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We are baking in the kitchen more than ever – and companies are starting to take notice. Ingredients that were hard to find in grocery stores just a few years ago, such as arrowroot, cassava, and teff flour (used to make Ethiopian injera), are now more common. The alternative flour boom even sees household fruits and vegetables transformed into novel creations (banana flour, anyone?). However, it’s always good to master the foundations of this pantry staple, starting with all-purpose flour.
If you've always wanted to know the difference between all-purpose, cake, bread flour and more, read on below!
Once you bring your bag of flour home from the store transfer it to an airtight container to help keep out moisture. Keep the flour in a cool, dry area like a pantry away from the sun, heat (stove or microwave) or moisture (sink). You can also store the airtight container of flour in the freezer or fridge to also keep it fresh longer.
Yes, flour does have an expiration date and how long flour lasts depends on the type and how it is stored. All-purpose flour can last anywhere from 6 - 12 months whereas whole-wheat flour can last up to 3 months. It is recommended to always check the best by date before using your flour.
Made from a mix of hard wheat (which is high in gluten) and low-gluten soft wheat, all-purpose flour is the most common flour. It can be used in a wide variety of preparations, like pie crusts, muffins, biscuits, cookies, and more. The protein content is in the middle, at around 10-12%. When recipes call for plain flour (unless noted otherwise) it’s likely all-purpose flour that you’ll use.
What is cake flour? With a protein content of around 5-8%, cake flour is made from finely-textured soft wheat and contains the lowest amount of protein. What does this mean? Less gluten – which translates to soft, light, and tender baked goods. Cake flour can hold more sugar and liquids compared to all-purpose flour, making it perfect for sponge cake, biscuits, and angel food cake. And speaking of angel food cake – don’t forget to add Cream of Tartar when beating your egg whites for a cake that’s guaranteed to be delicious and light as air!
What is bread flour? Made almost exclusively from hard wheat (with a little bit of barley flour), bread flour is higher in gluten compared to all-purpose and cake flour with a protein content of 12-14%. This is essential when baking yeasted bread, as a high amount of gluten is needed for bread to rise properly. Bread flour works perfectly for bagels, yeasted and artisanal bread, pretzels, and pizza dough. Next time you have a hankering for a soft, chewy pretzel, try your hand at making it at home – and sprinkle some of our Himalayan Pink Salt with Black Pepper and Garlic Seasoning right before baking for a garlicky and zesty twist!
What makes this flour rise on its own? A little bit of baking powder and salt added when the wheat is milled. Made with soft wheat, the protein content is on the lower side at 8-9%. Don’t have self-rising flour at home? Simply combine 1 cup of pastry flour (which is a mix of all-purpose and cake flour) with 1½ teaspoon baking powder and ¼ teaspoon salt. Self-rising flour is also sold in stores, but remember to be careful – you don’t want to mix up self-rising flour for other flours, as it can alter the taste and texture of your baked goods!
Unlike the flours mentioned above, whole wheat flour uses the entire wheat grain during the milling process, resulting in a high protein content of 13-14%. This means a dough that’ll bake much chewier and denser than other flours—but it’ll also be heartier and more nutritious. Whole wheat flour needs to be refrigerated or kept in the freezer—whole-grain flours can turn rancid over time. Try mixing all-purpose and whole-wheat flours when making focaccia for a wholesome variation, and sprinkle with some rosemary and our Fleur de Sel before baking for a special touch!
Also called Italian flour, it has a protein content of 11-12% and is made from hard wheat. 00 flour gets its name from the very finely textured nature of the flour, making it great for pasta, crackers, and other goods that require you to roll dough very thinly without tearing. Try your hand at making pasta at home, then add our Garlic Butter Shrimp Scampi seasoning to shrimp for a quick meal!
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