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What Flour Is That?

Flour varieties

Image source: www.thegatzkefamily.blogspot.com

The most common type of flour is wheat flour, and for this article we will not be examining the origins of other flours – such as those made from rice, oat, and soy.

There are six varieties of wheat, each with their own designated purpose and varied amounts of moisture and gluten content.

Hard Red Wheat and Hard Red Winter Wheat are protein dense and suitable for pizza dough and most breads. High in gluten, hard reds are strong enough to endure the pounding, pulling, and tossing involved in making pizza dough.

Soft Red Wheat is used for cakes and other delights of airy texture and delicate flavors. The flour made from soft red is high starch and low in protein and gluten.

Soft White Wheat is used in a similar way, and also for noodles and crackers, while Hard White Wheat is used for bread, tortillas, and oriental noodles. Durum, the hardest of the wheat varieties, is the most suitable variety for pasta making.

Now that you know your wheat, let us better inspect their descendants, the flours that line the shelves of baking aisles at every grocery store and supermarket.

Bleached flour is chemically lightened to quicken the process of oxidation. This done with chlorine, the same as found in home cleaning products. The chlorine is not ‘technically’ added as an ingredient, and therefore not ‘technically’ ingested. Rather, the flour is bathed in chlorine gas for a matter of seconds.


All-Purpose Flour is anything but, according to flour connoisseurs. It contains a mix of hard and soft wheat, and claims to be suitable for baking a diverse variety of products, from cakes and bread to pizza dough and pie crust. But if you wish to attain the best results this is often not so. All-purpose blends vary by brand and location, further confirming its unreliability. It does, however, contain more nutrients than cake flour, but again the amount will vary from brand to brand.

Enriched flour is just that, soft flour with added vitamins and minerals. In the U.S., it is inescapable as nearly all flours receive some kind of enrichment. This is because in 1942 the FDA directed companies to add vitamins and minerals to flours as a way to reduce the amount of deaths caused by vitamin deficiencies. So it may contain more benefits than white flour alone. Although enriched white (or wheat) flour is still refined and losses much of its bran and endosperm.  Perhaps it is better you eat a balanced diet or take a vitamin instead.

Whole Wheat Flour, as with the hard wheat that it comes from, is strong due to its high protein content and is suitable for pizza dough and other doughs of resilience. It is often desired as a healthier alternative to white and bleached flour, however, to attain the desired texture in airy cake recipes it is best to blend wheat flour with other flours to avoid a dense or hardened texture. Although, healthier desserts can be made without compromising some the texture, to do so you can use wheat pastry flour in white cake and pastry flour’s place.

Conclusion: It is still better to use whole grains, as they retain more protein and other nutrients than more refined varieties. Thus, whole wheat flour is often a better option. Whole wheat also contains more fiber and complex carbohydrates rather than the simple carbohydrates found in white flours.

Ohio State University – Wheat Varieties
Twinkie, Deconstructed, by Steve Ettlinger, Hudson Street Press, copyright 2007

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