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All of those different types of flour stacked neatly on your grocer’s shelves started out much the same, as kernels of wheat. It’s how much of the wheat kernel’s proteins were removed during processing that determines the end flour product and the best usage for each baking flour type. The baking flour type you use will affect the flavor, appearance, texture and structure of baked goods, so knowing the different types of baking flour and what baked goods they’re best suited for can mean the difference between success or failure of a recipe.
All Purpose Baking Flour
As this baking flour type’s name suggests, it’s good for many baking usages, from cookies to cakes to breads. All purpose flour contains enough protein to support a substantial layer cake, but not enough protein to make the layer cake tough. Rising agents must be added to all purpose baking flour or a recipe for layer cake will turn out as flat, tough pancakes.
Self Rising Baking Flour
This type of baking flour contains additional ingredients to make breads, cakes and cookies rise. It also contains more protein than all purpose baking flour and will result in a denser texture when used. Self rising flour can be adapted for use in most recipes, just omit the addition of rising agents like baking powder and baking soda.
Baking flour specifically packaged as bread flour will contain the most protein of all baking flour types. The protein content is needed to ensure freshly baked loaves of bread can rise high while still being able to support their own weight. Bread flour will produce baked goods with a chewy, substantial texture.
This type of baking flour contains the least amount of protein. It’s usage will result in a soft, velvety texture which is perfect for cakes, but not so good for cookies or other baked goods where crunch or sturdy texture is desired.
Whole Wheat Baking Flour
Whole wheat baking flour contains the entire wheat kernel (the tough, outer shell of the wheat kernels are removed during processing in the other baking flour types). Baked goods made with whole wheat flour will have a dense texture, nutty flavor and dark color.
Recipes made with whole wheat baking flour will contain fiber and other nutrients not found in the other types of baking flour. Whole wheat baking flour is the only type compatible enough to be mixed with other flour types in recipes. Recipes that call for 2 cups of all purpose baking flour can be tweaked to use 1 cup all purpose and 1 cup whole wheat baking flour.
Whole wheat baking flour contains oil from the wheat and bran germ and needs to be refrigerated to keep it from going rancid. The other baking flour types do not contain oil and can be kept safely on your pantry shelf.
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