What Types of Flour Are and How to Use Them


Flour gives structure to baked goods. While the subject of flour can be confusing, it shouldn’t be a problem if you remember one thing: always use the type of flour called for in the recipe, paying attention to terms such as “bleached” or “unbleached” and so forth. Flours vary in many ways, but the crucial difference is in protein content. Flours with a high protein content, such as unbleached flour, develop more gluten, which provides elasticity and strength to a dough. A cookie made from a high-protein flour will be relatively chewy, it will brown more readily, and it will spread more on the baking pan. Flours with lower protein levels-such as cake flour and wholewheat flour-will result in tender cookies. Lower-protein flours absorb less liquid, so the cookies will spread less, but they will puff more, because there will be more steam. (The addition of eggs and the mixing methods also affect these factors.)

Types of Flour 

  • All-purpose flour

Made from a blend of hard (high-gluten) and soft (low-gluten) wheats, all-purpose flour is of medium strength with a protein content of 10.5 to 13 percent. There are two kinds: Bleached all-purpose flour has been chemically bleached. The bleaching agents used whiten the flour and make it easier to blend it with ingredients with higher percentages of fat and sugar. Bleached flour produces a more tender and buttery baking. Unbleached allpurpose flour imparts a creamier color to baked goods, and it can yield crisper tasty. (Note: Avoid “self-rising” flours, which have added baking powder and salt.)

  • Bread flour 

This is an unbleached, hard-wheat flour that gives more structure to baked goods.

  • Cake flour

This flour, made from soft winter wheats, contains very little protein; it is more refined than all-purpose flour. Cookies made with cake flour will have a delicate texture.

  • Whole wheat flour

Milled from the whole wheat kernels, whole wheat flour is usually used in combination with other flours, to provide a nutty flavor and add texture to the finished baking. It contains slightly more protein than cake flour.

Storing Flour

Most flours should be stored in airtight containers in a cool, dry place, because they can become rancid. Store whole wheat flour in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Use all-purpose, cake, bread, and whole wheat flour within two months of purchase. Flours can also be frozen, to extend their shelf life to up to a year.


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