We run a small-batch bread bakery, so it's not surprising that customers have questions about our bread. One of the most frequent: "What kind of flour is in that bread?" For most of the breads we bake, the answer to that question isn't so easy. Most of the flours we use in the bakery are wheat flours, but not all wheat flours are the same.
Wheat flour is made from grinding or milling the berries or kernels from stalks of the wheat plant. Wheat, and all other cereals, are technically grasses, and the berries are their seeds. White flour is made from only the endosperm of the wheat berry, after the bran and the germ are removed. (Think about eating a kernel of corn -- the endosperm is the squishy inside of the kernel. )
If you've cruised down the baking aisle of your local grocery store, you know that there are different kinds of white flour. Which one do you choose? If you only have pastry flour, can you use that to make brownies? What about cake flour for your dinner rolls?
The biggest difference is protein! No, this isn't going to be a blog about keto-friendly, high-protein flour...but knowing how much protein is in your flour will help you make better baking choices. Flour that's higher in protein is best suited for chewy, crusty breads and other yeasted products. Soft, low-protein flour is better for cakes, pastries and cookies.
Most home bakers use white all-purpose flour. It's called that because you can use if for, well, all sorts of baking and cooking. All-purpose flour generally has a protein content of 8-11%, but it can vary by brands. Gold Medal has 10.5%, while King Arthur All-Purpose has 11.7%, while Hodgson Mill All-Purpose has around 9.5%.
If you're looking to up your bread baking, search for a flour with higher protein. Bread flour usually has between 11 and 13% protein. At the grocery store, you may see King Arthur
Bread Flour, which has 12. 7% protein. Here at the bakery, we use King Arthur Sir Galahad flour--the commercial equivalent of King Arthur's all-purpose brand, with 11.7% protein--in most of our hearth-baked breads.
Want extra-chewy crust for your pizza? Up your protein! We use King Arthur Lancelot flour--which has 14.2% protein -- for our pizza dough and our hand-rolled bagels. We also call this high-gluten flour. The protein in wheat flour is actually gluten...so the higher the protein in your wheat flour, the higher the gluten. And gluten is what gives bread its strength, structure and chewiness.
Chewy bagels are delicious; chewy cakes, not so much. So what do you use if you want a light and fluffy cake? Cake flour, of course. Wheat cake flour is made from soft wheat (usually harvested in the spring). Cake flour has a greater percentage of starch and a lower
percentage of protein, usually around 7-9%. Softasilk bleached cake flour has 6.9% protein. We use Super Tops cake flour from Star of the West Milling, a 6.5% protein flour, in our cinnamon rolls, cakes and cupcakes.
When you're baking something that needs a little bit of strength and a bit of flakiness, look for a pastry flour. This is somewhere between all-purpose and cake flour, it's milled from soft wheat but has a slightly higher amount of protein, around 8-9%. Bob's Red Mill unbleached pastry flour has 8-9% protein. King Arthur Round Table pastry flour--we use this in our all-butter pie crusts--has 7.8% protein.
Now you've got all the info you need to go out and buy the right flour for your next baking
project. Or you could just stop by the bakery for a loaf of bread or a chocolate cupcake!
Still have flour questions? Ask them in the comments below. I'll do my best to answer them (using floury language, of course).