Types of Wheat Flour
Even though they’re all made from grinding wheat berries, these different types of flour vary significantly depending on protein content, fineness, and mor
AP flour is a white flour containing only the endosperm of the wheat grain. While it’ll last longer unrefrigerated than whole-grain flours, it doesn’t clock in much nutritional value as a result. That being said, it has a mild flavor, and it works well in just about any kind of baked good.
Whole wheat flour is flour that includes the wheat germ, bran, and endosperm, making for a dense, flavor-packed flour. It has a shorter shelf life than all-purpose flour, since the oil in the wheat bran tends to go rancid. Most commercial whole wheat flours are made by adding the germ and bran back into refined white flour, rather than grinding whole wheat berries. White whole wheat flour is made in the same way but from a white wheat variety.
Bleached flour is flour that has been treated with a whitening agent like benzoyl peroxide. Some flours are also treated with a maturing agent, which can either dampen or enhance the gluten development by manipulating the starch content of the flour itself, usually by oxidizing it; this allows flour to absorb more liquid and thus transform into a thicker dough.
Unbleached flour is any flour that has not undergone the bleaching process and does not contain any trace preservative chemicals as a result. (“White flour” doesn’t always mean bleached: The term can refer to refined flour that does not include the bran or germ, or to flour made with a white wheat variety.)
Bread flour is flour with a particularly high gluten protein content—up to about 14 percent. While yeast ferments during the early stages of baking bread, carbon dioxide gets trapped by the protein-bonded flour, resulting in stretchy dough with air pockets in the crumb.
For spongy, light-as-air cakes, you have cake flour. Made from a soft wheat and ground to an incredibly fine texture, cake flour has a low protein content (and thus, less gluten) compared with all-purpose flour, which results in a lighter, loosely-structured crumb. To mimic the effects of cake flour with all-purpose flour, remove two tablespoons of flour and replace it with two tablespoons of cornstarch, which will prevent the formation of gluten to a similar effect.
Delicate pastries call for a delicate flour. Pastry flour, with its low-protein, high-gluten formula, has a superfine consistency and is perfect for flaky viennoiserie like croissants. Whole wheat pastry flour contains the wheat germ, bran, and endosperm, ground superfine.
00 flour is fine flour graded on an Italian milling system, intended for pizza and pasta. While the soft texture is an immediate benefit, it’s the 12.5 percent protein level and corresponding high gluten content that experts agree gives perfect pizza dough and silky noodles their stretch and snap.
Self-rising flour is all-purpose flour mixed with leavening agents (baking powder and salt), which add airiness through small gas bubbles released in the dough. Self-rising flours are typically used for baked goods like scones, biscuits, and muffins, where an even, consistent puff is the goal.
Durum flour is made from durum wheat (Triticum durum). It yields a high-protein flour, good for breads and pasta, with a pale yellow color.