Choosing the right flour for the recipe at hand can mean the difference between an okay-tasting treat and a can't-wait-to-stuff-this-in-my-mouth experience. Once you have the proper staple, you can make fluffy cakes
, chewy pizza crusts, unforgettable breads
, and lighter-than-air biscuits. The biggest differences between each type of flour? Protein content, texture, and the type of wheat used. To find out which is best for which foods, scroll through our primer on 10 different flours.
King Arthur Flour All-Purpose Unbleached Flour ($6):
Chances are the flour most of us have in our cupboards right now is all-purpose. This type of flour
has a fairly high protein content, meaning you can use it to make bread and pasta, but it's not so protein-rich that you can't also use it to bake cakes and cookies. A note about bleached vs. unbleached: Unbleached flour turns white naturally as it ages, while bleached flour is synthetically aged with chemicals. Unbleached flour can produce slightly coarser baked goods, but the difference between the two is very slight.
Bob's Red Mill 1 to 1 Gluten Free Baking Flour ($5):
Pre-mixed flour blends are a godsend for those who are new to gluten-free baking. Look for a box or bag that says "1 to 1," which means that every cup of the gluten-free flour is equal to a cup of all-purpose wheat flour. BRM adds xanthan gum to its mix, which basically replaces the gluten in regular flour, so your GF baked goods stick together and don't crumble like sand.
King Arthur Flour Unbleached Bread Flour ($7): Bread flour
can make all the difference if your homemade loaves never seem to come out quite right. It's higher in gluten and protein, which gives more structure to the rise and bake of your bread. To use whole wheat flour when making bread, you should cut it with 25-50 percent bread flour so you still get the texture you're looking for.
Swans Down Enriched Bleached Cake Flour ($4): Cake flour
is milled extra-fine, so you get the softest, fluffiest cakes possible. It's made with soft winter wheat, which has less protein than other types of wheat and doesn't develop as much gluten. Cake flour is also a preferred choice if you want to make fluffy pancakes.
Bob's Red Mill 100% Stone Ground Whole Wheat Flour ($6):
Baking with whole wheat flour
isn't difficult, but there are a few things that make it different from refined flour. It's coarser and denser, which can inhibit the production of gluten (resulting in gummy, flat bread loaves). Its heaviness means cakes and other baked goods may have trouble rising. To combat this when making bread, use a blend of whole wheat and bread flour, or add a tablespoon or two of vital wheat gluten
and an extra tablespoon of water to your dough to increase the protein content of the mixture and get a more traditional rise. For cakes, use equal parts whole wheat and cake flour.
Arrowhead Mills Organic Pastry Flour ($3):
When making pastries that aren't as airy as cake but aren't supposed to be chewy like bread, there's pastry flour
. It has a slightly lower protein content than all-purpose flour and a slightly higher protein content than cake flour. Use it for croissants and pie crust.
Antimo Caputo Chef's "00" Flour ($9):
"00" flour is an Italian bread flour that's milled to be extra-fine. It has about the same protein content as all-purpose flour, but because of its texture, it produces superior pizza crust and bread. If you're a die-hard Neapolitan pizza fan, it's worth keeping some on hand.
Caputo Semolina Flour ($8):
Semolina flour is what you want to use for making pasta. Created from the ground endosperm of durum wheat, it usually has a slightly sweet flavor, golden color, and coarser texture than regular wheat flour. Look for Italian semolina flour
, which tends to be milled more finely than its American counterparts, making for smoother dough and pasta.
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