Flours and Meals
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Flour that is used in baking comes mainly from wheat, although it can be milled from corn, rice, nuts, legumes, and some fruits and vegetables. The type of flour of flour used is vital at getting the product right. Different types of flour are suited to different items and all flours are different you cannot switch from one type to another without consequences that could ruin the recipe. To achieve success in cookery it is vital to know what the right flour is for the job!
Flour is obtained by grinding grain, most commonly of wheat but also from rye, buckwheat, barley, potato, corn etc.
The wheat kernel or 'berry 'consists of three parts: bran r covering the germ; and endosperm.
During milling, the three parts are separated and recombined accordingly to achieve different types of flour.
There are six different classes of wheat: hard red winter, hard red spring, soft red winter, hard white, soft white and durum. The end products are determined by the wheat's characteristics, especially protein and gluten content. The harder the wheat, the higher the amount of protein in the flour. Soft, low protein wheats are used in cakes, pastries, cookies, crackers and Oriental noodles. Hard, high protein wheats are used in breads and quick breads. Durum is used in pasta and egg noodles.
All-purpose flour, also referred to as flour, is the the type used primarily in baking, unless you have allergies or special needs. There are as many as 30 types of protein in wheat flour, but only two of those are important for our purposes: gliaden and glutenin. When they come in contact with moisture (water, milk, etc.) and are stirred, they produce gluten which gives elasticity, strength and shape to baking recipes. Different types of flour contain different amounts of protein. Selection criteria for flour for a recipe is based primarily on the end result you are trying to achieve; you do not want to use a high protein bread flour to make a cake or it will change its texture to dense. Conversely, when baking bread and you use cake flour, is too soft and has little gluten-forming proteins. This will cause the bread to fall because it requires a stronger structure that can trap the gases created by yeast, allowing the bread to rise. When it comes to cookies, gluten adds chewiness.
Just make sure to pay attention to whether your all-purpose flour is bleached or not; bleached versions have slightly lower amounts of protein. The bran and germ have been removed, giving the flour an off-white color, called unbleached, which can be chemically bleached to white, called bleached.
Enriched All-Purpose Flour has iron and B-vitamins added in amounts equal to or exceeding that of whole wheat flour.
Bleached Enriched All-Purpose Flour is treated with chlorine to mature the flour, condition the gluten and improve the baking quality. The chlorine evaporates and does not destroy the nutrients but does reduce the risk of spoilage or contamination.
Unbleached Enriched All-Purpose Flour is bleached by oxygen in the air during an aging process and is off-white in color. Nutritionally, bleached and unbleached flour are the same.
Bolted flour (20 % flour) This is a whole wheat flour that has had about 80 percent of its bran sifted off. It may also be called 'sunbleached flour' or reduced bran flour.
BREAD FLOUR: Bread flour is a high-gluten flour usually milled from hard wheat (also referred to as "strong"), so it contains a high percentage of protein which forms gluten when moistened.
Bread flour is used in bread recipes because it creates a gluten network strong enough to trap the gases from the yeast, but not good in quick breads, biscuits, cookies and cakes, which need a lesser one. If you're baking sourdough bread, bread flour's high gluten content is a big help in getting the dough to rise well.
It's best to only substitute a small portion of bread flour with grains other than wheat, such as rye, are used, instead. Those grains don't contain any gluten of their own It can be substituted 1 for 1 with all-purpose, but proceed with caution because there may be a difference in the end result.
BULGUR: Bulgur, for all practical purposes, is considered a whole grain, but as much as 5 percent of the bran may be removed in the processing. Bulgur is made by soaking and cooking the whole wheat kernel, drying it, removing some of the bran and cracking the remaining kernel into small pieces. Because it is a par-cooked product, bulgur is a convenience food, and in some recipes requires only the addition of hot water or broth for preparation. Bulgur makes an excellent cereal, salad, side-dish or additive to breads, soups and casseroles.
CAKE FLOUR: This enriched and bleached flour is used in producing fine high-ratio, chiffon and angel food cakes, as well as assorted cookies. (Cakes with a lot of sugar and fat are referred to as "high-ratio" and are high-rising with a fine-grained texture.)
Milled from soft white flour, cake flour has a lower gluten content than whole wheat pastry flour. It is used where a delicate and tender texture is desired. Almost all cake flour is bleached. to lighten its pale beige color. In delicate cakes, it imparts some acidity to a batter yielding a cake with a crumb that's whiter, finer and sweeter in flavor. Bleached cake flour also toughens the protein molecules, enabling the flour to carry more than its weight in sugar and fat.
CAKE FLOUR, SELF-RISING: 1 CUP self-rising cake flour is equal to 1 CUP cake flour with 1-1/4 teaspoons baking powder and a pinch of salt. There is also self-rising all-purpose flour.
DOUGH ENHANCERS: When added to a bread recipe, they will give that look of a perfect loaf:
GRAHAM FLOUR: Hard whole wheat flour with a course and flaky outer bran layer, and finely ground germ. Most famous use is in crackers. Adds texture to all baked goods.
To give recipes a boost, add: 2 tablespoons per cup of flour in whole grain bread; 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon per cup of flour in white breads. You may have to experiment over a few batches of bread to get the amount just right but that's part of the fun and creativity of baking. Increase kneading time to activate extra gluten.
Gluten flour is never used by itself for making bread, because it is too high in protein to be able to work with easily. However, if the recipe to be made in a bread machine, uses a flour that's low in gluten, the instructions may call for the addition of some gluten flour. As all-purpose flours can vary from 9-13% protein, those on the light side may benefit from a bit of strengthening.
PASTRY FLOUR: Is available in supermarkets and specialty stores and comes as either plain or whole wheat. It is a low-gluten flour used in delicate cakes and pastries. Absorbs less liquid in recipes. It is from soft red winter or soft white winter wheat for use in biscuits, pancakes, pie crust, cookies, muffins and brownies, pound and sheet cakes. This flour is available either bleached or unbleached as well as whole wheat and regular. Generally, you can mix 1 cup of cake flour and 2 cups of all-purpose flour and get a good close protein mix to use for pastry flour, but it doesn't work as well.
PATENT FLOUR - SPRING: Flour milled from a select blend of primarily hard spring wheat. Used to produce variety breads, pizza crusts, sweet goods, hard and soft rolls.
VITAL WHEAT GLUTEN: Vital Wheat Gluten is used in certain types of breadmaking. It gives the yeast in the recipe a boost because it contains a high amount of gluten forming proteins. I use it in my heavier breads that rise slowly, such as rye, whole grains, or ones loaded with sugar, dried fruit and nuts. Your loaves should rise higher and have better volume.
Use 1 teaspoon of vital wheat gluten per cup of all-purpose, 1- 2 teaspoons per cup of bread flour or 1-1/2 to 3 teaspoons for every cup of whole grain or rye flours. FYI: Some bakers use it all the time when using a Bread Machine especially when using whole grain or all-purpose flour.
One widely available brand in the grocery store is Hodgson Mills - it comes in about a 10 oz box. You can also obtain it online from King Arthur Flour. After opening you can either reseal the inner packet or transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate. If you use it often, just storing it in a dark pantry is fine, but place the box in an airtight bag or container.
WHEAT GERM or BRAN, UNPROCESSED BRAN: Though not a flour, wheat germ, either untoasted or toasted, can be used in place of up to 1/3 of the flour in a recipe or just added for flavor and fiber. It's perfect in pancakes and other baked goods as well as meat or vegetable loaves. I use Miller's Bran (unprocessed bran flakes), a natural source of dietary fiber, found in grocery and natural foods stores. It is less coarse than wheat germ and gives a better (lighter) texture to baked goods.
Wheat germ is an excellent source of Vitamin E from the vitamin and mineral-rich outer layer of the wheat berry. Purchase it from a grocery or health food store; but beware, it goes rancid quickly, so try and get the freshest possible and refrigerate or freeze it. I prefer to use the freezer; no need to thaw before using.
Stoneground wholemeal is made form flour made by a traditional milling process, where, as the name suggests, the wheat is ground between two stones.
WHOLE GRAIN (MEAL): Whole grains are foods that contain the entire plant kernel that is humanly edible, whereas refined grains are products that are stripped of the more coarse, fibrous part of the kernel as well as germ or seed. : wholemeal (100%) flour can be made from wheat and rye, with both organic grain and conventional grain.
Whole wheat flour may be substituted for part (50 %) of the white flour in yeast and quick bread recipes, but the recipe will be denser. Bran particles cut through the gluten during mixing and kneading of bread dough, resulting in a smaller, heavier loaf.
FYI: Selenium is also found in whole-grain breads at nearly twice the concentration contained in white breads. Selenium intake was linked with prostate cancer protection by a Harvard School of Public Health study. Because folate has been found to lower the risk of heart disease and birth defects, it is especially important for those at risk of heart disease and for women of child-bearing age to get the recommended daily dosage of 400 micrograms. A 35-gram slice of whole-grain wheat bread contains about 17.5 micrograms of folacin, whereas its white-bread counterpart only provides just over half this amount.
Light Rye: This bread is made using white rye flour ground from the center endosperm of the rye berry. This flour does not contain any of the outer seed coat, the bran, or the germ, so the flour (and the bread it eventually makes) stays fairly light in color.
Dark Rye: From what we can tell, dark rye breads can be made in one of two ways. The first version uses white rye flour and the same basic formula as light rye bread, but adds coloring and flavoring agents like molasses, cocoa powder, or instant coffee.
The second, and likely more historically authentic, version uses a different grind of rye flour than light rye loaves. This flour is milled from the outer endosperm, which contains more of the coloring pigments from the rye berry. This flour also tends to be ground more coarsely.
Pumpernickel: Real pumpernickel bread is made using a specific kind of flour called, appropriately enough, pumpernickel flour. This flour is made from coarsely-ground whole rye berries. In some traditional recipes, breadcrumbs left from other rye loaves are added to the dough for pumpernickel bread.
Pumpernickel loaves tend to be dense, dark, and strongly flavored. We think they're best enjoyed when sliced very thinly and preferably with a shmear of cheese and some thin-sliced smoked salmon!
Marbled Rye: This bread is simply a bit of light rye dough and a bit of dark rye dough braided or rolled together. These two breads have nearly the same density, so they bake together into a uniform texture.
We should also point out that almost all rye breads have a certain percentage of wheat flour added to the dough. Rye has almost no gluten-producing proteins of its own, so additional help is needed to produce an edible loaf.
Such a New York Rye, New York Bagels, Artisan Breads.
What is Malt?
There are two types of malt and two forms of malt. The two types are diastatic malt and non-diastatic malt. The two forms are powder and syrup.
Diastatic Malt is made by sprouting a grain like wheat or barley, stopping the growing process after a few days. The sprouted grain is then carefully dried, the small roots rubbed off and the cleaned seeds ground (milled) into a powder. The resulting powder is then packaged for sale. The malt can also be converted to a syrup. Diastatic Malt contains a collection of enzymes that help the yeast to grow by breaking down starch into sugar. Since the yeast has more available sugar to feed on, it can grow faster and better, which enhances the rise and volume of the loaf.
Non-Diastatic Malt is a substitute for sugar and does not contain the enzymes to enhance the breakdown of starch into sugar. This malt is used as a source of sugar, so in a sense is it a substitute for the starch-into-sugar-converting ability of the diastatic malt. It helps the rise of the dough, but only in so far as it is a sugar. In syrup form it adds a slight tan color to the dough. Of course, being a sugar, using too much of it may reduce the rise or adversely affect the taste of the bread or both.
It is not good as thickener.
There are several other popular varieties of corn flour available and some may be more regionally popular than others. Harinilla is a variety of corn flour made from blue corn. It is often used for a number of Mexican dishes including tortillas, tamales, and dumplings. The blue corn is treated with a lime solution, which expands the kernel, allowing it to be removed from the hull. If harinilla is not available, blue cornmeal can be substituted, but it should be milled in a food processor to produce a flourlike consistency. Harinilla is also known as "blue corn flour" and when it is used for preparing tortillas, it is called "Harina Azul".
Masa harina is corn flour that is ground from dried hominy. White or yellow corn is used for making hominy, which is also known as "posole" or "pozole". The corn is boiled in a solution containing powdered lime and is then washed, dried, and ground to form the masa harina. It is used in preparing corn tamales and tortillas. Blue corn is used to make harinilla and is not used for masa harina.
Cornstarch is obtained from the white heart of the corn kernel. Cornstarch is a tasteless, very fine powder that is very useful as a thickener, having double the thickening properties of regular flour. It is widely used for thickening sauces, gravies, and puddings. It is best to stir it into water first before it is added to other foods, so that it can be more easily incorporated without creating lumps. In England, cornstarch is referred to as corn flour or cornflour, while in the United States corn flour refers to whole corn kernels that have been finely ground.