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Types of flour
As it is the most popular type, much more wheat flour is produced than any other. Wheat varieties are called "hard", "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 fruit of the grass Caryopsis) used in flour (specifically, 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.
Germ flour is made from the endosperm and germ, excluding the bran.
General purpose flour
General purpose flour (US), all purpose flour or plain flour is a blended wheat flour using combinations of the 3 types listed above to give it an intermediate gluten level. This 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 improve & maximise its gluten-producing potential. Oxidising agents are usually employed, most commonly organic peroxides such as acetone peroxide or benzoyl peroxide, nitrogen dioxide, or chlorine. A similar effect can be achieved by letting the flour slowly oxidise with oxygen in the air ("natural ageing") for approximately 10 days; however, this process is more expensive due to the time required.
Bromated flour is flour with a maturing agent added. The agent's role is to help with developing gluten, a role similar to the aforementioned flour bleaching agents. Potassium bromate (chemical formula KBrO3, E number E924), 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 now a suspected carcinogen - but it is still permitted 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/biscuits. The higher gluten content of other flours would make the cakes tough.
How to make cake flour
A reasonable substitute for cake flour is to replace 1/16th of plain flour (all purpose flour), with cornflour. Eg: 1 tablespoon of cornflour to 1 cup of flour / 6 g of cornflour to 100g of plain flour.
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 the United States and Europe. It is the main ingredient 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.
Strong flour (or hard flour): This is flour milled from wheat with a high gluten content. Wheat grown in hot and dry conditions where there is a shorter growing season tends to have a higher gluten content. This high gluten content enables a vigorous and even rise which results in a lighter loaf. The following table lists some of the strong flours available in the UK, with their protein percentage and includes some stockists. The higher the protein content, the more gluten will be produced. However, the percentages are only a guideline as to how much the bread will rise. Some flours include improvers such as vitamin C (ascorbic acid) which help it to rise more.
Strong white flour
|Flour name||Protein %||Stockist|
|ASDA Strong White Bread Flour||11.0||Asda|
|Allinson Soft Grain Strong White Bread Flour (1Kg)||11.2||Sainsbury’s|
|Doves Farm Organic Strong White Bread Flour||11.5||Sainsbury’s|
|Tesco Organic Strong White Flour||11.8||Tesco|
|Hovis Strong White Bread Flour||12.0||Sainsbury’s, Waitrose|
|Allinson Strong White Bread Flour||12.1||Asda, Tesco, Waitrose, Sainsbury’s|
|Tesco Strong White Bread Flour||12.1||Tesco|
|Hovis Super Strong Premium White Bread Flour||12.8||Sainsbury’s|
|Carrs Breadmaker Strong White Flour||13.2||Sainsbury’s|
|Waitrose Strong White Plain Flour||13.3||Waitrose|
|Sainsbury's Strong White Bread Flour||13.4||Sainsbury’s|
|Waitrose Leckford Strong Bread Flour||13.6||Waitrose|
|Allinson Oatmill White Bread Flour (1Kg)||13.7||Sainsbury’s|
|Allinson Bakers' Grade Very Strong White Bread Flour||13.9||Asda, Tesco, Sainsbury’s|
|Waitrose Very Strong Canadian White Flour||15.0||Waitrose|
Strong wholemeal/brown flour
|Waitrose Strong Wholemeal Plain Flour||TBA||Waitrose|
|Marriage's Strong 100% Stoneground Wholemeal Flour||TBA||Waitrose|
|Marriage's Very Strong 100% Canadian Wholemeal Flour||TBA||Waitrose|
|Marriage's Organic Strong Wholemeal Flour||TBA||Waitrose|
|Bacheldre Watermill Organic Oak Smoked Stoneground Strong Malted Blend Flour||TBA||Waitrose|
|Allinson Strong White Bread Flour||12.1||Asda, Tesco, Waitrose, Sainsbury’s|
|Tesco Strong Stoneground 100% Wholemeal Bread Flour||11.1||Tesco|
|Sainsbury's Strong Stoneground Wholemeal Bread Flour||12.0||Sainsbury’s|
|Doves Farm Organic Strong Wholemeal Flour||12.0||Sainsbury’s|
|Waitrose Organic Malted Grain Bread Flour||12.4||Waitrose|
|Waitrose Organic Strong Wholemeal Flour||13.2||Sainsbury’s|
|Allinson Country Grain Strong Brown Bread Flour (1Kg)||13.8||Sainsbury’s, Waitrose|
|Allinson Very Strong Wholemeal Bread Flour||13.8||Sainsbury’s|
|Sainsbury's Strong Brown Bread Flour||14.0||Sainsbury’s|
|Waitrose Very Strong Canadian Wholemeal Flour||14.2||Waitrose|
|ASDA Brown Bread Flour||14.7||ASDA|
|Hovis Granary Malted Brown Bread Flour (1Kg)||14.7||Tesco, Sainsbury’s Waitrose|
|Carrs Breadmaker Wholemeal Flour||15.2||Sainsbury’s|
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 used as a substitute for Indian Maida flour when cooking Indian Cuisine.
If you cannot find it in your area, or want to make your own at home, a typical formulation/ratio would be as follows:
Durum atta or semolina flour
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 from those from America. Some American flours and British equivalents include:
US English term = UK English term
- 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
Portuguese flour types
- Type 55 (Tipo 55) = Plain (US All-purpose) flour
- Type 65 (Tipo 65) = Strong white (US Bread) flour NB If buying in Lidl or Aldi in Portugal, this flour will be called Type 550
- Type 80 (Tipo 80) = Wholemeal (US Wholewheat) flour
Corn (maize) flour
Corn (maize flour) is popular in 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.
Millet flour (bajari or bajri: India) is a yellow flour milled from ground millet grain. It is often mixed with other flours to make unleavened flat breads such as roti. It can also be used as a gluten-free wheat flour substitute.
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.
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, when settled collect and dry the resulting powder.
Spelt flour is flour milled from spelt, a grain that has been used since Roman times. It can be used to replace wheat flour in many recipes and as it has a nutty taste it is ideally suited to breads and biscuits. It is milled to wholegrain and white flour. It is easier to digest than wheat flour but it is not gluten free.
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. In Italy, it is used for polenta taragna. 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 also in Italy where it is used for the Ligurian farinata.
Mung bean flour
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 part of Ethiopian cuisine.
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.
Peasmeal or pea flour is a flour produced from roasted and pulverised yellow field peas.
Bean flour is a flour produced from pulverised dried or ripe beans.
Potato starch flour
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 to which a suspension of potato flour in water has been added 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 early 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 drier and more and flavourful pastries and cakes. Cakes made with nut flours are usually called tortes and most of them originated in Central Europe, in countries such as Hungary and Austria.
Kamut flour was grown by the pharaohs in Egypt. It is made from an ancient type of wheat, triticum turgidum, and is naturally high in proteins and minerals such as selenium. It is excellent for pasta and breadmaking.
Glutinous rice flour or sticky rice flour, used in east and southeast Asian cuisines for making tangyuan etc.
Brown rice flour
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 also commercially available.
Gluten-free flour conversions
How much does one cup of flour weigh?
Estimated US cup to weight equivalents:
|Flour||White, Rye, Barley/Besan||
|145 grams (plain flour, unsieved)||5 ounces|
|165 grams||< 5.5 ounces|
|Flour||Chickpea (gram flour)||
|75 grams||3 ounces|
|150 grams||> 5 ounces|
|125 grams||< 5 ounces|
|100 grams||4 ounces|
|150 grams||5 ounces|
|150 grams||> 5 ounces|
|125 grams||< 5 ounces|
Every ingredient has a cups to ounces or grams conversion table. Search for the ingredient, and cup to weight conversions are at the end of each ingredient page.
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