I get lots of questions in reference to the types of baking flour to employ when making certain baked goods. Questions like, is “cake flour” really a necessity or does bread flour really make a difference in a loaf and my all time favorite…can I substitute whole-wheat flour in this?
So I thought I’d write something, explaining the differences among the types of baking flours so I can point the knowledge seekers here for some answers. Oh it’s not that I don’t like answering your emails, I just think this will be easier, more efficient and hopefully more informative if the answers are all in one place. And you can refer back anytime you choose. Brilliant!
Let’s start with flour in general, most start out as kernels of wheat, but the finished products vary greatly. The flour you choose will positively or negatively affect the flavor, texture, appearance and structure of your baked goods so select wisely.
What makes each type of wheat flour different has to do with its protein content. A higher protein content does lead to a tougher baked good, as it will have a higher concentration of gluten. Choice of flour will allow you to make a tender and moist cake, a crispy cookie, crusty bread or something more hearty.
Most commonly we turn to all-purpose flour for most of our baking needs. Its sufficient protein content allowing us to make our layered-cakes without heavy or tough results. We also get the same positive outcomes using all-purpose flour in cookies and pie-crusts. All-purpose flour truly lives up to its name as being, “all-purpose”.
When it comes to cake flour, it contains a lesser amount of protein than all-purpose, giving us those very soft and tender cakes we shoot for. If needed, you can substitute 3/4 cup sifted all-purpose flour and 2 Tablespoons cornstarch for 1 cup cake flour. However, never substitute self-rising flour for cake flour, the baking powder it contains will throw off your measurements.
Now, as far as bread flour is concerned, it has the highest protein content. This is what metamorphisizes the bread into beautiful crusty and chewy loaves. Definitely use it when baking bread, King Arthur being my favorite brand.
All three flours I mentioned are refined; the wheat germ and bran have been removed. To keep them fresh store them in dark and cool places in airtight containers for up to one year. However, in reference to whole-wheat flour, the nutty, rich flavor this flour imparts comes from the intact (unrefined) wheat kernel, giving us fiber, magnesium, selenium and potassium as nutrients. But whole-wheat flour can deteriorate and become rancid quickly due to the oil contained in the bran and wheat germ. Keep it refrigerated in an airtight container for a few weeks or freeze it for up to one year.
Lots of people love to substitute whole-wheat flour in their baked goods as a healthier option. However, the results are not always optimum and can lead to some pretty “tough” tasting cakes. The best way to figure out what portion might be the best for your favorite baked good would be to start with one part whole wheat to two parts all-purpose. It might take some experimenting to get it right and in some cases will not yield the result you were hoping for. Some desserts are meant to be enjoyed as just that, “dessert”.
Hopefully this helps.
One Year Ago: Not Acceptable ~ Dishwasher Disaster