Flour 101

Flour 101

Even if you don't bake, flour is a pantry essential for both savory and sweet cooking.  From gumbo to gravy to juicy fruit desserts, flour is a frequent ingredient in a surprising range of recipes.  But first, some basics:

All-Purpose Flour. It's what most of us recognize as plain flour. All-purpose flour is made by blending hard and soft wheat flours and as the name suggests -- it's useful for most recipes calling for flour.

Hard wheat flour is usually used in bread making because it has more protein. Protein, when combined with liquid, creates gluten which gives bread its structure, which translates into air holes, height, crust, and the other traits we want in our breads.

Soft wheat flour is used in cakes and pastries because these flours have less protein and more starch, and thus produce a finer crumb.

But for most home cooks, all-purpose is the best choice. It has versatility and can be used for pies, tarts, cobblers, crisps, teacakes, breads, and also most types of savory cooking. Each brand of all-purpose flour has its own formula so one by General Mills is not exactly the same as King Arthur or Arrowhead. But they're very similar and it's not likely any differences will be evident in your cooking results except in baking when it can be noticeable.

Always buy unbleached all-purpose flour because who needs bleach to make our flour just a little bit whiter? Bleached flour also has fewer nutrients and has been stripped not only of its color but also its flavor. Most all-purpose flours sold are unbleached.

Here are a few more details, including notes on some of the more popular non-wheat flours:

And what do I keep in my pantry? I always have a canister of all-purpose flour (I am partial to the King Arthur or Heckers brands) and a box of cake flour in the cabinet. In the freezer I keep a small bag each of corn meal, whole-wheat flour, and rye flour.

Cooking With Flour

Working With Flour and Storing It





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