Know Your Flours & When To Use Them
We’ve all been there.
The recipe calls for plain flour but all you have in the cupboard is self-raising flour.
It should be fine, right?
Plain flour and self-raising flour are different and will have dramatically different effects on the outcome of your dish.
With so many different types of flour available to us in the modern age, it can get quite confusing to differentiate between them all. For example, I often find myself searching for answers to questions like; Is all-purpose flour the same as plain flour? Or, Is bread flour the same as self-raising flour?
Well, we have studied the books and done the research on all things flours related. The outcome is this lovely article all about the most common different types of flour and how they should be used.
Different Types of Flour
Plain Flour AKA All-Purpose Flour
One of the most commonly used types of flour is the all-purpose flour or plain flour (also known as pastry flour or cream flour). So, the answer to the question; is all-purpose flour the same as plain flour, is a resounding yes there is no difference!
Plain flour is milled from soft wheat varieties flour and has is low in both gluten and protein content making it perfect for biscuits or pastry. Basically, whenever you are looking for a crumbly, break apart texture, plain flour should be your go-to.
Common Uses for Plain Flour
Biscuits, Pastry, Sauces, Pancakes, Waffles, Fried chicken, etc
Protein Content for Plain Flour
From a protein perspective, plain flour has around 10 – 12% protein depending on the brand.
Self Raising Flour
Self-raising flour contains added raising agents that will help give your bakes a nice rise when they are in the oven. For the most part, recipes that use self-raising flour don’t normally require any additional raising agents like baking powder or baking soda.
Self-raising flour is milled from both hard and soft wheat which naturally results in a lower protein flour.
If you find yourself running out of self-raising, you can easily make your own at home. Simply add two teaspoons of baking powder for every 100g of plain flour and mix until completely combined. Congratulations, your self-raising flour is made.
Common Uses for Self Raising Flour
Cakes, Sponges, Brownies, Scones, Suet Pastry
Protein Content for Self Raising Flour
From a protein perspective, Self Raising flour has around 8.5% protein depending on the brand.
Bread flour, or sometimes known as strong flour, contains much more gluten than the other types of flour on our list. Bread flour itself is milled entirely from hard wheat. This hard wheat results in a higher protein flour. The higher level of protein results in a larger amount of gluten production and in turn, helps the bread rise higher.
Common Uses for Bread Flour
Yeasted Bakes, Bread, Bagels, Choux Pastry, Filox Pastry
Protein Content for Bread Flour
From a protein perspective, bread flour has around 11 – 13% protein depending on the brand.
Cake flour is made from extremely finely milled soft wheat. This results in an almost silky like texture and makes the best flour for more delicate bakes such as cake.
Another thing which makes cake flour the best for cakes and recipes of the like is the fact that the flour itself is bleached. This bleaching process results in a more acidic pH and alters the flour’s starches and fats. The increase in acidity helps cakes rise rather than collapse during the baking process. This, combined with the low protein content ensure that your cake is delicate and fluffy.
Common Uses for Cake Flour
Cakes, Cupcakes, Muffins, Load cakes.
Protein Content for Cake Flour
From a protein perspective, cake flour has around 9% protein depending on the brand.
Whole Wheat Flour
Whole wheat flour or wholemeal flour is made by milling whole wheat. Whole wheat is wheat that contains all three parts of the kernel; The fibre-dense bran, the nutrient-rich germ and the starchy endosperm. For white flours, the bran and the germ have been completely removed just leaving the endosperm which is then milled. For whole wheat flour, everything is kept intact.
Common Uses for Whole Wheat Flour
Brown Bread, Wholemeal Loaves, Wholemeal Scones
Protein Content for Whole Wheat Flour
From a protein perspective, whole wheat flour has around 9 – 10% protein depending on the brand.
Semolina flour is made from very hard durum wheat. It has a coarse texture, is yellow in colour and is very high in protein. Due to its high protein content, Semolina flour is most often used to make pasta. The flour gives the dough a firm but silky texture combined with the fact that its simple to thinly roll out make this dough perfect for pasta.
Common Uses for Semolina
Pasta, Couscous, Porridge
Protein Content for Semolina
From a protein perspective, semolina has around 13% protein depending on the brand.
GF Flour is what it says on the tin. It’s flour without any gluten in it. If you want to use a GF flour in your baking or if your recipe calls for flour with no gluten, then you are going to have to find a suitable substitute. To replace the missing gluten in your flour, you’ll need to use other thickeners like xanthan gum or guar gum in your baked goods.
What is Xanthum Gum?
This gum comes from the dried cell coat of a microorganism called Xanthomonas campestris. You can purchase online and in most health food shops
What is Guar Gum?
Guar Gum is a powder that comes from the seed of the plant Cyamopsis tetragonolobus. It is an ideal gluten substitute and it is available online and in most health food shops.
Common Uses for Gluten-free Flour
Thickening Sauces, Coating meats, Flatbreads
Protein Content for Gluten-free Flour
The amount of protein in Gluten-free flour will depend on the type of flour you choose.
Oat flour is made from ground-up porridge oats. It is very simple to make at home with the use of a food processor or mini-chopper and it is a healthier, nutrient-rich alternative to your ordinary plain flour. If you choose oats that are gluten-free, you can also whip up some gluten-free baked goods in no time!
Common Uses for Oat Flour
Cookies, Banana Bread, Muffins, Pancakes
Protein Content for Oat Flour
From a protein perspective, oat flour has around 17% protein depending on the brand.