas, couscous, puddings, and certain cereals. Ethnically speaking, this flour is used in sweet and savory Middle Eastern, South Asian, Greek, Turkish and African dishes.
Other types of flours include Maize Flour, Rye Flour, Chestnut flour, Chickpea flour, etc. Explanation of these and more types of Flour coming soon!