Flour 101: How to Utilize Various Flour Types

Part of my Baking Fundamentals series: Learn about the many varieties of wheat and gluten-free flours, what protein content implies, and what kinds of recipes you can prepare with each.

What are the differences between flours?

When it comes to flours, the protein content is what really distinguishes one from another. Hard wheat flours are created from high-protein wheat (10-14% protein content), whereas soft wheat flours are made from low-protein wheat (5-10% protein level).

Consider this: the bigger the protein level, the more gluten there is. And the more gluten it has, the stronger it is!

Hence, if you want to produce an elastic dough that holds its form, choose a flour with a high protein and gluten content. Nevertheless, if you want to prepare a more delicate and sensitive baked dish (such as a cake or pastry), a lower-protein flour is recommended.

So, what are the different types of flour?

That’s a wonderful question with a lengthy response! Now let’s have a look at the many varieties of flour and how to utilize them.

Wheat Flours

We’ll start with the most popular wheat flour (all-purpose), and then work our way up in protein content.

All-Purpose Flour

When you see the word “flour” in a recipe, you can be 99.99% certain it refers to all-purpose flour. And if you only have one kind of flour, make it this one. It is the most adaptable and, quite simply, the least costly.

  • Protein content ranges from 10-12%.
  • Best used for: Nearly anything; after all, it’s named all-purpose for a reason! It’s fantastic for cookies, cakes, breads, brownies, biscuits, muffins, pie crusts, pancakes, spaghetti, pizza dough, and the list goes on.

Cake Flour

Cake flour has the lowest protein concentration of any flour, making it ideal for softer, more delicate baked items. It is extremely fine and is usually bleached to weaken the gluten proteins. This means it absorbs more moisture and sugar than all-purpose flour, resulting in a more moist cake with a greater rise.

  • Make your own cake flour by weighing out 1 cup all-purpose flour, omitting 2 tablespoons, then adding 2 tablespoons cornstarch and sifting it together twice.
  • Protein content ranges from 5 to 8%.
  • Cakes (duh), angel food cake, sponge cake, biscuits, muffins, and scones are the best uses.

Pastry Flour

Pastry flour has a finer texture than cake flour but contains more protein. It’s like having the best of both worlds: all-purpose flour and cake flour in one! It may make flaky and delicate pie crusts as well as delectably tender cookies. Oh, and the melt-in-your-mouth bread sticks. Yum.

  • 1 cup pastry flour (from 3 cups cake flour). 3 cups all-purpose flour and 1Fun fact: I never purchase pastry flour since I create my own by blending 2 parts all-purpose flour and 1 part cake flour (i.e. 2 parts all-purpose flour and 1 part cake flour).
  • 8-9% protein content
  • Pie crusts, cookies, bread sticks, tarts, pound cake, and muffins are the best uses for this flour.

Self-Rising Flour

Self-rising flour is simply all-purpose flour with the addition of baking powder and salt. You should never substitute self-rising flour for other flours in recipes since those two components might upset the balance of the recipe. It is best avoided unless expressly called for in a recipe. Since it includes baking powder, it will lose its effectiveness after roughly 6 months (which is about as long as you want to keep flour anyway).

  • 4 teaspoon salt. 2 teaspoons baking powder and 1Fun fact: You can create your own by blending 1 cup pastry flour and 1 teaspoon baking powder.
  • 8-9% protein content
  • Best for: Pancakes, scones, and other items that need a high rise.

00 Flour

00 flour may seem to be a James Bond secret word, but it just means doppio zeroflour. It’s exquisite, Italian, and pricey. It produces a different texture in the end product than all-purpose flour (i.e., thinner handmade pasta, which is fantastic), but unless you’re dead bent on making an exact reproduction of an Italian family recipe, it’s often acceptable to use all-purpose and give your wallet some breathing space.

  • 11-12% protein content
  • Pastas, thin pizza crusts, and crackers are ideal applications.

Bread Flour

Bread flour is the strongest of the flours because it contains the most protein and gives the greatest structural support. In a bread recipe, you may simply substitute bread flour for all-purpose flour to get a more structured loaf (less of that mushroom effect on the top half of the loaf). When baking, you get greater volume, a chewier crumb, and even a finer browning on the crust.

  • 12-14% protein content
  • Breads (surprising, I know) and pretzels are the best uses for it.

Whole Wheat Flour

The issue with whole wheat flour is that it is more absorbent than all-purpose flour, so it need more liquid to accomplish its job. It results in stickier doughs and denser baked items. Consider the density of a slice of whole grain wheat bread against a piece of white bread.

Since it may be difficult to work with, beginners should start by replacing 25% all-purpose flour for whole wheat flour in a recipe, and then raise that amount as they gain confidence. It is particularly crucial not to overwork your dough when using whole wheat flour.

However, since whole wheat flour is more perishable than all-purpose flour, it must be discarded after three months in a cold, dark area.

  • 13-14% protein content
  • Bread loaves, muffins, and pita bread are the best uses for this flour.

Semolina Flour

Although it may seem to be cornmeal at first sight, semolina flour is manufactured from wheat and has a high protein content. It produces a thick and chewy dough with a rich taste and buttery color, making it a favorite among pasta makers.

  • 13%+ protein content
  • Pastas and thick bread are ideal.

Gluten-Free Flours

Have you ever wondered why gluten-free bread is typically smaller and thinner? They cannot withstand the same workloads as their gluten-free equivalents since bread need gluten to rise and remain pliable.

You may have noticed that I did not specify the protein amounts of the flours listed below, but don’t be fooled; they still contain protein, but in the case of non-wheat based flours, a high protein content does not equate a high gluten content.

Gluten-Free Flour

If you need to be gluten-free, gluten-free flour isn’t always the best all-purpose flour alternative. Depending on the brand, it may be composed of a variety of components such as rice, maize, tapioca, quinoa, and corn, and it often contains xanthan gum to assist replicate the chewiness associated with gluten. Check the packaging for instructions on how to replace it for all-purpose flour, or just take Cup4Cup Gluten Free Flour, which is designed to be a 1:1 all-purpose flour alternative.

  • Best used for: About everything that all-purpose flour would be used for.

Almond Flour

Almond flour (affiliate link) is a high-protein, low-carb flour that is popular in the keto diet. Since it is produced with blanched almonds, it has a slight nutty flavor while being moderate in flavor.

Since there is no gluten present, additional components are required to create structure (like starches, nut butters and leaveners).

  • Paleo baking, cookies, cakes, brownies, breads, and muffins.

Oat Flour

Oat flour is exactly what it sounds like: ground oats. It has a delicate flavor that is nearly sweet, and it has a superfine texture.

  • In a pinch, you may create your own by pulsing 1 minute of old-fashioned rolled oats in a food processor.
  • Gluten-free cakes, as well as cookies and breads made with wheat flour.

Coconut Flour

While coconut flour is rich in fiber and low in calories, it may be difficult to work with. You cannot replace it for wheat flour, and you should never swap more than 20% wheat flour for coconut flour in any particular recipe.

It absorbs a lot of moisture during baking, so you’ll need to add around 2 tablespoons more liquid for every 2 tablespoons of coconut flour used.

It is often blended with other gluten-free flours and leaveners in recipes, and it is widely used in gluten-free and paleo baking.

  • Great for: Cookies, muffins, and brownies (but only when called for specifically).

I hope this was helpful! Is there anything more I should have spoken regarding this topic? Please let me know in the comments section below.

More Baking Basics

How to Measure Ingredients Correctly

The Importance of Room Temperature Butter

5 Baking Steps You Should Never Skip

Common Baking Ingredients’ Shelf Life


How do you use different flours?

The Various Flour Varieties and Their Applications
Flour for All Purpose. Useful for: anything! Rough Flour… Loaves, buns, and doughnuts work well.
Flour for baking. Ideal for: delicate cakes and pastries…
Flour made from whole wheat. Great for: bread, cookies, and thick cakes…
Noodle Flour. Rice Flour. Cooking Flour.
Sep 8, 2020

How do I substitute different flours?

115 grams cake flour. 95 grams all-purpose flour with 3 teaspoons cornstarch. This is the same as 1 cup4 cup. 145 g cake flour. To produce your own cake flour alternative, sift together 3130 grams of all-purpose flour, then substitute 1 cup + 2 teaspoons for every 1 cup of cake flour.

How do I know which flour to use?

The key distinction in flours is the protein concentration. Hard wheat types have a high protein content (10 to 14 percent protein). “Soft wheat” refers to wheats with a low protein content (5 to 10%). Simply said, more protein means more gluten, which means greater power.

How do different types of flour affect baking?

The protein content of different flours varies, which impacts the texture of the completed product. As you bake bread, protein is converted into gluten strands, which create a web to trap the carbon dioxide produced by the yeast. The higher the gluten content, the stiffer the bread.

Can you use two different flours?

In a mixing dish, combine your flours. I used buckwheat flour in this recipe, along with a flour mixture formed by sifting several wholemeal wheat flours and a little rye. Feel free to substitute whatever flours you want to eliminate, as long as the bread flour remains at 50%.

What are the 7 types of flour?

Flour for making bread.
Jul 22, 2022
Atta Wheat FlourPre-mixes…. Whole Wheat FlourBaker’s Flour…. Gluten-free Flour…. Cake Flour.
7 Various Varieties of Flour Used for Baking All-purpose Flour. For baking most dishes, this is the best sort of wheat flour to use.
Bread Flour… Self-Raising Flour

Are all flours interchangeable?

Although certain recipes may be made using a variety of flours, not all flours are interchangeable in all recipes.

What flour is best to use instead of all-purpose?

In most baking recipes, cake flour or pastry flour may be used in place of all-purpose flour. Avoid cake flour for chewy bread making and instead use bread or whole-wheat flour for your no-knead and sourdough loaves.

Do different types of flour matter?

Is it true that the kind of flour you use makes a difference? The simple answer is yes: although all varieties of flour serve the same function, they vary somewhat in terms of taste, texture, and even nutritional content. Before we go any further, it’s important to grasp the science of gluten.

Which flour is best for cooking?

All-purpose flour (often known as AP flour for short) should be a kitchen essential. It is made from a blend of soft and hard wheat cultivars and has a modest protein value of 9 to 11 percent. Being the most adaptable flour, it may be used to make flaky pie crusts, chewy cookies, and fluffy pancakes.

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