Memories and healthy recipes for your dinner table.

The Many Uses of Flour

When the economy started it’s downward spiral the commodity most talked about was rice and flour. I started to write down all the many uses of flour. When used in baking it binds the ingredients together and supports the batter to prevent nuts and berries from sinking to the bottom of the pan. When used in cooking, it thickens sauces, creams and pie fillings.

The types of flour available seems practically endless: barley, buckwheat, chickpea, corn, oats, potato, rice, rye, soy, wheat, cake, self rising, bread and all-purpose. The choice of flour used will ultimately affect the finished product. Here is a short lesson on the science of flour. Flour contains protein. When the protein comes in contact with water and heat it produces gluten. Gluten is what gives elasticity and strength to baked goods. Different types of flour contain different amounts of protein. Therefore varying  from what is called for in a recipe will alter the outcome of the baked good.

Cake Flour: The most common variance I can think of is using regular all-purpose flour in the place of cake flour. Cake flour has a protein base of 6-8%.  It is used to produce a delicate tender crumb. Using all-purpose flour to make biscuits or cake will produce a dense texture rather than a light and airy one. Make your own by adding 2 tablespoons cornstarch to 3/4 cups sifted all-purpose flour. To substitute cake flour for all-purpose use 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons cake flour for every cup of all-purpose flour.

Bread Flour: Bread flour has a protein base of 12-14% and is used to make yeast breads.

All-Purpose: All-Purpose Flour has a protein base of 10-12% and is used to make traditional sweets like cakes, cookies, quick breads, and pastries.

Pastry Flour: Pastry flour is similar to cake flour, with an 8-10% protein base. To make two cups of pastry flour, combine 1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour with 2/3 cup cake flour.

Self-Rising Flour: Self-Rising Flour has a low protein base with salt and leavening already added. Combine 1 cup all-purpose, 1 1/2 teaspoons of baking powder and 1/2 teaspoon of salt.

Bleached Flour: Bleached flour has less protein than unbleached. Bleached is best for delicate baked goods such as yeast bread, pastries, pie crusts, cookies, quick breads, pancakes and popovers.

Whole Wheat Flour: Whole wheat is made from the whole kernel and is higher in dietary fiber than white flours. Whole wheat does not produce as much gluten, so it is often mixed with all-purpose or bread flour to give a better rise. The protein base depends on the type of wheat used. Hard red wheat has a higher protein level than hard white wheat. Hard white wheat when ground is much like all-purpose flour and can be used in much the same way. Red wheat berries can be cooked and added to soups, casseroles or lasagna, eaten like oatmeal or ground and made into bread.

Other Types of Flour: barley, buckwheat, chickpea, corn, oats, potato, rice, rye, soy and flaxseed are sometimes combined with all-purpose or wheat to give added flavor and nutrients. These flours can be used in pasta, yeast bread and some quick breads.

The Use of Flour:

Proper measuring of flour is extremely important. Too much flour will result in a tough and heavy baked good. When measuring flour always fluff the flour then spoon the flour into a measuring cup and level off with a knife. Do not pack it down or scoop the cup into the flour.

Sifting flour removes lumps and aerates it so that when combined with the liquid the batter mixes easily. If a recipe calls for 1 cup sifted flour this means you sift the flour before measuring. If the recipe calls for 1 cup flour, sifted this means you sift the flour after measuring.

Store flour in a cool dry place for up to six months. To prevent insects you can store flour in the refrigerator or freezer, bring to room temperature before using.