Weekly Tip: Flour Basics

“Baking cookies is comforting, and cookies are the sweetest little bit of comfort food.  They are very bite-sized and personal.” ~ Sandra Lee


Flour 101

The stores are already stocked with holiday decorations; and before you know it we will be gathering the baking supplies to make all those delicious cakes, cookies and breads that our families love.

For the next few weeks, to get prepared for those holiday goodies, the weekly tip will discuss the basics about the ingredients used in baking.  This week flour takes the stage.

Types of flour

The most commonly known flours for baking are derived from wheat.  The reason for this is that wheat flours have the required gluten proteins that provide the building blocks for baked goods.

Flour from other grains like corn, oats and spelt add unique flavor components to baked goods.

Types of Flour
All-purpose flour is a blend of hard and soft wheat flours. The protein content ranges from 8 to 12 percent depending on the region and the brand.  Southern all-purpose flour has more soft wheat, thus providing a finely textured tender baked good.   All-purpose flour is used for cookies, quick breads and some cakes.

Flour that ages naturally whitens from the oxygen in the air.  This is considered “unbleached” flour.  If chemicals are used to whiten the flour, it is considered “bleached.”

Bread flour is a hard wheat flour that is high in gluten. The higher gluten enables bread to rise.  This flour is used for bread, rolls and pizza dough.

Cake flour is a soft wheat flour  that is low in gluten. The fine texture makes it the ideal choice for tender cakes.

Pastry flour is similar to cake flour; but it has slightly more gluten. The gluten strands that form have more elasticity making this the optimum choice for croissants and puff pastry.

Self- rising flour is all-purpose flour that has baking powder added to it.  This can be problematic if the flour is old and the baking powder has lost its effectiveness.  Buy in small quantities to avoid this problem.

How to measure flour
When you read the recipe, check to see if the directions call for sifted flour.  If so:

  • Sift the flour first
  • Then lightly spoon it into the measuring cup.
  • Level off the top with the back of a knife.

If the recipe calls for flour sifted:

  • Lightly spoon un-sifted flour into the measuring cup.
  • Level off with the back of a knife.
  • Sift after measuring.

Happy Baking!!

Patricia Rio
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