Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Baking Ingredients: Flour

Flour is defined by http://www.wikipedia.org/  and http://www.merriam-webster.com/ as a fine powder which is made by grinding cereal grains (wheat, rice, corn, rye, etc.), other seeds (soy beans, etc), or roots (potato, cassava, etc.)

Flour is an integral ingredient in the baking process regardless if one is baking breads, cakes, pies, pastries, etc.  It provide the backbone, bulk, body, structure, texture, and flavor of the baked goods.  As per Bo Friberg in his book The Professional Pastry Chef:  Fundamentals of Baking and Pastry, there are four important important functions of flour: 1. it generates a characteristic texture and appearance that is derived from the various strengths and types of flour available; 2. it contributes to flavor, which comes from the grains used; 3. provides nutrition since flour contains not only carbohydrates and proteins but also fats, minerals, and vitamins; and 4. it acts as a binding and absorbing agent as flours absorb liquid rather than being dissolved in it.

Most of us would automatically denote that flour refers to wheat flour.  The truth is, there are many kinds of flour that are used not only in baking, but also in steaming, dusting, thickening, coating, etc.  In baking however, the most common and known flour is the wheat flour. 
 Wheat flour, according to wikipedia.org  is a powder made from the grinding of wheat  used for human consumption.  And as explained by Willie Prejean in his website www.bakingandbakingscience.net,  Wheat flour is essential because it is milled from the only cereal grain known to contain the proteins glutenin and gliadin which when combined with water form gluten, the elastic material which holds the gas produced by incorporating gas through whipping or mixing, or by the chemical reaction of the leavening agents, like the yeast enzymes on sugar in bread, and the gas produced by the baking soda or baking powder when they come in contact with an acid agent.

There are hard and soft varieties of wheat flour. Hard Wheat flours (sometimes called "clean," "white," or "brown") have low starch content and high protein content (12% to 14%).  The high protein content of hard wheat flour enables it to produce more and better gluten when it comes in contact with water producing a dough with elastic toughness that holds its shape well once baked. Hard wheat flour are used more often in bread baking. While soft or weak flours have higher starch content and lower protein content thus it is low in gluten.  As such, it produces baked goods with finer or crumbly texture. Soft flour are usually used alone or in combination with other flours in recipes where a weaker gluten structure is desirable (like in cakes, some pastries, pies, etc).  Soft flours are usually divided into cake flour, which is the lowest in gluten, and pastry flour, which has slightly more gluten than cake flour.  In short, the higher the protein content of he flour, the harder and stronger the flour and will produce crusty or chewy breads.  This is best for bread baking and some pie crusts.  The lower the protein the softer the flour and the finer it is  for better cakes, cookies, and pie crusts.

There are different types of wheat used to produce bread flour.  Hard spring wheat and hard winter wheat are the best types of wheat for producing quality breads. Spring wheat are grown in the Northwest where there is less rainfall than in other wheat growing areas. This results in a higher percentage of protein and a lower percentage of starch than wheat grown in the Southwest where more rain falls. Hard spring wheat generally produce loaves with greater volume than winter wheat, but with slightly more open crumb texture. Millers combine the two types of wheat in their blend to improve interior loaf characteristics. Hard White Wheat grown in some Western States, is also used in bread production. It is slightly lower in protein than spring and winter wheat. Bakers add Vital Wheat Gluten and/or Dough Strengtheners to doughs to make up for the deficiency. Duram Wheats which contain a higher percentage of proteins than does most other types of wheats are used primarily in making spaghetti and macaroni products. (source :  www.bakingandbakeryscience.net by Willie Prejean)

Speaking of gluten.  Wheat flour is rich in protein thus it has the ability to produce gluten.  Gluten, however, can be separated from wheat flour.  It can be done, as explained by Willie Prejean.  This is good news for those who goes for gluten –free breads and cakes.  Please check our entry on this at  How to Separate Gluten from Wheat Flour 


Back to wheat flours.  The parts of the grain that are used in wheat flour are the endosperm (protein/starchy part), the germ (protein/vitamin-rich part) and the bran (fibre part).  There are three general types of flour based on the parts of the grain that is/are used ti make it: 1. White flour, which is made from the endosperm only; 2. A germ flour is made from the endosperm and germ, excluding the bran; 3. Whole grain or wholemeal flour or whole wheat flour, unlike the white flour, all of the grain (bran, germ, and endosperm) is used and nothing is lost in the process of making the flour.  Since the whole wheat flour contains the remains of all of the grain, it has a textured, brownish appearance. It is high in protein,15-16% but the protein from the germ and bran is not well turned into gluten, and as such, whole wheat breads tend to be heavier, but more flavorful then white flour breads.

Milling of wheat into flour. Basically, after the wheat has been cleaned and tempered, and the percentage of moisturewithin the grain has been adjusted, the wheat passes through several reduction rollers. The grounded middlings are separated into several streams of flour by sieving and bolting. The bran particles which have been removed are used in cereals. Some are also used for animal feed. 100 pounds of cleaned wheat generally yield only about 70 to 76 pounds of middlings which can be ground into various grades of flour. (source :  www.bakingandbakeryscience.net by Willie Prejean)

Grades of flour. Whole wheat flour is flour produced from100 percent of the wheat. By adding Vital Wheat Gluten to their formulas bakers are producing high quality White Whole Wheat Bread. (source :  www.bakingandbakeryscience.net by Willie Prejean)
Straight grade of flour. This is all of the flour . Straight flour is similar to all purpose flour found in grocer stores.

Patent flour is a highly refined flour which remains after all the clear flours have been removed. Patent flours are produced from the inner-most part of the wheat where the best quality proteins are located. 100 pounds of wheat will produce only about 40 to 60 pounds of patent flour, and the middlings that remain go into clear flours. (source :  www.bakingandbakeryscience.net by Willie Prejean)

Clear flour is the portion of the flour remaining after the patent flour streams have been separated. Clear flour generally contain a higher percentage of protein than the other grades, but thequality of the protein is lower. This type pf flour is generally used to produce French bread. It is also mixed with wheat flour and rye flour by the baker to produce loaves with greater volume. (source :  www.bakingandbakeryscience.net by Willie Prejean)

Flour bleaching and maturing. In order to produce quality breads from fresh milled flour it must be allowed to age or mature in storage for about a month. Bleaching and maturing agents are used to artificially age and whiten the flour. This results in flour that can be used immediately after milling to produce aquality product. (source :  www.bakingandbakeryscience.net by Willie Prejean)

Strength of flour is its ability to be made into well piled loaves. The flour should have a high content of quality protein to retain gas and contain enough natural sugars and diastatic enzymes to produce enough sugar from the starch for uniform gas production. (source :  www.bakingandbakeryscience.net by Willie Prejean)

Tolerance is the ability to produce a quality product for some time after the optimum fermentation time has elapsed. and in the event that the dough was overmixed.

Enrichment of flour is the process of replacing the vitamins and minerals removed during the milling process.. Most of the vitamins and minerals are located in the outer portions of the wheat, and since most of the outer portions of the wheat are not used to produce the best grades of flour, these essential elements must be replaced. The exception is whole wheat flour. (source :  www.bakingandbakeryscience.net by Willie Prejean)

Enzymes in flour. The two most important enzymes in flour are protease and diastase. Protease conditions the gluten, improving its elasticity and its ability to retain the gas produced during fermentation. Diastase changes some of the starch in flour to dextrins and maltose sugar. Some flours do not contain a sufficient amount of diastase enzyme due to poor climatic conditions under which the wheat was grown. Sprouted wheat can be added to the flour by the miller or the baker can add a specially prepared diastatic malt in his formula. (source :  www.bakingandbakeryscience.net by Willie Prejean)

Here are the types of wheat flours:

1. Bread flour or strong flour is best recommended for bread baking.  It is always made from hard wheat and has a very high protein content ranging from 10 -14%.  Bread Flours come in white or whole wheat or in between.  Some also are organic, bleached and unbleached.  Best used for making breads and some pastries.

2. All-purpose flour or plain flour  is a blended flour containing equal parts of both soft and hard wheat flours.  It’s protein contents ranges between 7.5 - 12%   depending on the brand and region where it comes from.  The protein content of Southern all purpose flour is 7.5-9.5% and those of the Northern all purpose flour is 11-12%.  This can also be used in bread making as well as in baking cakes, cookies, and pastries.

3. Cake flour is a finely milled white flour made from soft wheat, basically it is referred to as the  weak or soft flour.  Its protein content is very low ranging from 6-8%. Is best for cakes, biscuits, and cookies. 

Here’s a suggestion from joyofbaking.com  on how to substitute cake flour for all-purpose flour:  use 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons cake flour for every cup of all-purpose flour.  Make your own - one cup sifted cake flour can be substituted with 3/4 cup (84 grams) sifted bleached all-purpose flour plus 2 tablespoons (15 grams) cornstarch.
Here's another suggestion from http://tipnut.com/ - Cake Baking tips & Tricks in making your own cake flour, just add two tablespoons of corn starch to a one cup measuring cup, then fill with bread flour. Sift three times then use as needed.

4.Whole Wheat Flour is also known as Graham flour.  It is a flour milled from the entire wheat kernel (bran, germ, and endosperm) thus it is very nutritious. Whole wheat flour does not keep as long as white flour because of the high fat contained in the wheat germ.  Bread made from whole wheat flour is heavier than bread made from white flour, so most of the time, a combination is used.  Whole wheat bread dough takes less time to knead than bread made with white flour.

5. Self-Rising flour is basically a premix flour containing a weak flour that contains chemical leavening agents (baking powder) and salt and it has 8-9% protein and contains flour plus baking powder and salt. You can actually make your own self-rising flour :  Just mix 100 g. of flour, 3 grams of baking powder, and 1 gram or less of salt.

6. Pastry flour or cookie flour or cracker flour is made from soft wheat flour and  has protein content ranging between 9% and 10%. It is available as a white flour, a whole-wheat flour, or a white flour with the germ retained but not the bran. It is suitable for pie pastry and tarts, some cookies, muffins, biscuits and other quick breads. Here’s a suggestion from joyofbaking.com on how to make pastry flour:  combine 1 1/3 cups (185 grams) all-purpose flour with 2/3 cup (90 grams) cake flour. Good for making pastry, pies and cookies.

7. Bleached flour is a white flour treated with flour bleaching agents to whiten it (freshly milled flour is yellowish) and to give it more gluten-producing potential. Oxidizing agents are usually employed, most commonly organic peroxides like acetone peroxide or benzoyl peroxide, nitrogen dioxide, or chlorine. A similar effect can be achieved by letting the flour oxidize with oxygen in the air ("natural aging") for approximately 10 days; however, this process is more expensive due to the time required. Flour bleached with benzoyl peroxide has been prohibited in the UK since 1997. (source : www.wikipedia.org )

8. Bromated flour has a maturing agent added. The agent's role is to help with developing gluten, a role similar to the flour bleaching agents. Bromate usually used. Other choices are phosphates, ascorbic acid, and malted barley. Bromated flour has been banned in much of the world, as bromate is classified as possibly carcinogenic in humans (Group 2B) by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) but remains available in the United States. (source : www.wikipedia.org )

9. Graham Flour is a whole wheat flour, slightly more coarse than the regular ground flour, produced from unbolted wheat.  Like the Graham cracker, graham flour is named after Dr. Sylvester Graham (source : The Professional Pastry Chef:  Fundamentals of Baking and Pastry by Bo Friberg)

10. Semolina Flour - Semolina (Triticum Durum) is the coarse, purified,  milled endosperm of Durum Wheat. The resulting product is a granulated wheat flour that is high in gluten and is used for making pasta and breads. Semolina is available in coarse or fine texture flour. Semolina is also used to designate coarse middlings from other varieties of wheat, and from other grains such as rice and corn.

Substitution tips : Per cup: 1 cup durham wheat flour OR 1 cup spelt or Kamut flour. If making pasta you can use all  all purpose  but the pasta will be softer. (source : http://www.gourmetsleuth.com/ )

Other nonwheat flours used in baking:

Acorn flour is made from ground acorns and can be used as a substitute for wheat flour. It was used by Native Americans. Koreans also use acorn flour to make Dotorimuk (source : www.wikipedia.org )

Almond flour is made from ground almonds, suitable for people with gluten-free diets or Coeliac disease. (source : www.wikipedia.org )

Atta flour is a whole-grain wheat flour important in Indian and Pakistani cuisine, used for a range of breads such as roti and chapati (source : www.wikipedia.org )

Brown Rice  flour is of great importance in Southeast Asian cuisine. Also edible rice paper  can be made from it. (source : www.wikipedia.org )

Buckwheat flour is used as an ingredient in many pancakes in the United States. In Japan , it is used to make a popular noodle called soba . In Russia , buckwheat flour is added to the batter for pancakes called blinis which are frequently eaten with caviar. Buckwheat flour is also used to make crepes bretonnes in Brittany . On Hindu fasting days (Navaratri mainly, also Maha Shivaratri), people eat items made of buckwheat flour. The preparation varies across India. The famous ones are Kuttu  Ki Puri and Kuttu Pakoras. In most of northern and western states they call this Kuttu ka atta (source : www.wikipedia.org )

Maida flour is a finely milled wheat flour used to make a wide variety of Indian breads such as paratha and naan. Maida is widely used not only in Indian cuisine but also in Central Asian and Southeast Asian cuisine.Though sometimes referred to as "all-purpose flour" by Indian chefs, it more closely resembles cake flour or even pure starch. In India, maida flour is used to make pastries and other bakery items such as bread, biscuits and toast. (source : www.wikipedia.org )

Peanut flour made from shelled/cooked peanuts is a higher protein alternative to using regular flour. (source : www.wikipedia.org )

Potato flour, often confused with potato starch, is a peeled, cooked potato, mashed, mostly drumdried and ground potato flakes using the whole potato and thus containing the protein and some of the fibres of the potato; having an off-white slight yellowish colour. Dehydrated potatoes or instant mashed potatoes can also be granular, flakes. Potato flour is cold water soluble. (source : www.wikipedia.org )

Rice flour is ground kernels of rice. It is used in Western countries and especially for people who suffer from gluten intolerance, since rice does not contain gluten. (source : www.wikipedia.org )

Rye flour is a finely ground flour prepared from the rye grain. It contains about the same amount of protein as wheat flour. However, the flour contains gummy substances which prevent formation of gluten, accounting for the small compact loaves of bread made from a dough containing only rye flour. Rye flours contains very little gluten, and as such 100% rye breads are very dense. To produce rye bread with acceptable volume, not more than 20 percent dark rye flour,30 percent medium rye flour, and 40 percent light rye flour can be used in the formula. White bread flour must be used in the formula so enough gluten can be formed to hold the gas during fermentation, and to form the structure of the texture. (source :  www.bakingandbakeryscience.net by Willie Prejean)

Tapioca flour, produced from the root of the cassava plant, is used to make breads, pancakes, tapioca pudding, a savoury porridge called fufu  in Africa, and is used as a starch. (source : www.wikipedia.org )

Teff flour is made from the grain teff, and is of considerable importance in eastern Africa (particularly around the horn of Africa). Notably, it is the chief ingredient in the bread injera, an important component of Ethiopian cuisine. (source : www.wikipedia.org )

 - fresha-licious (12December2011)

© 2011  Fresha-licious All Rights Reserve

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References and Sources:1. Previous training notes provided by Puratos Philippines (puratos.com)
2. On Baking:  A Textbook of Baking and Pastry Fundamentals by Sarah R. Labensky
3. My Bread by Jim Lahey
4. The Professional Pastry chef :  Fundamentals of Baking and Pastry (4th Ed) by Bo Friberg.
5. www.wikipedia.org
6. http://www.joyofbaking.com/ 

7. http://www.thefreshloaf.com/ 
8. www.bakingandbakeryscience.net by Willie Prejean
9. http://thebakerynetwork.wordpress.com 
10. http://www.gourmetsleuth.com/

To better understand wheat flour, let us discuss the various processes and factors that affects the quality of the flours. These are:

11. Cake Baking Tips & Tricks - http://tipnut.com/cake-baking-tips/

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