All things flour
Four flour types and when to use them
If you’ve ever wondered why your focaccia didn’t rise properly, your cake came out dry and crumbly, or your homemade pasta fell apart in boiling water, you’ve come to the right place. While several factors could have contributed to your baking falling flat, the root of the problem may have been which flour you used.
While all-purpose flour serves, well, many purposes, using other types of flour can make the difference between good and great home cooking. We‘re diving into the nitty gritty details of four different types of flour, as well as the differences between whole wheat and white, to lead you down the right path to excellent breads, baked goods, and pasta.
The most used flour, all-purpose is made using a mixture of hard and soft wheat. (You can learn about the different types of wheat grown in Alberta here.) It has a middle of the road protein content—a higher protein content in your flour means there’s more gluten, which causes bread to rise and gives your baking a chewier texture, whereas a lower protein content will create softer, more moist baking. All-purpose flour is processed using only the seed head’s endosperm, making it slightly less vitamin and nutrient rich. If your recipe ingredients simply call for flour, it’s probably all-purpose.
The name is accurate to its purpose. Bread flour is made from hard wheat and has a slightly higher protein content than all-purpose flour. It’s ideal for denser baking (think breads, pretzels and pizza dough), because it holds up better structurally and creates that fluffy chewiness we all love.
On the opposite end of the protein spectrum is cake flour. It’s made from soft wheat varieties and has a slightly lower protein content than all-purpose flour. It’s ideal for softer goods like cakes and muffins. The ultra-fine, silky flour is usually bleached, allowing it to absorb sugar and liquids well and ensure your cake is soft and moist. It’s not recommended to use bread flour and cake flour interchangeably, so always follow the recipe!
Semolina comes from a ground up hard wheat called durum. While it can be used for baking, it’s primary use is for making pasta due to its high gluten content. Semolina is also the base of dishes like couscous and porridge, and is popular in cuisine from Africa, the Mediterranean and the Middle East. It’s usually quite yellow (sometimes almost brown), and normally has a coarse texture looks more like sand or cornmeal than traditional all-purpose flour.
What’s the difference between whole wheat flour and white flour?
The seed head of wheat is made up of three parts: The bran, the germ and the endosperm. Whole wheat flour uses all three parts, whereas white only contains the endosperm. The result of stripping the bran and germ means a less fibre rich, lower protein content white flour, but it’s a flour that’s easier to work with (especially for beginners) and still offers great health benefits. If you learn how to bake with whole wheat flour, you’re adding more of the critical nutrients like fibre, vitamin B, selenium, copper, and phosphorus found in wholesome Canadian wheat.