Hiya Sweet Peeps
Welcome back to my first technical blog post. Today I want to talk to you about 💐 💐 Flower Power……no not those flowers….DUH
All About - Flour
Now I’m no guru on flour, but thought I might delve a little bit into it as speaking with friends about baking it is obvious that there is a bit of mystery around why we use certain flour types. Some time in the future I might revisit this topic, with either more info on other types of flour not covered today or more about what I have written about today, who knows what I might do.
Flour provides the structure in baked goods. Wheat flour contains proteins that interact with each other when mixed with water, forming gluten. It’s this gluten that gives our baked goodies structure.
The protein content of a flour affects the strength of a dough, so the higher the protein content the more gluten forms. The different wheat flours contain varying amounts of proteins. So for example hard wheat, often used for breads, has a high protein content. Soft wheat has less protein. In yeast breads, a strong gluten framework is desirable, but in cakes, quick breads and pastries, we want a lower protein flour so we don’t get a tough product.**
Here in Australia those of us that don’t need to worry about allergies or other special dietary needs are probably most familiar with wheat flours, (white or wholewheat) either as plain flour and self-raising flour, some of you may even have used bakers and cake flour.
What does Protein do?
So what does the protein do to the goodies we bake. Well the higher the protein in the flour the more structure the product has. The higher protein content equals a higher gluten content, protein=gluten. So for bread we use bread flour, this gives us the structure and taste (chewiness), it allows breads such as ciabatta to have those wonderful holes and that chewy texture. Without the protein the bread would rise, but then collapse as there isn’t enough gluten to support it.
The opposite end is the cake flour, we want a lower protein level in flour we use for baking cakes and pastries as this gives us that lovely soft texture and flavour. Quite the opposite to bread. If you have ever overworked your cake batter or your cookie pastry you’ll know what happens, the cakes and cookies can get a bit tough.
There are obviously many types of flour. Now i’m no expert in these as I’ve never had to use many of them, but some other types of flours that you might have come across that are used for general baking include gluten free flour, rice flour, almond flour (oh I lie, I do use almond flour regularly).
So what should you keep in stock in your pantry? Well I would recommend plain white flour and a bakers flour. But why I hear you ask why? Good question.
Self-raising flour is just plain flour with a raising agent. Well almost, it’s not quite as simple as that, it often has a slightly lower protein level as well, but with everything I have made at home, I can’t tell the difference so I just make my own self-raising flour. It’s super easy to make your own self-raising flour just by adding baking powder and some salt to plain flour. Just add 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder and 1/4 teaspoon salt to one cup of plain flour, just make sure you sift the homemade finished self-raising flour before using.
Also to make cake/pastry flour you just need to lower the protein content of the plain flour which creates your cake/pastry flour. I find the easiest way to do that is measure out how much flour you need and then remove the appropriate grams of plain flour and replace it with equal weight of cornflour back into the plain flour and voila you have cake flour. I recommend the following measurements 1 cup plain flour minus 2 Tablespoons plain flour plus 2 Tablespoons cornstarch = 1 cup cake flour.
Easy Peasy my name is Feasey……haha, sorry couldn’t help myself.
As for baking flour, well it’s a bit harder to add extra protein to plain flour to increase the protein content to that needed for bread flour, so my advice is if you’re going to bake breads, buy bread flour rather than using plain flour, it works so much better and gives you much better structure and bake. However, I’ve been known to use plain flour, because I was too lazy to go out to buy the flour as I wanted to bake there and then.
I’m going to stop at this point, there is so much more you could learn about flour, but as I have seldom used some of the other types of flour, I feel I lack the experience to comment on these. I am sure that there are many other blogs and websites out there that have dedicated themselves to using the many flour types that are out there.
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** https://digitalcommons.unl.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1412 &context=extensionhist