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All About Flour

Does the Right Baking Flour Make a Difference?

The truth is, Yes. … Using the right baking flour makes a difference.

75 - 80% of your pie crust is made of flour. This makes your flour selection a very important part of your pie baking process. It is one of the most anticipated and critiqued parts of a pie. How it looks, to how it cuts, to how flaky and tender it is on our fork are only three things in a long list of how a pie crust is judged. How many times have you passed a bakery and said, “That Apple Pie Looks Good!” when all you see is the delectable crust? Yes, it’s hard to pass a great looking pie with out making a comment. In short, piecrust is the first visual clue to the quality and taste of your pie. So how does the flour you use affect the quality, taste and character of your crust? Keep reading!

A Quick Look at Flour in General
The word "flour" was originally a variant of the word "flower". Both derive from the Old French flour or flour, which had the literal meaning "blossom", and a figurative meaning "the finest". And has been used since the Egyptian days. Click here for more history of flour. Not much has changed in the process of turning wheat into this wonderful ingredient.

Where Flour Comes From
As you probably guessed, flour is made from wheat. Wheat is classified as two types:
• Hard Wheat
• Soft Wheat

This is how Wheat Rolls…
This classification also refers to the Wheat Berry and it’s Protein content. Hard Wheat which contains more Protein is grown in the Northern US and Canada, while Soft Wheat which contains less Protein is grown in the Southern US.
Learn about European wheat.

The Wheat Berry
The wheat berry is made up of three different parts:

1. The Bran
2. The Germ
3. The Endosperm

The Bran
Then bran is the hard outer shell covering the wheat berry. It contains the fiber and Most of the minerals found in wheat. Because of its sharp edges and its effect on gluten development, it is removed during the milling process.

The Germ
The germ, if cultivated would become the plant. Wheat germ is very high in protein, and B vitamin. Because of its high fat content, the wheat germ is removed. This helps prevents the flour from becoming rancid. Wheat germ can be stored in the refrigerator to slow the natural break-down process.

The Endosperm
Endosperm is the food the plant eats to grow. Endosperm contains the starch and Protein of the wheat berry. The flour we use to bake is made of the endosperm, with the bran and germ removed.

That’s Great! So, what role does flour play in making great pie crust and pastry crust?
Lets first look at the types of flour currently available; then we’ll discuss how flour is graded and how that affects our pie crust. At the end we will look at the top flour manufacturers, along with some specialty flour mills.

Lets see the Manufacturers.
Selecting the flour is one of my favorite parts of baking. While shopping in your local super market, you have probably seen flour that comes in many varieties, shapes, and sizes. Shape and size are a manufacture preference and marketing tool. Once you understand what is inside, you can then see right past those labels and make an informed decision on which flour best meets your needs. Let's talk about types of flour. Your super market probably carries some of the more common flours, like all- purpose flour, bread flour, and self rising flour, and maybe even rye flour. These are all great flours for common baking, and meet most needs, but there are some other great flours out there that are specific to your baking needs. Let's look at why we should use Flour specific to our baking needs.

Protein Equals Gluten
One important key in picking your flour is Gluten.
What is Gluten? In simple terms, Gluten is what makes your dough stick together … the higher the gluten, the stronger (tougher) your dough.

What roll does Protein play in Flour?
Protein determines the amount of gluten found in your flour … the higher the protein content, the higher the gluten content. Flour is manufactured with specific protein content, such as Bread flour – high protein content – and cake flour – low protein content. The Protein and Gluten are directly related.

<Make a Protein meter>
Now that we understand Protein and Gluten.
Lets compare the types of flour and how much protein is in them. Below is a list of flour types with a brief description and suggested uses.

Flour type:
All - Purpose Flour (Protein 11% - 12% (Nation wide))
All - Purpose Flour (Protein 7.5% - 9.5% (Southern US))
All-purpose flour is the finely ground endosperm of the wheat kernel separated from the bran and germ during the milling process. All-purpose flour is made from hard wheats, or a combination of soft and hard wheats from which the home baker can make a complete range of acceptable backed products --- yeast breads, cakes, cookies and pastries.

* Enriched all-purpose flour has iron and B-vitamins (thiamin, niacin, riboflavin and folic acid) added in amounts equal to or exceeding that in whole wheat flour. The majority of all-purpose flour in the United States is enriched.

* Bleached all-purpose flour is exposed to chlorine gas or benzoyl peroxide to whiten and brighten flour color. Chlorine also affects baking quality by "maturing" or oxidizing the flour, which is beneficial for cake and cookie baking. The bleaching agents react and do not leave harmful residues or destroy nutrients.

* Unbleached all-purpose flour is bleached by oxygen in the air during an aging process and is off-white in color. Nutritionally, bleached and unbleached flours are equivalent.

Pastry Flour (Protein 8% - 9%)
Pastry flour has comparable protein, but less starch than cake flour. It is milled from a soft, low gluten wheat and is used for pastries.

Cake Flour (Protein 7% - 8%)
Cake flour, milled from soft wheat, is especially suitable for cakes, cookies, crackers and pastries. It is low in protein and low in gluten

Whole Wheat Flour (11% - 15%)
Whole wheat flour is a coarse-textured flour containing the bran, germ and endosperm. The presence of bran reduces the gluten development, therefore, baking products made from whole wheat flour tend to be heavier and denser than those made from white flour.

Whole wheat flour is rich in B-vitamins, vitamin E and protein, and contains more trace minerals and dietary fiber than white flour. It also contains about five percent fat. In most recipes, whole wheat flour can be mixed half and half with white flour. Graham flour is another term for whole wheat flour.

Bread Flour (12% - 13%)
Bread flour, ground from the endosperm of the hard red spring wheat kernel, is milled primarily for commercial bakers, but is now available bleached or unbleached at most grocery stores. It is usually enriched. Although similar to all-purpose flour, it has greater gluten strength and is generally used for yeast breads.

Self Rising Flour (9% - 11%)
Self-rising flour is an all-purpose flour with salt and leavening added. One cup of self-rising flour contains 1 1/2 teaspoons of baking powder and 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Self-rising flour can be substituted for all-purpose flour in a recipe by reducing salt and baking powder according to these proportions

More Flour types in United State, Canada and Europe

Who is making Flour?
Here is a list of common flour mills, along with their most popular flours, protein rating and suggested usage. These flours can be found in most super markets and gourmet shops.

  1. King Arthur
  2. Pillsbury
  3. Hectors

Where can I get pastry flour?
As always, try to support your local suppliers and shops. If you cannot get pastry flour near you,
Pie baker pro! can help... Click here.

The right type of flour for pie baking
All these flours are great for baking. As you can see, flour manufactures have flour for specific needs. So which flour should you use? Well, all-purpose flour works just fine, but if you can get pastry flour that will only enhance your pies; after all, we’re here to help you bake a great pie. So let’s use the right tools for the right job.