flour types

Flour Types

Flour Types (summarized from Serious Eats Article: Types of Flour: A Guide)

Introduction

The image that comes to mind when most people hear the word “flour” is of a white powder that is consistently neutral in flavor and predictable in performance. In reality, flour is a word like “love”: a single word trying to convey a diversity of possibilities.

What follows is a basic introduction to different types of flour, the characteristics that differentiate them from each other, and their recommended best uses. If you are interested in learning more about baking with whole wheat flour, we devoted the 4th chapter to details and techniques.

How to identify whole grain flour: The linked guide organized by the Whole Grains Council is an excellent description of how to identify products made from whole grain flours. In short, if the first ingredient is “whole [grain type] flour”, not “enriched” [grain type] flour, or if the label states “100% whole wheat” then you can safely believe the product includes 100% whole grain flour.

Whole wheat flour can be milled from any type or variety of flour. What makes a flour whole is the presence of all three edible parts of the wheatberry, either milled whole or each part milled separately, then recombined to mimic the natural ratio of the original wheat. Whole wheat flour, if fresh, actually tastes fresh (not rancid) and has a more pronounced texture than refined flour. The texture and taste vary according to the variety of wheat, the soil it was grown in, and the milling method that was used.

Graham flour is a whole wheat flour distinguished by the customary coarseness of the grind. Beginning in the 19th century, southern biscuits were made with graham flour. Then as now, farmers added wheat to their crop rotations to restore soil health after the rice harvest. They selected a specific wheat variety, Red May, for its flavor, and used it to make biscuits, crackers, and graham crackers.

Bread flour is milled fine and has the highest protein content, providing strong gluten formation. Exact protein content can differ by commercial brand and, if you are using non-commodity wheat varieties, by farm and season.

Durum wheat is a descendent of emmer wheat.  It has an attractive golden color and a high protein content but the gluten it forms is less elastic than bread wheat, which makes it ideal for pasta.

Semolina wheat is milled from durum wheat and contains the same high protein/high gluten qualities but semolina is a coarser grind.

Instant flour is often better known by its brand name, Wondra, which was introduced by Gold Medal in the 1960s. It is milled to be an extremely fine powder, used for thickening gravy and soups, for dusting foods with flour prior to frying, and for delicate pastries.

Self-rising flour is very similar to all-purpose flour, with the addition of baking powder and salt. In the U.S., southern kitchens often use this flour to achieve their famous flaky biscuits.

Cake flour is a low protein flour (7-8%) milled from the endosperm. It contains a higher starch content than all-purpose flour and produces light and tender products.

An overview of different types of wheat flours

Type of Wheat Flour
Whole Wheat*
Protein Content %
11-14
Ingredients
Hard Red Wheat
Product Profile
Strong wheat flavor (flavor varies according to the wheat variety; often described as earthy, grassy, sweet), coarse texture
Suitable For
Heartier products such as crackers or carrot cake


Type of Wheat Flour
Graham*
Protein Content %
13
Ingredients
Depends on the brand, but most use hard red spring wheat
Product Profile
Coarser grind, nutty and sweet
Suitable For
Graham crackers, pie dough


Type of Wheat Flour
White Whole Wheat*
Protein Content %
13
Ingredients
Hard white wheat
Product Profile
Lighter in flavor and color
Suitable For
Bread


Type of Wheat Flour
Spelt*
Protein Content %
10-14
Ingredients
Spelt wheat
Product Profile
Sweet aroma
Suitable For
Bread


Type of Wheat Flour
Bread
Protein Content %
12-14
Ingredients
Hard red spring, hard red winter, or blend of both hard wheats
Product Profile
Form strong elastic dough with a chewy texture
Suitable For
Bread, dinner rolls, bagel


Type of Wheat Flour
Durum (can be ground into semolina)
Protein Content %
13
Ingredients
Durum wheat
Product Profile
Form inelastic dough
Suitable For


Type of Wheat Flour
Durum Coarsely ground
Protein Content %
13
Ingredients

Product Profile

Suitable For
Desserts, couscous, prevent doughs from sticking to surfaces


Type of Wheat Flour
Durum medium ground
Protein Content %
13
Ingredients

Product Profile

Suitable For
Roman-style gnocchi, pasta dough for shapes


Type of Wheat Flour
Durum finely ground
Protein Content %
13
Ingredients

Product Profile

Suitable For
Primarily used in baking (bread or focaccia), could be used for pasta


Type of Wheat Flour
00(Doppio)
Protein Content %
11.5-13
Ingredients
Proprietary blend of wheat (can be made from durum)
Product Profile
Very fine flour
Suitable For
Pizza, flatbreads, focaccia, pasta


All-Purpose


Type of Wheat Flour
King Arthur & Heckler’s
Protein Content %
11.4-11.7
Ingredients
Hard wheats
Product Profile

Suitable For
Bread, pizza, other baked goods


Type of Wheat Flour
Gold Medal & Pillsbury
Protein Content %
10-11
Ingredients
Blend of hard and soft wheats
Product Profile

Suitable For
Cookies, pancakes, pie dough, other baked goods


Type of Wheat Flour
White Lily
Protein Content %
9
Ingredients
Soft wheats
Product Profile

Suitable For
Pastries, biscuits, other baked goods


Type of Wheat Flour
Instant
Protein Content %
9.5-11
Ingredients
Low protein wheat
Product Profile
Quick mixing for thickening
Suitable For
Gravy, coating for fried food, crepes, sponge, and angel cakes


Type of Wheat Flour
Pastry
Protein Content %
8-9
Ingredients
Soft red/white winter wheat
Product Profile
Yield fine structure, flakiness, tenderness
Suitable For
For baked goods and pastries such as cookies, danish, tart shells


Type of Wheat Flour
Self-rising
Protein Content %
8.5
Ingredients
Low protein wheat
Product Profile
Contains a rising agent (like baking powder), and sometimes salt
Suitable For
Biscuits


Type of Wheat Flour
Cake
Protein Content %
7-8
Ingredients
Soft wheat
Product Profile
Very fine texture, low protein
Suitable For
Cake


*Whole grain flour