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Types of Flour

Flour is the fundamental ingredient of many baked goods - including bread, pastries, pies, and cakes - as well as pasta and pizza dough. However, not all flour is alike. Various factors, such as protein content, how the flour is processed, and the grain, affect how you use it while baking. Whether you own a bakery, cafe, or restaurant, it's imperative to use the best types of flour to produce high-quality food and desserts. We explore the different kinds of flour, their uses, processing considerations, and protein content to help you find the best flour to meet the needs of your establishment.

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Use the following links to learn more about different types of flour:

  1. Bleached vs Unbleached Flour
  2. Different Types of Flour
  3. Types of Flour Chart
  4. Types of Gluten Free Flour
  5. Flour Protein Content
  6. What Is Patent Flour?

Bleached vs Unbleached Flour

All types of flour fall into one of two categories: bleached and unbleached flour. This distinction refers to how the flour was processed, which affects the flour's flavor, texture, appearance, and uses. The difference between unbleached and bleached flour is that bleached flour is refined and treated with chemicals to speed up aging during processing, while unbleached flour is aged naturally and has a much coarser texture.

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Unbleached Flour

Unbleached flour is not refined or treated with chemicals during processing, which results in a rougher texture than bleached flour. Furthermore, it undergoes a natural aging process to prepare it for baking, which takes much longer than the sped-up aging process of bleached flour. As a result, unbleached flour has an off-white color and is rich in fiber, vitamin E, antioxidants, and manganese in addition to standard flour's nutritional value.

Used for: pastries, cream puffs, yeast bread, eclairs

Characteristics: Tough, dense, grainy, off-white

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Bleached Flour

During processing, bleached flour is refined by removing the wheat kernel’s bran and germ before milling the wheat. Then, the flour is bleached using chemical agents like benzoyl peroxide, potassium bromate, or chlorine to increase the speed of the aging process. This procedure results in a white color and malleable texture for the flour, making it excellent for many baking endeavors.

Used for: pie crusts, pancakes, waffles, muffins, quick bread, cookies

Characteristics: Soft, fine grain, white

Different Types of Flour

Whether you own a bakery, restaurant, cafe, or coffee shop, understanding the different types of flour and their uses allows you to offer customers high-quality food. Homemade bread, pasta, and pastries use flour as their base ingredient, but the ideal flour for each varies. In addition to the dough's malleability, flour affects flavor, texture, and protein content. Regardless of the type of flour you use, remember to measure flour with a food scale for the most accurate measurement.

Below are 12 common types of flour, their primary uses, and their textures.

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1. Cake Flour

For soft, moist baked goods, cake flour is the ideal choice. It has the lowest protein content of gluten-based flour, making it less structured than the others. Additionally, it is milled extra-fine and bleached, allowing it to absorb more liquids and fats to make a deliciously moist cake. This flour is easily the best to make different cakes, so be careful when using substitutes while baking cakes.

Used for: Cake, chiffon, muffins, scones

Characteristics: Soft flour, fine, extra-absorbent. Creates a moist, spongey final product.

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2. Bread Flour

Bread flour has a high protein content compared to all-purpose flour to create the ideal chewy texture for loaves of bread. Due to the amount of protein, the mixing process forms more gluten and helps the bread rise without collapsing. This gluten structure results in a porous, chewy texture for your bread.

Used for: Bread, sourdough, cookies, pretzels, bagels, pizza dough

Characteristics: Hard flour, coarse, elastic. Creates an airy, chewy final product.

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3. Semolina Flour

Semolina flour is milled from durum wheat, which gives it a nutty flavor and yellow hue. Its high protein content keeps it intact when stretched and kneaded, making it perfect for homemade pasta. However, semolina flour is also found in bread, biscuits, and other baked goods.

Used for: Pasta, couscous, bread, gnocchi, puddings

Characteristics: Hard flour, sandy, easily thickens. Creates an elastic dough that holds its shape under cooking conditions.

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4. 00 Flour

Also known as doppio zero flour, 00 flour is a popular choice for many Italian dishes. Durum wheat is milled to an extremely fine consistency to form the flour. This quality and the flour's high protein content allow it to be rolled and stretched thin to make pasta without breaking, maintaining its shape during cooking.

Used for: Pasta, pizza dough, flatbreads, focaccia, gnocchi, crackers

Characteristics: Hard flour, super-fine grain, easy to blend and roll. Creates a strong, chewy final product.

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5. Spelt Flour

Named for the wheat it’s made from, spelt flour is milled from entire grains rather than part of the grain. It has medium protein content, making it an ideal substitute for all-purpose flour. However, the most unique aspect of spelt flour is its flavor, which many describe as slightly sweet, tangy, and nutty.

Used for: Desserts like cookies, cakes, and muffins, combined with other flours to make bread

Characteristics: Soft, sticky, medium protein content. Creates a soft, airy final product.

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6. Whole Wheat Flour

Unlike other types of flour, whole wheat flour is milled from the endosperm, germ, and bran of the wheat kernel. These extra elements give goods baked with whole wheat a dense, nutty quality, but they make the flour challenging to use during baking. While this flour is high in protein, it does not form gluten well. Additionally, whole wheat flour is more perishable than other flour, so store it in a freezer or refrigerator to increase its shelf life.

Used for: Bread, cookies, pancakes, pasta

Characteristics: Hard flour, grainy, coarse. Creates sticky dough and a dense final product.

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7. Rye Flour

Rye flour comes from rye, not the typical red or white wheat used to make flour. It has a low protein content and less gluten than all-purpose flour, creating a unique density in bread baked from it. Additionally, rye flour has a unique, nutty flavor and distinct texture that adds flair to baked goods.

Used for: Bread, cookies, pie crust

Characteristics: Soft flour, dark, doesn’t rise as well. Creates a moist and dense final product.

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8. Pastry Flour

As the happy medium between cake flour and all-purpose flour, pastry flour has low protein content and is bleached during processing. Its fine texture makes it easy to blend with other ingredients. Due to these qualities, pastry flour creates flaky, tender, mouthwatering goods. Pastry flour also has a lot of substitutes due to its similarities to all-purpose flour and cake flour.

Used for: Pie crusts, tarts, croissants, cookies, muffins, biscuits, pound cakes, and other pastries

Characteristics: Soft flour, bleached, fine texture. Creates a flaky, tender final product.

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9. White Whole Wheat Flour

Many people consider white whole wheat flour the unhealthy version of whole wheat flour, but this is not the case. The primary differentiator of white whole wheat flour is that it’s milled from a light variant of white hard winter wheat, which causes a softer texture and sweeter taste. Like whole wheat bread, it uses all three parts of the wheat kernel and contains the same high protein content and nutritional value as its counterpart.

Used for: Bread, cookies, muffins

Characteristics: Hard flour, grainy texture, sweet and mild taste. Creates a sticky dough and dense final product.

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10. Self-Rising Flour

The distinctive feature of self-rising flour is the addition of salt and baking powder during the milling process. These elements act as leavening agents, providing an easy shortcut while baking. However, do not substitute self-rising flour for other flour because the salt and baking powder will cause problems in those recipes.

Used for: Biscuits, scones, pancakes,

Characteristics: Soft flour, finely milled. Creates a light, airy final product.

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11. All-Purpose Flour

A staple of every kitchen in bakeries, restaurants, and cafes, all-purpose flour is precisely what its name implies. Its versatility is due to its average protein content, containing a combination of hard and soft wheat with a remarkably stable shelf-life. Capable of creating flaky pie crusts and chewy cookies, all-purpose flour is the ideal flour for nearly any task.

Used for: Everything

Characteristics: Neutral texture that varies based on bleached or unbleached nature.

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12. Instant Flour

Often referred to by the popular brand name Wondra, instant flour is a low protein, finely milled, pre-cooked flour. Due to this, the flour dissolves instantly in hot liquids without clumping and saves you time since it is not raw. Check the recipe carefully for instructions on how to use instant flour and possible substitutes.

Used for: Thickening sauces and gravies, battering, crepes, pie crusts

Characteristics: Soft flour, pre-cooked, easily dissolved. Creates a smooth, thick final product.

Types of Flour Chart

Understand the various kinds of flour and their primary uses with this types of flour chart.

Types of Flour Infographic

Types of Gluten Free Flour

Many types of gluten-free flour are available to accommodate customers with dietary restrictions. Since the base of these flours is something other than wheat, the varying flavors and textures provide a unique twist on your typical baked goods. With foundations stemming from nuts, roots, and vegetables, ask customers about any additional allergies before serving them. Additionally, check if your chosen gluten-free flour requires any special inclusions that help with the baking process before using it.

  • Almond flour: Able to replace all-purpose flour in a 1:1 ratio, almond flour contains many healthy fats and fibers and adds a pleasant, nutty flavor to your baked goods.
  • Cassava flour: Made by grinding down a South American root vegetable called yuca, cassava flour is an ideal substitute for white flour due to its neutral flavor and consistency.
  • Corn flour: Corn flour is made from finely-ground corn kernels, adding a unique taste and color to quesadillas, pizza crust, and chicken or fish breading.
  • Rice Flour: Rice flour is used in Asian recipes for rice noodles, cakes, and pastries. Brown rice flour is present in desserts such as cookies due to its flavor.
  • Tapioca flour: Made using a starchy root from the cassava root, tapioca flour is used as a thickening agent in soups and pies or is combined with other flours to make bread.
  • Oat flour: As a popular gluten-free option, oat flour provides a chewy, crumbly texture to your baked goods.
  • Coconut flour: Other than adding a distinct coconut flavor to your food, coconut flour is a great all-purpose flour substitute for bread and desserts.
  • Buckwheat flour: Despite what the name implies, buckwheat flour does not contain wheat grain. Its high antioxidant content and earthy flavor make it ideal for baking delicious homemade bread.
  • Chickpea flour: With a nutty taste and coarse texture, chickpea flour makes delicious gluten-free flatbread and batter-based foods.
  • Teff flour: The best use for teff flour is making fermented sourdough bread from Ethiopia, but you can also utilize it to make cereals or batter-based foods.
  • Sorghum flour: Sorghum flour comes from sorghum, a cereal grain high in protein and fiber. Its density and mildly sweet flavor taste great in pancakes, muffins, and flatbread.
  • Arrowroot flour: Primarily used as a thickening agent for sauces and puddings, arrowroot flour combines with other gluten-free flour to make bread, cookies, or cakes.

Flour Protein Content

A bowl of hard flour

Flour protein content varies depending on the brand and type of flour you plan to use. Bread flour, whole wheat flour, white whole wheat flour, and all-purpose flour contain protein ranging from 10% to 15% of their serving sizes. In contrast, pastry flour, cake flour, and self-rising flour contain far less protein than other types, as low as 6% of their serving sizes.

Protein in flour affects gluten formation in your dough, which impacts the texture of baked goods. More protein means more gluten develops, which might create a rubbery texture in your bread or pastries if handled incorrectly. Knowing your flour's protein content and mixing instructions ensures your final product bakes to perfection.

You can calculate flour protein content based on the nutrition label using this simple equation:

Protein Quantity (grams) ÷ Serving Size (grams) x 100 = % Protein

Hard Flour vs Soft Flour

The terms "hard flour" and "soft flour" refer to the amount of protein in the flour. Hard flour is high in protein and gluten with a minimum protein content of 12%. As a result of the protein, hard flour is gritty and crumbly compared to flour with lower protein levels. In contrast, soft flour contains only 7% to 9% protein and is much smoother and finer than hard flour. Bread flour usually falls under hard flour, while soft flours are cake and pastry flour.

What Is Patent Flour?

Patent flour is a pure, high-quality flour made from the center part of the endosperm. The amount of straight flour that patent flour contains determines whether a bread flour is short patent (70-80% straight flour), medium patent (80-90% straight flour), or long patent (90-95% straight flour).

Note: Straight flour refers to flour in which 100% of the wheat kernel has had the bran and germ removed.

The information provided on this website does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal advice. Please refer to our Content Policy for more details.

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