Choosing your Flour
For new bakers, the choice of flours available can be daunting.
A basic bread flour ground from high protein wheat is the basis for most Western bread baking. The gluten contained in these flours helps with the texture of the dough and the finished loaf. But there are almost endless variations and blends of flour, including those from different grains, some with different levels of refinement, and even non-cereal based flours.
Your choice of flour will alter the character and taste of the finished loaf. The following examples will help you understand the characteristics of some different flours.
Don’t be afraid to experiment, there are no hard and fast rules!
As its name suggests, All Purpose, or AP flour, is a wheat flour, blended to be used in a wide variety of applications, including bread and cakes.
An AP flour in Europe will not be the same as that found in the US. Canadian AP flour is different again. Everything depends on the wheat varieties used, but as a general rule, these flours have the advantage of producing a good standard loaf. They lack the character of many others, but are worth having in the cupboard either to blend with other flours, or in case you run out of a preferred product.
Wholegrain flours refer to those ground from the whole grain, including all the natural nutrients and fibre. The sieving process after grinding permits larger elements of the grain to pass, retaining the bran and the germ which are otherwise removed in white flours.
Wholegrain flours will be coarser than white, and tend to produce a less open crumb. Breads made using wholegrain flours will have a richer, and nutty taste.
Rich, nutty flavor
Dark Rye flour is rich in colour with a traditional full flavour. Rye flour creates a softer, moisture texture that helps with shelf life though and typically creates a more dense crumb when baked. Dark rye retains more nutrients as most of the bran and the germ in the flour remain.
Rye is not as capable of gluten formation so is often mixed with wheat flour to help produce a lighter style of loaf.
Rye flour recipes often need more water to flour as rye flour is rich in water-absorbent carbohydrates called pentosans, which allow it to hold ten or more times its weight in water.
Kamut - Khorosan
Kamut is a brand name for a strain of the ancient khorasan wheat grain. It is also known as Oriental wheat. This grain is twice the size of modern-day wheat. This golden coloured flour is high in protein so ideal great for breadmaking.
Smooth, buttery, nutty, and flavorsome.
Rice flour is made from ground raw rice and is used to make rice noodles and some types of South Indian pancakes. It can be used as an alternative to wheat flour in cakes and biscuits but as it’s gluten-free it is not widely used to make leavened bread.
However, being gluten free makes it ideal for flouring your proving containers – rice flour won’t stick to your dough flour so this makes it much easier to get your bread dough released.
Strong wheat flours contain high levels of protein, and when worked into a dough produce an elastic texture that helps retain the gasses released during proofing. Breads made using stronger flours will rise better, giving them a lighter texture.
Strong white flour is an excellent general purpose bread flour, and is good also for some pastries, including choux or filo.
Spelt, also known as dinkel wheat or hulled wheat, is a species of wheat cultivated since approximately 5000 BC. In its original form, spelt has a light reddish-brown color and a nutty flavor. Spelt is a member of the same family as wheat, barley, and rye, but despite it being a whole grain, it does not produce heavy products. Instead, it has a light and airy texture, similar to wheat.
Nutritionally, it is very similar to wheat. However, comparisons have shown it to be slightly higher in zinc and protein. Spelt contains small amounts of calcium, selenium, and vitamins B1, B6 and E. Like most whole grains, it is also high in carbs and an excellent source of dietary fiber.
About 80% of the protein in spelt is gluten, a protein that essentially acts like a glue to hold food, like bread, together. The gluten in spelt flour is a little more delicate than wheat gluten, so you want to pay special attention when using spelt in your cooking and baking. It’s important to know that spelt is not a gluten-free flour, and it may cause discomfort or allergic reactions in those who have celiac disease or a gluten intolerance.
It has a deep, nutty flavor.
Spelt flour which has been finely sieved to remove the bran and the germ of the grain.
Spelt flours have a weaker gluten content than modern wheats. Your dough will need less kneading and shorter proofing to produce a light airy loaf. Spelt has a nutty flavour which gives character to your baking.
Excellent for general baking, including breads and pizza doughs.
It has a deep, nutty flavor, much lighter in colour.
Einkorn, triticum monococcum, is one of the earliest cultivated varieties of wheat. It differs from modern wheat in that it is genetically distinct and only has single grains on either side of the ear, hence its name Ein’korn from the German meaning one.
Einkorn Flour makes great rustic style breads and pizza bases, either on its own or blended half and half with white bread flour.