There are many types of flour available for cooking, so it’s important to know their differences. The most common types are all-purpose, self-rising, and whole wheat.
All-purpose flour is used for a variety of baked goods and is a good choice for the beginner baker. It is a mixture of hard and soft wheat flours and has a moderate amount of protein. It is great for making everything from cookies and cakes to biscuits and piecrusts.
Bleached and enriched all-purpose flour
Bleached and enriched all-purpose flour has been treated with a chemical to whiten it, and nutrients that were lost during processing have been added back.
Self-rising flour is all-purpose flour with added salt and baking powder. It is used for quick breads, muffins, pancakes, and biscuits, but should not be used for yeast breads. Do not directly substitute all-purpose for self-rising flour unless you also adjust the salt and baking powder.
Whole wheat flour
Whole wheat flour has not been processed to remove the outer layers of the wheat grain, so it has more protein, fibre, and nutrients. It makes baked goods that are darker, denser, and that won’t rise as high.
Mix whole wheat flour with all-purpose flour for a healthier alternative that still looks and tastes about the same. Try this when making cookies, cakes, and breads. People that bake more frequently also use bread, cake, and pastry flours.
Bread flour is made from hard winter wheat flour and is higher in protein. This makes the dough more elastic, which is ideal for yeast breads and pizza crusts.
Pastry flour is made from milled soft wheat flour and falls between all-purpose and cake flours in protein content. Pastry flour makes foods that are tender and slightly crumbly, but that hold together. It is best for pie crusts, biscuits, brownies, cookies, and quick breads.
Cake flour is made from finely milled, soft wheat flour. It has the least protein but a high starch content. Cake flour works well for high-sugar baked goods, like cakes, cupcakes, cookies, and muffins.
Specialty grain, nut, legume, and vegetable flours
Speciality grain, nut, legume, and vegetable flours are used to make specific dishes or to meet special dietary needs. They are often hard to find and more expensive.
Each type of flour helps create the characteristic texture, flavour, and appearance of baked goods and other foods, so be cautious when making substitutions.
Consider the health benefits of some substitutions, like using more whole-grain types, when cooking with flour. Choose foods made with whole-grain flours more often to eat smart and move more.