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Flour Power!

Flour creates the structure for baked goods, so it is important to know how the flour you use will affect the texture of the your food.

Flour contains proteins which, when water is added, grab onto each other and form strong, elastic sheets of gluten. When mixed and kneaded, higher protein flours, such as bread flour, can develop even longer and stronger chains of gluten.  More or less gluten is desirable for various baked goods.

Flour that is used in baking comes mainly from wheat, although it can be milled from corn, rice, nuts, legumes, and some fruits and vegetables. The type of flour of flour used is vital at getting the product right. Different types of flour are suited to different items and all flours are different you cannot switch from one type to another without consequences that could ruin the recipe.

Below are the most common types of flour and what baked goods they are best used for:

 All-Purpose Flour: Most national brands typically have an 11 to 12% protein content which make them perfect for baking quick breads, cookies, biscuits, and cakes.  When flour is called for in a recipe it is most often all-purpose unless specified.

All-purpose flour that bleaches naturally as it ages is labeled “unbleached”; flour treated with chemical whiteners is labeled “bleached” and contains less protein.  They can basically be used interchangeably, but some believe that bleached is best used for making pie crusts, cookies, muffins, scones, pancakes, and other quick breads, and unbleached is good for baking yeast breads, popovers, and cream puffs.

To make in a pinch:

1 cup all-purpose flour = 1 cup + 2 tablespoons cake flour

Self-Rising Flour: For all brands, this is a uniform blend of all-purpose flour and leavening agents. Most bakers find self-rising flour an ideal blend for biscuits.

To make in a pinch:

1 cup self rising flour = 1 1/3 teaspoons baking powder + 1/3 teaspoon salt +1 cup all-purpose flour *Sift all ingredients together

Cake Flour: Cake flour has a lower protein content than all-purpose – from 6 to 8 %.  It is chlorinated to break down the strength of the gluten and is very finely ground, yielding tender cakes with a fine, delicate texture.

It measures differently than all-purpose flour; 1 cup of all-purpose flour is the equivalent of 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons cake flour.

To make in a pinch:

1 cup cake flour = 2 tablespoons of cornstarch + 7/8 cup all-purpose flour

Pastry Flour: Although similar to cake flour, it has a slightly higher gluten content.  This helps form the elastic bonds create flaky layers of pie crusts, croissants, and puff pastry.

Bread Flour: Bread flour is an unbleached, high protein blend of mostly hard wheat flours.  The elasticity of the gluten gives the bread its ability to retain gas as the dough rises and bakes, making it chewy.   Bread flour is used for bread.

 Buying Flour

Look for tightly sealed bags or boxes. Flours in torn packages or in open bins are exposed to air and to insect contamination.

Storing Flour

-Flour must be kept cool and dry. All flours, even white flour, have a limited shelf life. Millers recommend that flours be stored for no more than 6 months.

-The main change that occurs is the oxidation of oils when flour is exposed to air. The result of this is rancid off flavors. During hot weather, store flour in the refrigerator.

-Flour should be stored, covered, in a cool and dry area. This prevents the flour from absorbing moisture and odors and from attracting insects and rodents. Freezing flour for 48 hours before it is stored will kill any weevil or insect eggs already in the flour. It is better not to mix new flour with old if you are not using the flour regularly.

-Do not store flour near soap powder, onions, or other foods and products with strong odors.  Flour will absorb odors!

-If freezer space is available, flour can be repackaged in airtight, moisture-proof containers, labeled and placed in the freezer at 0 degrees F. If flour is stored like this, it will keep well for several years.

-Keep whole wheat flour in the refrigerator or freezer all year around to preserve the enzymes in the bran. Natural oils in the germ cause this flour to turn rancid quickly at room temperature.

-Throw away flour if it smells bad, changes color, or is invested with weevils.

-Flour is always readily available so it should only be brought in quantities that will last a maximum of two to three months.

-Put a bay leaf in the flour canister to help protect against insect infections. Bay leaves are natural insect repellents!