Walk into the flour section of any supermarket and you find most often find a choice of different flours to choose from. White flour-cake flour-bran flour to name a few-but what is the difference between them and how will it affect your baking? The answer …alot! The type of Flour is essential for the success of baked items e.g. Breads and yeast based baking like Donuts and Chelsea Buns are best made with strong flour like Bread Flour while cakes and scones require a more delicate flour type like Cake Flour or Self Raising Flour.
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The essential differences between most flour types is the milling process which accounts for different amounts of protein contained in each type of flour. The more protein continued in flour-the more Gluten it has. Gluten is a type of protein which binds together (like a series invisible chains) which are needed for making breads and yeast based treats. When the yeast raises- the Amino Acids in the bread flour will continue to bond together with the yeast resulting in a very soft yet chewy texture.
Cake Flour on the other hand does not have enough gluten in it to expand with the yeast-the result is a very yeasty taste -therefore not suited for yeast baking but for more delicate treats like cakes and biscuits using baking powder as a raising agent.
Types of Flour in South Africa
The two predominant Flour Brand includes Blue Ribbon and Snowflake Flours-both of which contain a variety of flours including the following:
- Cake Flour: Best for cakes, tarts, scones, pastry, biscuits.
- White Bread Flour: best for bread, buns, Chelsea buns, donuts, pizza bases, sauces or batter for brinjal and fish
- Brown Bread Flour: a healthier alternative for making whole-wheat breads, donuts, pizza etc
- Bran Flour and Nutty Wheat: these are often used in accompaniment with cake flour or bread flour to make whole wheat biscuits or breads.
- Self Raising: This contains added raising agent like baking powder-it is essentially a soft flour like cake flour. More information about these products can be found at Premier Foods.
Types of Flour in the U.S, Germany, France and the U.K
Flour in Italy, Germany and France are classified by numbers contained in the package-defined by the amount of protein vs ash contained in the flour.
U.S.A France Germany
Pastry Flour 40 405
All Purpose Flour 55 550
High Gluten Flour 80 812
First Clear Flour 110 1050
White /Whole Wheat 150 1600
Table Source: Wikpedia (Accessed 23.10.2011)
If you are a resident in the U.K then you can read more about types of flours available at http://www.fabflour.co.uk
For a comprehensive list of Flour Types view the helpful pdf booklet by Wheat World.org.