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What do flour and flower have in common? They’re both derived from the old French word ''fleur' meaning blossom. Figuratively, it meant the 'finest.'
We have a wide variety of these finely ground grains. Plain flour is the most commonly known of all. Other types include all-purpose flour, whole wheat flour, and self-rising flour, to name a few.
Plain flour is the same as all-purpose flour. They have no rising agent and can be used in numerous ways. While they do have different names, they are the same.
Americans primarily use the word all-purpose while referred to as plain flour in Australia and the United Kingdom.
Guide to different flours
Traditionally the most common types of flours are made from wheat. Other grains such as rice, corn, oats, and barley are milled into flour. Then, we have a whole umbrella of flour made from nuts such as almonds and peanuts.
It’s natural to get confused over which kind of flour to use. This article will help you sift through all kinds of flour and its varying properties.
All Purpose Flour
All-purpose or plain flour holds the middle ground in the wheat flour club. It's made of both high-gluten hard wheat and low-gluten soft wheat. The result is a balanced amount of proteins, vitamins, and minerals. Sometimes, the white flour is also fortified with calcium and vitamin D.
It contains only the wheat grain’s endosperm part, which grants it versatility. It misses out on the bran and germ, though. While this reduces its fiber content, it allows the flour to be stored for months. Probably the best choice to have in your pantry for everyday cooking.
As its name suggests, all-purpose flour is a versatile flour that can be used in cooking and baking. Or you can simply use it as a thickening agent in condiments and sauces. It's a common flour that can be found in the baking aisle of the grocery store.
Self Rising Flour
If you're baking soft goods, use self-rising flour. It has special rising agents such as baking powder or baking soda and salt.
Like all-purpose and plain flour are used interchangeably, self-rising flour is also called self-raising flour in the UK.
FUN FACT: Self-rising flour was invented in the 1800s for English sailors.
Some called it a cheat product because of its pre-added rising agents. Regardless, the baker who created it had immense success and patented it in the US in 1849.
Recipes that call for self-rising flour don’t require any additional rising agent. However, if you don’t have any at home, you can make your self-rising flour. Add 1-2 teaspoon of baking powder to 100g of plain flour.
You can bake cookies, cakes, brownies, and scones using self-rising flour. Just remember that the rising agents instantly activate upon contact with liquid. So, as soon as you fold the dry ingredients into the wet, place the batter in the oven.
Cake flour is finely refined and has a silky texture. It was invented in 1984 by Addison Igleheart. Soon, it became popular among professional bakers, even winning a prize at the 1904 world fair.
Cake flour has high starch and low protein, which give it the ability to absorb more water. So, when you’re using it, adjust the amount of water accordingly. It also has the property of evenly distributing fats in the batter, so you'll have fewer clumps.
Cake recipes made with this flour are known to rise slightly higher than others. You can also mix it with other high-protein flours to make homemade pastry flour.
You can use cake flour for things like muffins, cupcakes, cakes, and more.
Since it's also finely ground, it’s almost similar to cake flour. The only difference is that it has more gluten, perfect for flaky pastries.
It originally came from ancient Egypt and eventually became popular in Europe. One of the most popular pastries baked with pastry flour is the Turkish baklava. Currently, pastry flour is milled from soft red winter wheat in the eastern US and soft white wheat in the country’s northwestern part.
Commercially, the flour is bleached to give it a white tinge, unlike the natural yellow. You can easily get the unbleached version from grocery stores as well.
This flour is great for baked goods like tarts, croissants, and pie crusts, to brownies, quick breads, and biscuits, pastry flour is incredibly versatile. However, if you’re making cinnamon buns, all-purpose flour is the superior choice.
Whole Wheat Flour
Whole wheat comes from the banks of the Tigris and Euphrates. Modern industrialization helped convert it into one of the most enriched flours we’ve today.
It has the entire kernel of wheat, which help support your gut health.
There are two different types of this flour: 100% whole wheat and white whole wheat. The former uses red wheat grain, while the latter uses white spring wheat. The British call it wholemeal flour.
Food such as bread made from whole wheat flour has a heavy texture. You’ll also find that foods produced using it have a darker color than all-purpose flour. Remember that the added germ reduces its shelf life, so better use it fast.
Oat flour is made up of ground-rolled oats. It works well in recipes requiring dense texture.
It has a nutty, slightly sweet taste. What’s more, it is delicious and has many health benefits, from improving gut health to lowering cholesterol. Folks with gluten sensitivity can enjoy oat flour without guilt.
If you're using it for baking, combine it with flour that contains a rising agent. Apart from that, it's famously used for oatmeal bread, cookies, oatmeal muffins, and pancakes. Oat flour is lighter than other flour. So if you’re using it in place of plain flour, multiply the original amount by 1.4.
You can also make it at home by finely grinding oats in a food processor.
00 flour, popularly known as pizza flour, comes from Italy. Doppio zero or double zero refers to the Italian scale of flour fineness. The grading system starts from 00, meaning finest and having very little bran or germ. It ends on 2, standing for heavily textured flour with the most bran and germ.
00 flour is the Italian secret to their thin crust and flexible pizza, especially the Neapolitan pizza of Naples.
It's fine texture makes it excellent for kneading pizza dough, ensuring that it's not rubbery. Besides pizza, this type of flour can also be used in pasta, focaccia, and long-fermented bread.
Gluten Free Flour
People with gluten sensitivity or celiac disease can thank William-Karel Dicke for introducing us to gluten-free diets. His work pioneered the way for a gluten-free flour that even non-celiacs can enjoy.
Gluten is widely present in wheat flour, so you'll have to move to other grains that provide gluten-free flour. The best of them are listed below. However, we recommend constantly checking for the gluten-free label on the products.
Made from skinless almonds, this flour has a strong, nutty flavor. It contains several minerals, including iron and calcium. However, this higher protein flour is slightly high in fat and contains nearly 200 more calories than wheat flour.
If you're using it as a substitute for plain flour, use a 1:1 ratio. You'll also have to use an extra egg because the batter will be thicker.
Despite having the word wheat in it, buckwheat is a grain from the grass family. You can eat this grain as a cereal, but keep in mind that it tends to give an earthy taste to your food.
It's great for making yeast bread. It’s better to combine it with other gluten-free flour to make your food taste better.
Brown Rice Flour
Brown rice has immense health properties, which remain even as it converts to flour. Individuals with gluten sensitivity should ensure it's not made in the same facility as wheat.
You can use it to make noodles. It can also be used to crumb coat chicken and fish.
Oat flour is gluten-free and is more flavorful than plain flour.
Keep in mind that it can make the product more moist when used in baking. Adjust other ingredients to make up for the lack of gluten when baking softer goods.
It's made from finely ground cornmeal which uses the whole corn kernel.
You may have used it as a thickener for soups and sauces. Other uses include making bread and tortilla. If you're buying food made with corn flour, keep in mind that it can also contain regular flour.
Flour made from chickpea is also an excellent gluten-free option. You might know chickpea flour as gram flour, garbanzo flour, or besan.
It's very popular in the Middle East for making hummus and falafel.
Coconut flour is made by grinding dried coconut flesh into flour. You can use coconut flour as a substitute for most flours but it does have more of a distinct smell and taste.
There’s no denying that every cuisine in the world utilizes flour. We have mentioned all the common types of flour. However, you can also enjoy other types such as barley flour, potato flour, peanut flour, and flaxseed flour, to name a few.
The flours only differ based on grains, gluten content, and level of refinement. Some are finely milled, while others have a heavy texture.
The best part is that these powdered grains are incredibly versatile and can be used interchangeably. You can either mix them or make them at home. Keep a close eye on their shelf life and enjoy them when they are the freshest.