What Flour to Use When Baking

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00332The flour you bake with will contribute to the texture of the finished product. Use the wrong flour and your baked item won’t turn out.

Gluten is the strong, stretchy protein that forms when flour and water mix. Gluten gives elasticity to dough, helping it keep its shape and often gives the final product its texture.

Flours can be categorized as soft or hard. Whether the flour is soft (i.e., pastry or cake flour) or hard (i.e. bread flour) depends on the amount of protein contained.  A flour with a higher protein content will yield a chewier product and a flour with a lower protein content will yield a more tender product.

Hard flours have more protein and develop strong gluten bonds (chewy). Soft flours have less protein and develop weaker gluten bonds (tender).

The flour you use depends on what you are making. Muffins, pancakes, waffles, piecrust, cakes, cookies, biscuits, and pastries should be tender not chewy so a “soft” cake or pastry flour should be used. Cake flour has the least protein so will make the most tender product.

Bread flour and durum semolina (used for pasta) contain the most protein and form strong, high-quality gluten. These hard flours are perfect for yeast-raised breads, pizza dough and pasta, because the strong gluten gives the heavy dough structure and the finished product a chewy texture.

All purpose flour have a protein content less than bread flours and more than pastry flour.

Whole wheat flours include the whole grain; 100% of the original kernel, all of the bran, germ, and endosperm is present. While being the most nutritious choice, using all whole wheat flour may not produce a good product. Whole wheat flour, is very high in gluten-forming protein, but because the bran is present, the bran will get in the way of gluten bonds forming and the bran will tear the gluten strands inhibiting its development in breads. If softer protein pastry flour or used the bran gets in the way of gluten bonds forming. A solution is to use 50% white flour, a compromise so that there are still some nutritious grains present but the white flour allows for some gluten development.

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