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Flour 101

Posted Jan 27 2010 12:31pm

Flour is made of grainsseeds or roots.  Flour contains high proportion of starcheswhich are complex carbohydrates also known as polysaccharides.  Leavening agents are used with some floursespecially those with significant glutencontentto produce lighter and softer baked products by embedding small gas bubbles.

Wheat Flour – More wheat flour is produced than any other flour. Wheat varieties are called “clean,” “white,” or “brown” if they have high gluten contentand they are called “soft” or “weak” flour if gluten content is low. Hard flouror bread flouris high in glutenwith 12% to 14% gluten contentand has elastic 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 flourwhich is the lowest in glutenand pastry flourwhich has slightly more gluten than cake flour.

Pastry Flour Contains 8-10% Gluten – Pastry flouror cookie flouris a type of soft wheat flour. They’re usually superior in the end result to all purpose flour for pastrieshelping to produce a crunchy and delicaterather than an overworked or tough crust.

Self-Rising Flour –Self-rising flour is flour which has been blended with salt and baking powderso that the flour comes with its own leavening. This type of flour is commonly used in biscuits and cakes. Basicallythe feature which distinguishes self-rising flour is the addition of leaveningwhich cuts a step out of food preparation.  If you have a recipe which requires self-rising flour and you don’t have any aroundyou will need to add salt and baking powder to the recipe for it to turn out right. You may also see recipes which require self-rising cake floura low-proteinlightweight flour which has been mixed with leavening. You can use regular cake flour with added leavening as a substitute in these cases.

Barley flourContains Some Gluten – The low gluten content may result in baked goods turning out different then wheat flour.  In yeast breadsbarley flour can replace up to ¼ of the regular flourand in quick breadscookiespancakes and other baked goodsit can be used to replace up to ½ of the flour called for by the recipe. Barley flour has a nutty flavor and it works best in pancakes,.

Buckwheat flour – Gluten Free (but maybe processed in a plant that also process other products with gluten) – Mixed flours with buckwheat included can be used in baking breadmuffinsand biscuits. For breadsno more than half of the total flour should be buckwheatas it can have an impact on rising and dough performance. The rich flavor of buckwheat complements many foodsand can elevate a dish from the mundane to the interesting.  Inclusion of buckwheat flour will also make a dish more nutritioussince buckwheat is high in fiberamino acidsproteinniacinand vitamin Bamong other things.  It is especially good in pancakes.

Oat flour – Gluten Free (but maybe processed in a plant that also process other products with gluten) – Used alonebaked goods will not rise or hold together; oat flour must be mixed with other flours in bakingwhether you are attempting gluten free baking or just wanting to spice up conventional recipes.  Oat flour is specially good in quick breads and cookiesbecause it makes them moisterchewier and more crumbly.

Brown rice flourGluten Free – It can be used as a straight flour replacement in things like roux and other sauce thickeners. It can also be combined with other flours for baking breadcookiesor pastries. Brown rice flour does not behave exactly like wheatso replace up to ¼ of wheat flour in recipe and be prepared to experiment with proportions and grain mixtures. It also lends a strongnutty flavor to food which may not always be desired. If you are concerned about this use regular rice flourmade from grains which have been hulled.  Since rice flour absorbs more moisture you may need to add more liquid to the recipe.

Millet flourGluten Free - This flour may be added to breads to reduce gluten contentor to produce lower carbohydrate bread.  Replace no more than 1/3 of wheat flour in recipes with Millet flour.    Millet flour is best used in alone pancake and tortilla recipe but for baking it needs to be mixed with binding agents such as xanthan gum to make up for the missing flour gluten. NOTE:  I have read that you should avoid millet flour if you have hypothyroidism as it has shown to slightly impair thyroid productionespecially if you have more than couple servings of it a day.

Potato flourGluten Free – Potato flour can also be used in baked goods combined with another flour. For examplepotato flour and rice flour can be used together for things like breads and cookies. Potato flour can also be combined with regular flour in breads. It tends to create a densemoist crumbwhich may be desirable in some baked products.  Replace up to 1/4 of any wheat flour in a recipe with this.  Substitute 5/8 cup potato flour for 1 cup all-purpose flour

Soy flourGluten Free – Soy flour is high protein flour with a nutty taste. It is not generally used on it’s own in recipesbut when combined with other flours is very successful as an alternative flour. It an be used to thicken recipes or added as a flavor enhancer. In baking increase the liquid in the recipe and reduce the oven temperature by 25 degrees

Quinoa flourGluten Free – The flavor of quinoa flour is very mildwith a hint of nuttiness. It is often combined with tapiocapotato starchand sorghum to create a gluten-free baking mix.  This flour contains higher fat than all-purpose flourso it tends to make baked goods moister.  Replace up to 1/2 of the wheat flour in the recipe with this flour.

Amaranth flourGluten Free – Higher in protein which makes a nutritious flour for baking.  Limit the amount of amaranth flour you use to no more than 1/3 of the total flour. Combine amaranth flour with other flours such as oat flourbarley flourwhite rice flourand soy flour.

Spelt flourContains Some Gluten – Tends to make baked goods heavierso consider increasing the baking powder so that the product rises more.   Spelt is great for making pasta and bread.

Kamut flourContains Some Gluten – Works well in pasta and bread recipes and combined with other flours. This is best used for pancakes.

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