Five flours and tips on picking the best one for baking.
It’s a daunting task. Walking down the baking aisle at the grocery store and they’re all there. Staring at you. Sort of mockingly. There are hundreds (or more) types of flours on the market for preparing baked goods. How is it even possible to discern the best for your recipe? Many chefs use what’s available. During my time at the Senate bake shop, we had an abundance of all purpose flour, some cake flour and almond flour as needed. We made our own hazelnut blend and if there was a certain specialty recipe that we needed to prepare, we ordered a pound or more, depending on the intended use. However, for the most part, our recipes called for the all purpose variety. From a pricing perspective, this was the ideal system for our needs. Not every bakery has the opportunity for this type of efficiency.
In my kitchen, I maintain roughly 25 pounds of all purpose flour on hand at any given time. During the summer months, I find I have more almond and coconut flours in my fridge/pantry and cake flour by the box only.
The key consideration between selecting the appropriate flour is the protein content. More protein means easier gluten creation and more structure. Flour protein percentages vary by region. The numbers I’m offering are averages and drawn from a 2009 post on TheKitchn.com...
1. Bread flour (13%-16% protein) is designed to accommodate yeasted baking. It has a solid structure and according to King Arthur Flour, it’s best to consider dinner rolls to understand the texture changes. If you like rolls soft and chewy, go with all purpose flour. If you prefer a crusty roll, bread flour it is.
2. All Purpose flour (10%-12% protein) is the gold standard for flours. You can use all purpose flour for anything. It is fairly easy to modify your all purpose flour to another style of flour for appropriate needs or increase the protein power by adding vital wheat gluten.
3. Pastry flour (9% protein) may be used interchangeably for cake flour. However the slightly higher protein content allows a tenderness of the final product that you might not be able to maintain with all purpose flour and a structure you won’t see from cake flour.
4. Cake flour (7%-8% protein) gives an extra light finish to your baked goods. I always use sifted cake flour for my angel food cakes but never for tiered celebration cakes. The structure is too unstable. Cake flour has the least protein of all flours and gives you a tender crumb finish.
5. Self Rising flour (10%-12% protein) is all purpose flour with baking powder and salt added. This one is easy to make although be aware if you are substituting this one for all purpose in your recipes. You’ll need to eliminate your additional rise agent and salt from the original recipe.
So, there ya go. A snapshot on the flour menu.