Very strong Canadian flour
Types of flour
Much more wheat flour is produced than any other flour.
Wheat varieties are called "clean," "white," or "brown" if they have high gluten content, and they are called "soft" or "weak" flour if gluten content is low. Hard flour, or bread flour, is high in gluten, with a certain toughness that holds its shape well once baked. Soft flour is comparatively low in gluten and so results in a finer texture. Soft flour is usually divided into cake flour, which is the lowest in gluten, and pastry flour, which has slightly more gluten than cake flour.
In terms of the parts of the grain (the grass Caryopsis|fruit) used in flour—the endosperm or starchy part, the germ or protein part, and the bran or fibre part, there are three general types of flour. White flour is made from the endosperm only. Whole grain or wholemeal flour is made from the entire grain, including bran, endosperm, and germ. A germ flour is made from the endosperm and germ, excluding the bran.
All-purpose or plain flour is a blended wheat flour with an intermediate gluten level, which is marketed as an acceptable compromise for most household baking needs.
Bleached flour is treated with flour bleaching agents to whiten it (freshly milled flour is yellowish) and to give it more gluten-producing potential. Oxidizing agents are usually employed, most commonly organic peroxides like acetone peroxide or benzoyl peroxide, nitrogen dioxide, or chlorine. A similar effect can be achieved by letting the flour slowly oxidize with oxygen in the air ("natural aging") for approximately 10 days; however, this process is more expensive due to the time required.
Bromated flour is a flour with a maturing agent added. The agent's role is to help with developing gluten, a role similar to the flour bleaching agents. Bromate is usually used. Other choices are phosphates, ascorbic acid, and malted barley. Bromated flour has been banned in much of the world,
as bromate is a suspected carcinogen,
but remains available in the United States.
Cake flour is a finely milled flour made from soft wheat. It has very low gluten content, making it suitable for soft-textured cakes and cookies. The higher gluten content of other flours would make the cakes tough.
Graham flour is a special type of whole-wheat flour. The endosperm is finely ground, as in white flour, while the bran and germ are coarsely ground. Graham flour is uncommon outside of the United States|USA and Europe. It is the basis of true graham crackers. Many graham crackers on the market are actually imitation grahams because they do not contain graham flour or even whole-wheat flour.
Pastry flour or cookie flour or cracker flour has slightly higher gluten content than cake flour but lower than all-purpose flour. It is suitable for fine, light-textured pastries.
Strong flour, or hard flour is flour milled from wheat with a high gluten content. Wheat grown in hot and dry conditions where there is a shorter growing season tend to have a higher gluten content. This high gluten content enables a vigorous and even rise, which results in a lighter loaf.
Self-rising or self-raising flour is "white" wheat flour or wholemeal flour that is sold premixed with chemical leavening agents. It was invented by Henry Jones. It can also be substituted by Maida when cooking Indian Cuisine. Typical ratios are the following:
- a pinch to ½ teaspoon salt
Durum or semolina flour is made of durum wheat. It has the highest protein content, and it is an important component of nearly all noodles and pastas. It is also commonly used to make Indian flatbreads.
British and American flour types
In Britain, many flours go by names different than those from America. Some American flours and British equivalents include:
- Cake and pastry flour = soft flour
- All-purpose flour = plain flour
- Bread flour = strong flour, hard flour
- Self-rising flour = self-raising flour
- Whole-wheat flour = wholemeal flour
- Corn (maize) flour is popular in the Southern Southern and Southwestern US and in Mexico. Coarse whole-grain corn flour is usually called corn meal. Corn meal that has been bleached with lye is called masa harina and is used to make tortillas and tamales in Mexican cooking. Corn flour should never be confused with cornstarch, which is known as "cornflour" in British English.
- Rye flour is used to bake the traditional sourdough breads of Germany and Scandinavia. Most rye breads use a mix of rye and wheat flours because rye has a low gluten content. Pumpernickel bread is usually made exclusively of rye, and contains a mixture of rye flour and rye meal.
- Tapioca flour is produced from the root of the cassava plant and used to make sweet tapioca pudding and a kind of savoury porridge called fufu in Africa.
- Sago flour is flour milled from starch extracted from the sago palm. The laborious process to achieve this is: Fell the sago palm tree, split the trunk open lengthwise, remove the pith, crush and knead the pith to release the starch, wash and strain the pith to extract the starch from the fibrous residue, collect the raw starch suspension in a settling container.
- Glutinous rice flour or sticky rice flour, used in east and southeast Asian cuisines for making tangyuan etc.
- Brown rice flour is of great importance in Southeast Asian cuisine. Most rice flour is made from white rice, thus is essentially a pure starch, but whole-grain brown rice flour is commercially available.
- Noodle flour is special blend of flour used for the making of Asian style noodles.
- Buckwheat flour is used as an ingredient in many pancakes in the United States. In Japan, it is used to make a popular noodle called Soba. In Russia, buckwheat flour is added to the batter for pancakes called blinis which are frequently eaten with caviar. Buckwheat flour is also used to make Breton crêpes called galettes.
- Chestnut flour is popular in Corsica, the Périgord and Lunigiana. In Corsica, it is used to cook the local variety of polenta. In Italy, it is mainly used for desserts.
- Chickpea flour (also known as gram flour or besan) is of great importance in Indian cuisine, and in Italy, where it is used for the Ligurian farinata.
- Mung bean flour (mong bean or green bean flour) is used to make the transparent wrapping of Vietnamese spring rolls.
- Teff flour is made from the grain teff, and is of considerable importance in eastern Africa (particularly around the horn of Africa). Notably, it is the chief ingredient in the bread injera, an important component of Ethiopian cuisine.
- Atta flour It is a whole wheat flour made from hard wheat. Hard wheats have a high protein content, so doughs made out of atta flour are strong and can be rolled out very thin. Breads made from atta flour include chapati, roti, and puri.
- Tang flour (not to be confused with the powdered beverage Tang) or wheat starch is a type of wheat flour used primarily in Chinese cooking for making the outer layer of dumplings and buns. It is also used in Vietnamese cuisine, where it is called b?t l?c trong.
- Peasemeal or pea flour is a flour produced from roasted and pulverized yellow field peas.
- Bean flour is a flour produced from pulverized dried or ripe beans.
- Potato starch flour is obtained by grinding the tubers to a pulp and removing the fibre by water-washings. The dried product consists chiefly of starch, but also contains some protein. Potato flour is used as a thickening agent. When heated to boiling, food added with a suspension of potato flour in water thickens quickly. Because the flour is made from neither grain nor legume, it is used as substitute for wheat flour in cooking by Jews during Passover, when grains are not eaten.
- Chuño flour made from dried potatoes in various countries of South America
- Amaranth flour is a flour produced from ground Amaranth grain. It was commonly used in pre-Columbian meso-American cuisine. It is becoming more and more available in speciality food shops.
- Nut flours are grated from oily nuts--most commonly almonds and hazelnuts--and are used instead of or in addition to wheat flour to produce more dry and flavorful pastries and cakes. Cakes made with nut flours are usually called tortes and most originated in Central Europe, in countries such as Hungary and Austria.
Flour can also be made from soy beans, peanuts, arrowroot, taro, cattails, acorns and other non-cereal foodstuffs.