Find all the basics you need to know when using baking flour. We cover many different techniques, so you can learn something new.
Have you ever been in the baking aisle of your grocery store just staring at the types of flour in front of you… just wanting to make cupcakes but not knowing which flour to buy? Instead of grabbing that boxed cake mix, let us give you the 411 on the different types of flours to bake with.
Baking flour… you wouldn’t think it’s too hard to pick one. All-purpose, that seems like a safe bet, right? But is this the best flour for your cake?
Cake flour! DUH. But, do you have to use cake flour for a cake? Why is this the best choice? What if you’re gluten-free? What kind of flour should you use then?!
So. Many. Questions.
Here, let us help..
Most flour is usually made from different types of wheat, but it can be made from any finely ground grain. Flour has been made and used for centuries and it is a staple in almost every cuisine.
Wheat flour has lipids, sugars, enzymes, and protein. The protein in a wheat flour is glutenin and gliadin, mixing these with water creates gluten. The more gluten something has developed, the more water it will absorb.
Various types of flours have different levels of protein. There are flours made from hard wheat, and flours made from soft wheat. Changing which flour you use will change the protein content and therefore the recipe entirely.
All-Purpose flour is exactly what it sounds like, it is great for almost anything. It is a wheat flour, containing both hard and soft wheat, the protein level is middle of the road.
Using this flour in any recipe is a safe bet.
Whole Wheat Flour
Whole wheat flour is similar to all-purpose flour, the bran and germ are not removed from the flour. This type of flour contains more fiber and nutrients.
Whole wheat flour can often be used in place of all-purpose flour in most recipes, it will just produce a more dense product.
Self-rising flour is all-purpose flour with baking soda and salt added to it. Self-rising flour is good in any bread recipe that does not contain yeast.
Cake Flour or Pastry Flour
Cake flour is a wheat flour that is made from soft wheat, it is low in protein and high in starch. Cake flour is perfect for delicate pastries and cakes. Cake flour will produce a lighter and airy texture than any other type of flour.
Using cake flour for something that requires a lot of gluten formation, like pizza dough, would be detrimental.
Bread flour is used for… well, bread. It is a wheat flour made from hard wheat. High in protein and low in starch, this flour will lift and hold its shape after baking. Bread flour will produce higher amounts of gluten, be dense, and have a chewier texture.
Bread flour is also good for bagels, pretzels, and cinnamon rolls. Bread flour is commonly called strong flour in the UK.
Almond flour is made from milled blanched almonds. Low in carbs, and high in protein, this flour can add extra flavor to any pastry.
Finely ground, almond flour can be substituted for other flours, but there is no simple conversion. Unless you want a glue-like cookie or burnt scones, find a recipe that’s already done the conversion for you and has good reviews.
Otherwise, you can just add a little almond flour to any recipe to give it a little more protein and a nuttier flavor.
Buckwheat flour arguably makes the best pancakes. Buckwheat has an extremely strong flavor, and it contains a lot of extra nutrients.
It is also gluten-free! Simply replacing any other flour with buckwheat flour would be disastrous. Don’t do it. Buckwheat won’t rise, so it’s not a good idea to use it in a cake or yeast bread.
Buckwheat can be used in pancakes or waffles because the eggs in the batter provide the structure the buckwheat needs in the baking environment. Be sure to not over mix, mix until all the batter is wet, but not any further. Overmixed buckwheat is basically cement.
Oat flour is literally ground-up oats. You can make your own oat flour by putting oatmeal in a blender. Very high in fiber, and gluten-free, this makes oat flour great for many diet substitutions. It’s still a carb though, sorry keto-people.
Oat flour will be dense in texture when baked. It is very good for muffins, pancakes, and cookies. When substituting oat flour for a wheat flour, use a 1 to 1 1/3 ratio, 1 1/3 cup of oat flour for every 1 cup of wheat flour. Oat flour can replace wheat flour in many recipes except for recipes that will require the recipe to develop gluten. These no-go recipes include yeast bread, pizza dough, and pretzels.
Rice flour is most commonly used for noodles and to thicken soups and stews. It is made from ground rice and is gluten-free. While it is a very common flour, it’s probably best to steer clear of this one when baking.
Rice flour can be used in flour blends to replace fractions of wheat flour, but it can not be used on its own. It will not absorb the fat and will leave your final product greasy.
Rye flour is extremely fibrous, it is often mixed with wheat flours to produce the Rye bread that most people commonly know. Rye flour contains less gluten than wheat flour but is not gluten-free.
You can swap out half of a whole wheat flour for rye flour without much damage to your recipe. Using just rye flour in a recipe isn’t recommended.
King Arthur has come out with a gluten-free 1:1 flour that is able to be in any recipe in place of all-purpose flour. This flour is best for non-yeast recipes and is one of the best gluten-free substitutes.
The Ideal Baking Flour
In baking, the ideal flour would be cake flour, bread flour, or all-purpose flour. If you are looking for gluten-free flour, use a specific gluten-free flour replacement blend or oat flour.
Remember that when baking, you should always weigh your flour with a food scale rather than using a measuring cup and weighing by volume. Weight will always be more accurate, especially if weighed in grams.
There are many many many other types of flour in the world. These are just the most commonly found in most grocery stores.
The best baking flour will mostly depend on what you’re baking. Check out our other blogs for more details about all your cooking favorites.